Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, shared his insights and quoted Yoda, the Star Wars Jedi master, during a conversation with WSJ Editor in Chief Gerard Baker at the CEO Council meeting in Tokyo.
SoftBank Group Corp.’s 9984 -0.06% near-$100 billion Vision Fund has yet to close, but its acquisitive founder is already gauging interest for a second fund.
“Vision Fund II will definitely come. It’s just a matter of time,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said during an interview at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday. It won’t launch in six months, he said, but it will “in the near future.”
In just under a year since the fund’s launch, Mr. Son has identified target investments for more than half of the existing Vision Fund’s promised capital, deploying billions of dollars at a pace that is transforming tech investment.
The fund’s portfolio includes stakes in semiconductor firms such as ARM Holdings PLC and Nvidia Corp. and office-share company WeWork Companies Inc. SoftBank also plans to have the fund absorb investments in ride-hailing companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co.
The scale of the Vision Fund, and the pace of its investing—its choices often driven by Mr. Son’s gut—is compelling other funds such as Sequoia Capital to raise billions of dollars to better compete.
Current investors—which include the sovereign-wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi and technology giants such as Apple Inc., Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and Foxconn Technology Group—are extremely happy with the fund’s performance, he said, and institutional investors are also showing interest. SoftBank expects to close the fund with a total of $100 billion in committed investments by the end of May, The Journal earlier reported.
Critics of SoftBank say that the fund pushes companies to take more money than they need, encouraging them to squander it.
Mr. Son has a simple riposte: “Nothing is too much.” He said he sometimes encourages entrepreneurs to think bigger, so as to see the need for even 10 times as much money as they initially sought. Eighteen years ago, he famously pressed Alibaba Group Holding Inc. founder Jack Ma to accept an early investment of $20 million—far more than Mr. Ma was seeking—pushing the Chinese e-commerce company ahead of rivals.
In investing hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr. Son said that the most important factors are the founder’s passion and vision and his own instincts, which can count for more over five or 10 years than his team’s painstaking due diligence and “small calculations.”
“Yoda says, ‘Don’t think, feel,’” Mr. Son said, invoking the “Star Wars” Jedi master to describe how he decides on some investments.
On the sidelines of the conference, Mr. Son said that the company is still weighing its options for the sale of its stake in India’s Flipkart Group to Walmart Inc. He didn’t elaborate.
Last week, Walmart agreed to take control of Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce company, for $16 billion—boosting the value of Vision Fund’s stake by 60%, Mr. Son said last week.
But SoftBank’s decision about the stake won’t be made until the end of the week. It hinges on tax considerations and whether SoftBank chooses to increase its stake in e-commerce payment system Paytm, one person familiar to the matter said. SoftBank is weighing its options on Paytm, Mr. Son said.