It's a frenetic time at the Japanese tech conglomerate, as SoftBank is planning hundreds of new hires and Son has been negotiating deals that would require cash SoftBank doesn't currently have on hand, again per the WSJ. An IPO for the Vision Fund would be highly unusual, giving everyday investors the chance to essentially own stakes in several of the globe's hottest tech startups.
When the Vision Fund conducted a first close on $93 billion in 2017, it was believed it would take SoftBank about four years to burn through all that cash, which seemed to many like an extraordinary rate of spending. But the Japanese investor has easily surpassed it and is instead on track to deploy most of the fund in about two years, and that despite further LP additions. In just the past few months, its spent billions investing in an array of tech companies.
The fund led a $225 million investment in April in Klook, a Hong Kong-based travel booker. In March, it put $1.5 billion into Grab, a Southeast Asian ridehailing giant. In February, the Vision Fund participated in a $400 million round that valued delivery business DoorDash at $7.1 billion, and that same month it put $940 million into autonomous delivery startup Nuro. Mere days ago, SoftBank used the Vision Fund in part to invest $1 billion in Rappi, a delivery startup operating in Latin America. Oyo and Opendoor are among the other unicorns to raise recent Vision Fund backing.
But the flood of outgoing capital hasn't always been smooth. In January, SoftBank was reportedly forced to downsize a planned investment in WeWork, putting "just" $2 billion into the co-working company after originally hoping to make a $16 billion investment, a reduction said to be forced by hesitancy on the part of SoftBank's LPs.
The identities of those LPs have been another major point of discussion. The Vision Fund reportedly raised the vast majority of its capital from the governments of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, placing it at the forefront of recent conversations about the relationship between Silicon Valley and certain controversial regimes.
If the Vision Fund does conduct an IPO—which the WSJ said would likely take place later this year, after the fund is fully deployed—it would be joining in on a frenzy of public flotations. And SoftBank is already a backer of some of the companies leading the charge. The firm owns stakes in both Uber and Slack, and it's a major investor in WeWork, which announced this week that it confidentially filed for an IPO back in December.
Featured image via hidesy/iStock/Getty Images Plus