For years, as it’s only acceptable mode of investment, the Japanese tech conglomerate - Softbank - pursued the concept of propelling Unicorns into global dominance via hyper-growth. In short Softbank championed the era of growth at all costs. Now, in 2020, after a number of breathtaking failures could this, some would say, “reckless” approach to investing be over?
Alongside the Uber IPO disaster and the train-wreck of WeWork’s failed IPO last quarter saw Softbank’s profits nosedive 99%.
Add to this Softbank’s overreach with accusations of Indian disruptor OYO and clearly investors must be shaking their heads in disbelief. Uber Technology’s ’s IPO fell massively short of its $100 billion valuation whilst the We Company (the owners of WeWork) is now an infamous example of the dangers of fast-growth and overvaluations. The scandals of its founder and company culture overshadowed its overambitious expansions but all played a part in the flop. The Wall Street Journal published an aptly titled expose on the assessment of WeWorks valuation: “a $20 Billion dollar start-up fuelled by Silicon Valley pixie dust”.
With recent Softbank’s profits falling by 99% and its write down investment in WeWork of $4.6bn we ask what’s next for Softbank?
A supposed master of long-term visioning (cue the famous “300 years plan” ), for Masayoshi Son this should therefore be just a small bump in a very long road.
Despite issues with the Vision 1 fund, Vision 2 is being launched along similar principles, to financially back “the most superior companies at the time in the information industry”. Billions are being poured into new investments and Softbank reportedly plans to borrow a further $4.5 billion.
One company benefitting from the second round, Vision 2 fund, is Karius, who have raised £165 million. This investment chimes well with Softbank’s history of healthcare speculation, Karius are US-firm marketing simple blood-tests for infections that are difficult to diagnose.
Another headliner is the £100 million potential investment in Behavox. Behavox develops compliance and employee-monitoring software for financial firms. The concept is in using machine-learning and advanced analytics to monitor employees’ behaviour. This, Behavox claim, can help provide early detection of bribery, rogue trading, misuse of expenses and more.
What next for Softbank? The world still has an estimated 450 Unicorns; many pitching somethings that doesn’t exist yet, so clearly a lot of potential investment still to consider for Softbank. But after the Wework implosion and the spate of downed valued IPOs resulting in tumbling profits and massive write-offs, surely the time where investors have shown a willingness to suspend their disbelief, is over? Time will tell.