SoftBank Ventures Asia gears for placing early stage bets in India


While Masayoshi Son-led SoftBank’s Vision Fund believes in making big bets in technology startups across the globe, its venture capital arm is in a lookout for early-stage investments in Asia with India as a focus country.

With a kitty of $500 million, the South Korea-based SoftBank Ventures Asia is scouting for investments worth $10-20 million in the consumer internet space with a preference for healthcare, fintech, and artificial intelligence, said report in Mint quoting sources.

Son has been remaking SoftBank Group from a telecommunications operator into a technology investment firm, and his $100 billion Vision Fund has already emerged as a force to reckon with in the industry.

SoftBank holds stakes in all of the world’s biggest ride-hailing companies and scores of other high-profile startups.

However, SoftBank Ventures Asia’s focus is on early-stage investments including Series B and beyond, so as not to miss out on investing in promising startups early at a lower valuation.

Besides getting a closer view of the sector, the early investor also gets preferential access to invest more money at a later stage and at a favourable valuation. Venture Asia is thus only playing its part in Son’s larger scheme of things.

Though India is high on the radar of the fund, it hasn’t finalized any deal yet. The Softbank spokesperson, though confirming the launch of the fund, declined to let out any details.

Besides SoftBank Ventures Asia, the group has a few other funds looking at early-stage investments. For instance, RPS Ventures, which counts SoftBank Group Corp. as an anchor limited partner, has invested in social commerce platform Meesho.

It is significant juncture for Softbank as Uber is going public this week with its valuation likely to reach $79 billion. Son, declaring the company results on Thursday, said that it was the right time for his deals to pay off.

In India, SoftBank said the fair value of its investment in Oyo increased by $1.4 billion during the financial year. It also reported a gain of $1.33 billion on the sale of its stake in Flipkart to US retail giant Walmart, which bought 77% in the Bengaluru-based marketplace for $16 billion.

The value of Vision Fund’s investments in 69 companies had risen to $72.3 billion by end-March from their $60.1-billion acquisition cost, SoftBank said in a statement. The value of Vision Fund’s biggest investment, ride-hailing giant Uber, increased by $3.7 billion in the year.

SoftBank is also planning its second Vision Fund, which may raise another $100 billion. Recent reports have also stated that SoftBank is looking at an initial public offering for the first Vision Fund as well.

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