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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

SoftBank has earned a tech king-maker reputation, but there's still hope for those competing against its portfolio companies, according to investors at Lowenstein Sandler's VentureCrush event in San Francisco on Thursday.

Why it matters: SoftBank's impact has been a hot topic ever since the Japanese giant announced its $100 billion Vision Fund, especially its policy of injecting hundreds of millions of dollars at once into startups.

  • Lux Capital partner Renata Quintini said not all companies are in winner-take-all markets, so some startups will still have room to thrive.
  • Other investors pointed that SoftBank doesn't always back the market leader—dog-walking startup Wag, for example, was much smaller than rival Rover.

More from the event:

  • High valuations continue to be top of mind. Partech managing partner Réza Malekzadeh says startup valuations in Europe have more than doubled over the past year, while Amplify's Amanda Schutzbank is seeing a similar trend in Los Angeles's early-stage startups.
  • Foreign investments into U.S. startups, especially from China, are considered much more carefully thanks to a more active CFIUS. Particularly in sectors like semiconductors and AI.
  • Big late-stage rounds at flashy valuations aren't as they seem in the press—many are highly structured, said GGV Capital managing partner Jeff Richards. "I wish that was in the press releases," he joked.
  • Despite the boom in private capital, the current concern among investors behind closed doors is that a major disruption of the public markets will have consequences for the private market as well, added Richards, who alluded to dotcom bust.

Go deeper

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.