Japanese electronics company Sharp has become the latest firm to back the enormous $100bn Softbank Vision Fund, with a $1bn investment on May 18. Announced last October as the technology investment arm of Japanese telecommunications corporation Softbank, the Softbank Vision Fund will be the world’s largest private equity fund.
The main backers of the fund are Softbank, with a $25bn investment, and the Saudi Arabian Government, with a commitment of $45bn. The fund is integral to Saudi Arabia’s new 2030 economic plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels over the coming years as resources run low and people switch to greener means of energy production. Earlier this year, Apple also pledged $1bn to the fund. In a statement in October, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said the Softbank Vision Fund would be “the biggest investor in technology” over the next decade.
The main backers of the fund are Softbank, with a $25bn investment, and the Saudi Arabian Government, with a commitment of $45bn
Son has ambitious plans to match or beat the 44 percent rate of return that he claims Softbank has delivered internally through investment in internet companies over the past 18 years. To meet this aim while avoiding the bloated unicorns the tech industry is known for, the fund will seek to invest in technologies with the biggest potential for widespread commercial application.
Reuters has reported that sources close to Son say he is attempting to staff the Vision Fund with investors who have industry specific expertise and will be able to spot potential disruptive technologies. Rajeev Misra, Softbank’s head of strategic investment, will lead the fund.
While many of the rest of the world’s largest technology funds are based in Silicon Valley, Son has chosen the rather unlikely site of London’s Mayfair district for the firm’s headquarters, opening offices at 69 Grosvenor Street last December. Despite choosing a UK base, Son has not turned his back on the US tech industry. In December, Son told President-elect Donald Trump he would create 50,000 new jobs in the US through a $50bn investment in start-ups and new companies over the next five years. Son is expected to announce the close of the first round of funding for the Softbank Vision Fund imminently.