In just under a year since the fund's launch, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi 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.
A few prominent voices in Silicon Valley are calling for the tech world to exercise greater caution in vetting its investors as disquiet builds about one of the industry's biggest backers -- Saudi Arabia -- and its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The calls, while still isolated, are challenging the hush-hush world of money-raising in the startup industry, where venture-capital firms and privately owned startups disclose little about their funding and operations. "It is time for all of us in the startup and VC sector to do a deep dive on our investor base," Fred Wilson, the influential founder of Union Square Ventures, a New York City-based venture capital firm with strong ties to the Valley, argued in a blog post Sunday. "Who are our investors and can we be proud of them?" "It will be a real moral challenge for anyone to accept money moving forward from Saudi Arabia," said Venky Ganesan, a partner at technology investor Menlo Ventures, which invested in Uber and Warby Parker, and former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association. So far in public, the tech community is largely staying quiet -- reflecting the difficulty of undoing some investments and the traditionally discrete nature of the Valley's many non-public companies and funds, industry experts say.
Mr. Son paid it anyway. And he continued a buying spree, picking up stakes in dozens more companies, many of them "unicorns"--startups that have grown to valuations over $1 billion--such as Uber Technologies Inc. and WeWork Cos. In some of those deals, too, he had to argue with directors and advisers who thought he was paying too much.