SoftBank Group

SoftBank’s Deepcore and accelerator Zeroth team up to hunt early stage AI opportunities

Two early stage AI programs are joining forces because, even in the world of artificial intelligence, two heads are better than one. Hong Kong-based accelerator Zeroth — which recently grabbed a majority investment from Animoca Brands — and Deepcore, a Japanese incubator and fund that is part of the SoftBank group, are pairing up to use their resources on deal sourcing and other collaboration around artificial intelligence. The two seem complementary, with Deepcore focused on starting new ventures and investing in AI companies more generally, while Zeroth operates Asia’s first accelerator program targeted at AI and machine learning startups. It recently bagged $3 million through a deal that sees Animoca Brands take a 67 percent share stake in Deepcore’s operating business and provide a che...

Tencent backs fintech firm Voyager to set up battle with Alibaba in the Philippines

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT. The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant Financial invested in Mynt, a financial venture from Globe Telecom which is a competitor to Voyager. Following a week of speculation, PLDT announced a deal today that sees Tencent and KKR pay up to $175 million for a minority stake in the Voyager business. There have been reports that PLDT is looking to sell its majority stake, for now that has been retained but the firm did say that it has options to add other investors via the creation...

Benchmark is staying focused, targeting $425M for ninth fund

VC powerhouse Benchmark has filed to raise $425 million for its ninth flagship fund. While other firms close billion-dollar venture funds despite a history of smaller fundraises, Benchmark is sticking to its guns. The firm, known for its early bets on Twitter, Uber, Snap and WeWork, hasn’t fallen victim to the SoftBank effect. Longtime Benchmark general partners Bill Gurley and Peter Fenton are listed on the filing alongside three newer members of the partnership. Benchmark staples Mitch Lasky and Matt Cohler, who joined the firm in 2007 and 2008, respectively, are noticeably absent. Lasky’s departure doesn’t come as a shock. He stepped down from Snap’s board of directors in June just after Recode reported that he was “widely expected to not sign up for another round of deals.” Cohler, for...

Sequoia wraps up new $695M fund for India and Southeast Asia

Sequoia has announced the close of its newest fund for India and Southeast Asia. The firm has raised $695 million for this fund, which is its fifth since it expanded into India 12 years ago. Reports at the beginning of this year suggested that the firm was shooting for a $1 billion fund, perhaps influenced by SoftBank’s gargantuan Vision Fund, but it was later reported that the target was cut to $650-$700 million. This new money for Asia is reflective of Sequoia’s activity elsewhere in the world, where it is piling up cash for more details. The firm is in the final stages of raising an $8 billion global fund while it is said to be preparing a China fund that could reach as high as $6 billion, with participation from e-commerce firm JD.com and state-owned Starquest Capital. It secured a $18...

India’s Uber rival Ola is headed to Europe with ride-hailing launch in the UK

The UK is getting a new alternative to Uber after India-based ride-hailing company Ola announced plans to expand to the country, which will become its first market in Europe. Ola was founded in 2010 and it covers over 110 cities in India where it offers licensed taxis, private hire cars and rickshaws through a network of over one million drivers. The company has raised around $3 billion from investors that include SoftBank, Chinese duo Tencent and Didi Chuxing and DST Global . It was last valued at $7 billion. Ola ventured overseas for the first time when it launched in Australia earlier this year — it is now in seven cities there — and its move into the UK signals a further expansion into Europe. Ola’s UK service isn’t live right now, but the company said it will begin offering licensed t...

China’s Didi pumps $1B into its rebranded driver services business

Didi Chuxing is going pedal to the metal for its automobile services business after it announced it will invest $1 billion into the division, which is also getting a rebrand. The Chinese ride-hailing firm had been tipped to spin out the business and raise $1.5 billion from investors ahead of an IPO, according to a recent Reuters report. The business itself hasn’t spun out, however, but it has been renamed to Xiaoju Automobile Solutions and given more autonomy with the introduction of its own general manager. The division handles services for registered Didi drivers, such as leasing and purchase financing, insurance, repairs, refueling, car-sharing and more. Essentially, with its huge army of drivers, Didi can get preferential rates from service providers, which means better deals for its d...

WeWork China raises $500M to triple the number of cities it covers

WeWork’s China business is getting a fresh injection of capital after it raised $500 million. The company entered China two years ago and today it covers Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu with nearly 40 locations. It claims 20,000 members, and it is also active in Hong Kong, which technically falls under ‘Greater China.’ The new capital comes from Trustbridge Partners, Singapore’s Temasek, SoftBank, SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Hony Capital. WeWork said it’ll be used for expansion into six new cities: those are Shenzhen, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Nanjing, and Wuhan. This new raise is a Series B, WeWork China previously scored a $500 million Series A last year, which was also when the Chinese entity was founded. The company has been pretty busy over that 12-month period, most notably it scooped ...

Tiger Global reportedly pours more than $1B into SoftBank, saying its shares are “undervalued”

Tiger Global has poured more than $1 billion into SoftBank Group, according to the Financial Times. The newspaper reports that the firm told investors SoftBank’s shares are “meaningfully undervalued.” In response to a request for comment, SoftBank sent the same statement to TechCrunch as other media outlets: “We continue to believe the market significantly undervalues our stock and we welcome the support from a sophisticated institutional investor like Tiger Global.” Tiger Global and SoftBank share several investments in common, including Alibaba, Flipkart and Uber. According to a quarterly investor letter obtained by the Financial Times, Tiger Global wrote that “the combination of a world-class set of assets trading at a record discount to net asset value strikes us as an odd anomaly that...

SoftBank Group and Saudi Arabia plan to spend $200 billion building the world’s biggest solar power plant

SoftBank Group Corp., known for splashy deals involving billions of dollars (see: its Vision Fund and investments in Uber and Didi), has signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia to build a $200 billion solar power plant. Expected to reach its full capacity of 200 gigawatts by 2030, the development will be the largest of its kind in the world by far. According to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the Saudi Arabian project is about 100 times larger than the next biggest proposed development, the 2 gigawatt Solar Choice Bulli Creek PV in Australia, which is expected to be completed by 2023. During an event with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in New York City on Tuesday (pictured above), Son said the project will create 100,000 jobs, triple Saudi Arabia’s ele...

Global tech firms and investors are reshaping Latin America’s startup environment

Latin America is emerging as the new battleground for the global tech giants, and some of Silicon Valley and Asia’s biggest investors—from Sequoia Capital to SoftBank—are taking notice. International investment in Latin American startups has more than doubled since 2013, with 25 new investors entering the region in 2017 alone, including SoftBank, Didi Chuxing and TPG’s US$1B global impact fund, The Rise Fund. Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are now active in Latin America, including Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Founders Fund, Sequoia Capital, and Y Combinator, choosing deals opportunistically across financing stages and sectors: Andreessen Horowitz made its inaugural investment in Latin America in Rappi, a last-mile delivery service operating in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, ...

Uber’s big SoftBank deal has officially closed

SoftBank’s $1.2 billion primary direct investment deal has officially closed, according to Uber itself, which confirmed the deal closure and provided the following statement to TechCrunch via a spokesperson: We’re proud to have SoftBank, Dragoneer and the entire consortium in the Uber family. This is a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers, strengthening Uber’s governance as we double down on our technology investments and continue to bring our services to more people in more places around the world. The Uber-SoftBank deal will also see payments for secondary sales processed and distributed throughout Thursday, the company confirmed, and the governance changes that Uber agreed to as part of the deal structure are also officially coming into effect today. That means th...

Softbank invests €460M in Germany’s Auto1 car dealer platform

Softbank’s Vision Fund has made another investment: The Japanese conglomerate has agreed to invest €460M in Berlin-based online car dealer Auto1. Auto1 confirmed the investment in a press release put out today, saying the deal values the company at €2.9BN. Around half of the investment is being made through the issue of new shares, it added. The FT reports that Softbank is taking a 20 per cent stake in Auto1 via this investment — though a spokesman for the fund declined to confirm the size of the stake. SoftBank’s Akshay Naheta is joining the Auto1 Group board following the investment. Commenting in a statement, he said: “Auto1 Group has built a fast growing, data-enabled platform introducing efficiency and transparency to the fragmented used car market, which is worth more than $300BN ann...

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