SoftBank's "vision" thing
"What the hell?"
That was the opening question yesterday for SoftBank Vision Fund's Lydia Jett and Colin Fan, for a packed afternoon session at Upfront Summit in Los Angeles.
Bottom line: Jett and Fann argued that too much is being made of SVF's $100 billion size, and too little of the "vision" part.
More specifically, SoftBank CEO Masa Son's belief that the world is in a rare technological inflection point, and that large deal sizes are justifiable if you're thinking well beyond a 10-year investment horizon. More like a 30-year to 3oo-year timeframe.
- Yes, that 300 figure was said repeatedly, so it wasn't just a one-time tongue slip.
- I don't know how to put this more tactfully, so... There was some unsettling cult of personality stuff emanating from the stage, well beyond the typical belief in a founder's vision.
- Masa personally meets with founders prior to SVF investing, more to gauge personality and ambition than to judge underlying tech or business fundamentals.
- SVF has only lost out on two deals so far. We previously reported one was Stitch Fix, so here's an open call for the other's identity
- $100 million is the "theoretical minimum" check size. SVF doesn't want control, but it also doesn't want to be a passive shareholder..
- There was an interesting dichotomy yesterday: During a morning session I chaired on crypto investing, a lot was made about how buying startup tokens can be superior to buying equity, thanks to crypto's short-term liquidity flexibility (leaving aside custodial issues). SVF, however, is talking about investments that could take decades to exit. Most of the VC/LP audience, of course, continues to live in the vast middle ages.