Its habit of spraying money around means it has ended up with a diverse portfolio that includes WeWork, the fashionable office supplier, Lemonade, the home insurance app, and Wag, an app for dogwalking. The last of these received $300m in funding from SoftBank, a sum that, while it certainly got tails wagging, seemed to be on the excessive side.
Son has a strategy of sorts. He talks about the arrival of “The Singularity”, a moment at which machine intelligence comes to exceed that of humans and then improves exponentially, rapidly increasing the rate of technological progress. The Industrial Revolution will seem like child’s play, and make the tech fund’s investments many times more valuable. When that moment comes, the Vision Fund’s seemingly scattergun approach will be revealed as a strategic masterstroke.
Back in the present day, the sums being sprayed around by SoftBank have supercharged an already bubbly fundraising environment for tech start-ups. Seeking an investment from the Vision Fund became a strategy in its own right for tech companies: a legitimate third option alongside going to venture capital or listing on the stock market.
Last week drew a stark reminder that SoftBank’s cash was not, in fact, endless. The company revealed that the Vision Fund had gone through around half of its $100bn, having spent at a rate of roughly $7bn every three months since it was set up. At this rate the biggest fund in history will be exhausted next summer.