Softbank

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...

Unicorns aren’t special anymore

When Aileen Lee, the former Kleiner Perkins partner and founder of the seed-stage venture capital firm Cowboy Ventures, coined the term “unicorn” in 2013 on this very site, there were just 39 companies that had earned the title. She called them “the lucky/genius few.” Her definition: U.S. software startups launched since 2003 worth more than $1 billion. When she authored the viral post, just four companies were garnering valuations that high each year, according to her calculations. Five years later, the rate at which startups are becoming unicorns has increased 353.1 percent, according to PitchBook’s latest research. Today, there are 145 “active unicorns” in the U.S. alone, worth an aggregate valuation of $555.9 billion. Why? A couple of reasons. Namely, because companies are staying priv...

In venture capital, it’s still the age of the unicorn

Howie Xu Contributor Howie Xu is the vice president of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Zscaler. He previously co-founded TrustPath and served as an entrepreneur in residence at Greylock. This month marks the 5-year anniversary of Aileen Lee’s landmark article, “Welcome To The Unicorn Club”. At the time, the piece defined a new breed of startup — the $1 billion privately held company. When Lee did her first count, there were 39 “unicorns”; an improbable, but not impossible number.. Today, the once-scarce unicorn has become a global herd with 376 companies on the roster and counting. But the proliferation of unicorns begs raises certain questions. Is this new breed of unicorn artificially created? Could these magical companies see their valuations slip and fall out of the her...

Mexican venture firm ALL VP has a $73 million first close on its latest fund

Buoyed by international attention from U.S. and Chinese investors and technology companies, new financing keeps flowing into the coffers of Latin American venture capital firms. One day after the Brazilian-based pan-Latin American announced the close of its $150 million latest fund comes word from our sources that ALL VP, the Mexico City-based, early stage technology investor, has held a first close of $73 million for its latest investment vehicle. The firm launched its first $6 million investment vehicle in 2012, according to CrunchBase, just as Mexico’s former President Enrique Peña Nieto was coming to power with a pro-business platform. One which emphasized technology development as part of its strategy for encouraging economic growth. ALL VP founding partner Fernando Lelo de Larrea sai...

Guardian Circle upgrades with a decentralized alert network

Chris Hays and Mark Jeffrey wanted to create a way for everyone to be able to tell their loved ones if they were in trouble. Their first product, GuardianCircle did just that, netting a mention in a few years ago. Now the same team is truly decentralizing alerts with a new token called, obviously, Guardium. The plan is to create an ad hoc network of helpers and first responders. “Guardium and Guardian Circle togther open the emergency response grid to vetted citizens, private response and compatible devices for the very first time,” write the founders. “Providing an economic framework on our global distributed emergency response network; Guardium brings first responders to the 4 billion people on the planet without government sponsored emergency response.” Since the product already works, ...

Tink Labs, which gives free-to-use smartphones to hotel guests, is raising $300M

Tink Labs, a Hong Kong startup that develops smartphones that hotels provide to their guests for free, is raising a new round of up to $300 million to further its international footprint, TechCrunch has come to understand. The startup is in the final stages of completing the deal that could give its six-year-old business a post-money valuation of at least $1.5 billion, two sources with knowledge of discussions told TechCrunch . It isn’t clear at this point which investors are part of the round, but once source said Tink Labs has made an effort to court hotels and travel firms as investors since it believes they could provide strategic value beyond simply capital. But any hoteliers would likely provide smaller checks, with more established investors picking up the bulk of the round. Tink La...

Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya says ‘we need to return to the roots of venture investing’

In the first of many annual letters Chamath Palihapitiya will be penning as part of his firm’s new era as a technology holding company, the founder of Social Capital criticized the venture capital industry. After highlighting the latest trends within VC — i.e. SoftBank’s Vision Fund, private equity activity in VC deals and inflated valuations — Palihapitiya divulged the asset class’s biggest problems. A copious amount of capital is flowing through the industry and VCs have an insatiable appetite for “unicorn status.” As a result, investors are paying more and more for equity in startups at all stages, hurting both startup employees and limited partners, who ultimately have to foot the bill. “The dynamics we’ve entered is, in many ways, creating a dangerous, high stakes Ponzi scheme,” Palih...

Silicon Valley’s sovereign wealth problem

John Vrionis Contributor It’s time to bring the conversation about where Silicon Valley gets its money from out into the open. Following recent revelations into Saudi Arabia’s extensive reach and influence in the US technology sector, the willful ignorance that has defined the relationship between venture capital firms and the limited partnerships (LPs) that fund them for years now isn’t going to cut it anymore. According to the latest reports from the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia is now the single-largest source of funding for US-based tech companies. Since 2016, the Saudi royal family has invested at least $11 billion into US startups directly, and in August, the Saudi Arabian government committed $45 billion to Softbank’s $92 billion Vision Fund. To put that into context, the total...

Khashoggi’s fate shows the flip side of the surveillance state

It’s been over five years since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden lifted the lid on government mass surveillance programs, revealing, in unprecedented detail, quite how deep the rabbit hole goes thanks to the spread of commercial software and connectivity enabling a bottomless intelligence-gathering philosophy of ‘bag it all’. Yet technology’s onward march has hardly broken its stride. Government spying practices are perhaps more scrutinized, as a result of awkward questions about out-of-date legal oversight regimes. Though whether the resulting legislative updates, putting an official stamp of approval on bulk and/or warrantless collection as a state spying tool, have put Snowden’s ethical concerns to bed seems doubtful — albeit, it depends on who you ask. The UK’s post-Snowden Investigato...

Silicon Valley hoped the Khashoggi story would go away; instead, it may end an era

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Exactly a week ago, we wondered if Saudi Arabia’s money might finally become radioactive in light of the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Almost no one we reached for comment wanted to participate in the story, though behind the scenes, we heard the same things from different sources who have a vested interest in keeping the peace with the country and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: There is no proof. We’re waiting to see what happens. You’re naive if you think this is the only regime that both funds Silicon Valley and tortures its own people. I would rather scale my company using Saudi money then cap my opportunity by trying to ensure that my funding sources are pure. In fairness, Silicon Val...

SoftBank is considering taking a majority stake in WeWork

SoftBank may soon own up to 50 percent of WeWork, a well-funded provider of co-working spaces headquartered in New York, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. SoftBank is reportedly weighing an investment between $15 billion and $20 billion, which would come from its $92 billion Vision Fund, a super-sized venture fund led by Japanese entrepreneur and investor Masayoshi Son. WeWork declined to comment. SoftBank already owns some 20 percent of WeWork. The firm invested $4.4 billion in the company in August 2017, $1.4 billion of which was set aside to help WeWork expand in China, Japan and Southeast Asia. This August, WeWork raised another $1 billion from SoftBank in convertible debt. At the same time, WeWork disclosed financials to a handful of media outlets, sharing that i...

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...

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