What is SoftBank, and who is behind the Silicon Valley’s largest VC fund?


SoftBank is a Tokyo-based company founded almost four decades ago by Masayoshi Son at the age of 24. What started as a store for computer parts has become one of Japan’s most important public companies, valued at over $115 billion. It now is essentially a tech, media, and telecom conglomerate — it owns more than 80 percent of Sprint, more than one-quarter of Alibaba, and 100 percent of the robotics company Boston Dynamics, whose nightmare-inducing animatronics might be familiar to you.

But SoftBank in recent years has been transitioning from a Verizon or AT&T of Japan to something like more of a Blackstone of the world, intentionally moving from a telecom-based giant to a global investing vehicle — thanks, largely, to the Vision Fund.

To understand SoftBank is to understand Son, an eccentric, Star Wars-quoting, diminutive man who is known in the world of high finance solely as “Masa.” To his fans, Son is a daring savant, whose early investment in Alibaba has become part of venture capital lore and at one point made him one of the richest men in the world. To his detractors, Son is an arrogant fool who got lucky once but has since run roughshod over a venture capital system that was already working.

Scary & interesting read.