SoftBank is trying to poach young venture capitalists for its $100 billion Vision Fund

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That’s SoftBank’s Son on the right.

“Who hasn’t been offered a job at SoftBank?” some people joke at venture firms.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund over the last two months has been aggressively trying to poach rising-star venture capitalists, a flurry of attempts that has ruffled feathers among some of the people it is trying to recruit.

The recruitment would equip the $ 100 billion Vision Fund, mostly led so far by former bankers, with more startup experience.

The Vision Fund has retained the search firm Russell Reynolds to try and bolster its stable of vice presidents and directors, according to multiple people who have been approached by the fund. The recruiting effort has centered on younger venture capitalists at top-tier firms — think people in their late 20s or early 30s who are not general partners but rather rank a seniority level lower, such as principals or just plain old partners.

It’s the latest way in which the Vision Fund is competing with traditional technology investors in Silicon Valley: A battle for talent.

But there have been some hiccups. The firm has used impersonal methods, like LinkedIn messaging, to reach out to potential hires, which has rubbed some people the wrong way. The messages and tenacious recruiting effort have been a source of curiosity and even some ribbing in their offices, sources at three venture capital firms tell Recode, with some folks joking internally: “Who hasn’t been offered a job at SoftBank?”

To be fair, recruiting firms are always hustling for top talent, though some people say they wish the pitches had been more personal.

Venture capitalists are buzzing about the outreach in part because the recruiting experience at VC firms tends to be more organic and relationship-driven — courting younger talent gradually over lunches, through mutual friends and, for more senior roles, a sometimes years-long dialogue about the job. It isn’t uncommon for search firms to be involved at identifying possible hires, but the actual contact tends to come from firm leadership.

The Vision Fund and Russell Reynolds declined to comment.

The scouting does, though, make a lot of sense. The Vision Fund over the last year has hired about 100 full-time people — in London, in Japan and here in Silicon Valley — but the pace at which they’re deploying the capital calls for more manpower to help find and execute technology deals across the globe.

A hundred people may sound like a lot, but compare it to a big firm like Andreessen Horowitz, which has 130 people to manage $ 6 billion, while the Vision Fund has 100 people to manage a fund that’s more than 15 times larger.

It’s safe to say folks there are working long nights and could use the hand.

SoftBank or its Vision Fund is as of now hiring for at least 14 different positions at its headquarteres in San Carlos, according to posted job listings, ranging from its two-year investment associate program to several open vice president positions.

The Fund is looking now for people with some operational experience, according to a source familiar with its thinking, hopefully landing people with both some investment experience and some technical background in a particular field.

Plus, the Vision Fund’s leadership up till now has been primarily led by former bankers, who are a natural fit at executing later-stage deals but do not have as much experience serving on boards of startups, for instance. They do, though, have more background in negotiating.

While the firm does have some veteran operators as managing directors — like former LinkedIn exec Deep Nishar — its leadership hasn’t come from blue-chip venture capital firms.

Early last year, the Vision Fund raided the technology banking sector’s top talent, landing bigwigs like Michael Ronen of Goldman Sachs and Colin Fan from Deutsche Bank — presumably for a lot of cash.

This year, it appears the technology fund is preparing to nab talent from the traditional venture community as well.


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Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi perfectly sums up how CEOs feel about taking money from SoftBank

“I’d rather have their capital cannon behind me.”

Silicon Valley CEOs mulling whether to accept at an investment offer from SoftBank’s VIsion Fund always seem to have one alternate history in the backs of their minds:

What happens if I decline, and SoftBank funds my rival instead?

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, whose company just stared down that same question late last year as it negotiated a high-stakes deal with the $ 100 billion fund, gave voice to that intellectual exercise today as he offered an overview of his business to Goldman Sachs clients and investors.

“Rather than having their capital cannon facing me, I’d rather have their capital cannon behind me, all right?” Khosrowshahi said today at Goldman’s tech conference.

SoftBank insisted during the negotiations that it was perfectly willing to go invest in Lyft instead if the Uber deal fell through. SoftBank has at times negotiated with multiple competitors in order to locate the best deal — and retain leverage.

Uber’s CEO offered an amibitous vision for the company, saying he didn’t want it to be seen as purely a car-for-hire company — but one that would take any person on any transit system — “from point A to point B, whatever the best way.”

“I want to run the bus systems for a city,” Khosrowshahi said. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway — if the trains are running on time, you’ve got real-time data — get in the subway, get out and have an Uber waiting for you for right now. Or know that there’s a bike right there for you that gets you where you’re going in the fastest manner.”

Khosrowshahi also offered more of an explanation on Wednesday on last week’s decision to settle the lawsuit filed by Alphabet over whether Uber stole self-driving technology secrets from Waymo, Alphabet’s subsidiary.

Khosrowshahi called the suit “a personal affront” to Uber scientists because it “put their really good work under a question mark.” But he said the deal was intended mostly to remove the distraction and allow the company to focus more on its core business.

The Uber CEO portrayed the company he inherited as a very strong business — “a better business than I thought” when he took the job — but one with a damaged brand that he plans to try repair.

“Getting the love back is a very, very important priority for us,” he said.


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SoftBank has a new public relations chief to help it explain its huge deals

Andrew Kovacs jumps from Sequoia to SoftBank.

The investing firm at the center of seemingly every major tech deal now has more help to deal with the barrage of interest in its every move.

Andrew Kovacs, the former head of communications at Sequoia Capital, has joined SoftBank to helm communications at the Vision Fund, which is investing $ 100 billion in technology. SoftBank skeptics abound, and it will be Kovacs’s job to help the confident Japanese investors explain their thinking behind investments that are in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Despite its massive budget, the staff at the Vision Fund remains relatively small — the company is trying to aggressively hire more investment professionals and support staff. SoftBank has engaged in some PR battles, though, in the course of the Vision Fund though — most prominently when negotiating a mega deal with Uber. But adding an in-house communications official should help.

Kovacs, a former top PR man at Google, has worked at Sequoia since 2012 and guided the company’s messaging through a series of hit investments. All old-guard venture firms have had to grapple with SoftBank’s rise: Sequoia is raising a fund of more than $ 5 billion that should give it more firepower to bid on huge deals.


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SoftBank buys into Line’s mobile service in Japan

 SoftBank is partnering up with messaging app Line to help develop its Line Mobile telecom service. Line announced that it has agreed to allow SoftBank to take a 51 percent in the business via an issuance of new shares. The deal is expected to close by March. From the documents, its mobile business is valued at around $ 15 million (1.7 billion JPY) but a company spokesperson told TechCrunch… Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch

Where SoftBank has invested its $98 billion Vision Fund

New year, new additions to our running tally.

New year, new giant investments for SoftBank.

Earlier this week, SoftBank officially closed its $ 9.3 billion investment in Uber, making SoftBank Uber’s largest shareholder.

We learned Friday that SoftBank could be looking for an uncommonly large 45 percent stake in dog-walking app Wag in turn for investing up to $ 300 million in the company. Of course, that would barely be a drop in the bucket for SoftBank’s $ 98 billion Vision Fund, which has been upending venture capital investing with its mammoth deals.

In case you’re having trouble keeping track of SoftBank’s diverse investments, here’s our running tally:


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Here’s who controls Uber after its megadeal with SoftBank

Benchmark and Travis Kalanick no longer control a quarter of the company.

Uber this month will consummate a series of changes to its power structure as it prepares to accept billions of dollars from the giant Japanese telecom, SoftBank.

The deal doesn’t just give early Uber investors and employees lots of money. It also transforms who calls the shots at the world’s most valuable startup. Just a year ago, Uber’s board numbered only seven — and a majority of them arguably were close allies of then-CEO Travis Kalanick.

The board grew last year after Kalanick was ousted — and this deal will again expand the size of the board, this time to 17 people. As you can see below, power is now decentralized, with SoftBank holding two seats, Kalanick holding three, and six independent board members tipping the balance on key Uber decisions.

Uber board members

Here’s another way to look at it: Almost a quarter of the company used to be owned by Kalanick and Benchmark, the venture capital firm that filed a lawsuit against Kalanick and led the investor coup that removed him from the CEO chair. Now, thanks to the SoftBank deal, that proportion is down to about one-fifth of the company.

The governance changes that accompany the SoftBank deal also include the institution of so-called “one share, one vote” rule that will limit their voting power as shareholders. Now, the number of shares will directly correlate to the amount of decision-making power — which will disempower Benchmark and Kalanick alike.

The largest shareholder used to be Benchmark. Soon, it’ll be SoftBank.


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SoftBank and Vayyar to apply 3D imaging to IoT use cases

SoftBank and Vayyar to apply 3D imaging to IoT use cases

SoftBank has joined forces with sensor maker Vayyar Imaging to develop new technologies for the IoT. 

Japanese tech giant Softbank has partnered with Vayyar Imaging, with a view to combining its own artificial intelligence (AI) expertise with sensors from its new partner, which specialises in radio wave 3D imaging technologies.

The two companies plan to create solutions for Japanese customers in areas such as public transport, construction and elderly care – an important issue in Japan, where one-third of the population is over the age of 60.

Read more: SoftBank acquires Google robotics specialists Boston Dynamics and Schaft

Vayyar looks beyond the obvious

Established in 2011, Israel-based Vayyar develops and markets 3D imaging sensors that uses radio waves to ‘see’ through human tissue and many man-made surfaces, in order to understand situations that might otherwise remain concealed.

By merging these capabilities with AI, the two companies reckon they will be able to identify opportunities “to create buildings and infrastructure which are safer, more energy-efficient and better able to handle large crowds.”

For example, among the challenges SoftBank and Vayyar aim to answer together are analysing people flow in order to optimise transport; monitoring the structural integrity of buildings in real time, both during and after construction; and creating safety solutions for public areas.

“Vayyar is the global leader of radio wave 3D imaging, and we are excited to be their channel priority partner for the Japanese market,” said Hironobu Tamba, vice president of the smart IoT devision at SoftBank. “We see great synergy between their sensor technology and the needs of our customers.”

In early December, SoftBank also announced another IoT/AI partnership, also with an Israeli start-up, Intuitive, a developer of 3D imaging and computer vision processors. Many of the aims in that deal seem to be pretty similar to those of the tie-up with Vayyar: traffic and people flow analytics, for example, as well as the detection of displacement and aging in building structures.

Read more: Softbank forecasts one trillion ARM IoT chips in next 20 years

The post SoftBank and Vayyar to apply 3D imaging to IoT use cases appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

Softbank Ventures and others invest $2.78M in Korean IoT device security startup

Korean IoT security startup ‘Security Platform’ raised $ 2.78M. SoftBank Ventures Korea and Premiere Partners led the investment round.

The startup offers hardware-based device security solutions. One of the core solutions offered by Security Platform is ‘remote attestation’ of connected devices. The backend server remotely checks the connected devices for any breach or threats by hash values of each element calculated by the hardware.

The solution performs device authentication, anti-cloning, message signing, anti-forgery, secure updates with signed code. The startup also provides custom development services for integration of IoT devices. To help OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) implement ‘security by design’, the startup offers its SDK (software development kit) named Axio-Builder. The SDK consists of a development board with Secure SoC and SDK consisting of built-in security elements.

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Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things