- SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has an unusual way of deciding how to invest in startups.
- Before he gives the final sign-off on deals, Son is fond of quoting “Star Wars” Jedi master Yoda and likes to “feel the force,” according to a Financial Times profile.
- This is unusual because Son is ultimately in charge of the biggest startup investment fund in the world, the $US100 billion (£76 billion) Vision Fund.
Masayoshi Son, the wizened chief executive of Japanese holding company SoftBank, likes to invoke an equally wizened nerd idol while explaining his investment philosophy.
According to a Financial Times profile, Son is fond of quoting “Star Wars” Jedi master Yoda and likes to “feel the force” while assessing whether to invest in startups.
Son is, in fact, quite famous for openly quoting Yoda. At an event in Tokyo last month, Bloomberg quoted him as saying: “Yoda says use the force. Don’t think, just feel it.” Son explained that he often uses his intuition to decide within the first few minutes of discussing a deal whether it’s an investment worth making.
This gut-feeling approach to deals is particularly noteworthy given Masayoshi “Masa” Son has final sign-off on the biggest startup investment fund in the world. The $US100 billion (£76 billion) Vision Fund makes huge bets on the companies SoftBank believes will come to dominate their markets. Apple and Saudi Arabia have both invested in the fund.
The Vision Fund is the biggest shareholder in Uber after buying an approximately 15% stake last year. It has invested billions in office sharing company WeWork, and is in talks to invest more at a $US35 billion valuation. And the fund holds stakes in major ride-hailing players around the world, such as Didi Chuxing and Grab in southeast Asia.
Perhaps in line with the gut-feeling philosophy, there are also the Vision Fund’s more random bets, such as the unprecedented $US502 million(£381 million) it dropped into British virtual worlds startup Improbable, and the $US300 million (£228 million) it put into dog-walking service Wag!.
Son’s main lieutenant on the Vision Fund, Rajeev Misra, is also a man of unusual habits. According to the Financial Times profile, Misra is fond of chewing the Indian tobacco paan at work, which stains the mouth a bright, bloody red. He also wanders around the office barefoot and, in previous banking roles, reportedly thieved people’s lunches from their desks or as they were eating.
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