In early 2018, the founders of Chinese artificial intelligence startup SenseTime Group Ltd. flew to Tokyo to see billionaire investor Masayoshi Son. As they entered the offices, Chief Executive Officer Xu Li was hoping to persuade the head of SoftBank Group Corp. to invest $200 million in his three-year-old startup. A third of the way into the presentation, Son interrupted to say he wanted to put in $1 billion. A few minutes later, Son suggested $2 billion. Turning to the roomful of SoftBank managers, Son said this was the kind of AI company he'd been looking for. "Why are you only telling me about them now?" he asked, according to one person in the room.
The Land of the Rising Sun is a peculiar mix of tradition and modernity. Nowhere else in the world can one see centuries-old shrines sitting comfortably next to high tech skyscrapers in such harmony. Nowhere in the world does the airport ground crew stop what they're doing so they can wave goodbye to departing planes until they're out of sight. Nowhere in the world will you find customer service that drips with genuine sweetness with no tips expected. Nowhere in the world will you find a people as endearing as the Japanese.
The development of 5G mobile networks, as well as smart vehicles, will be among the next hot sectors in Japan, a senior equity analyst told CNBC. Previously, the information technology industry in Japan was driven by products such as digital cameras and smartphones, but it has now reached a plateau, Kazunori Ito, senior equity analyst at Ibbotson Associates Japan, said last month. "From here, I would observe many of the growth opportunities are non-IT industries, such as autos, and many other industries driven by the diffusion of 5G," he told CNBC's "Capital Connection." Ito said his top Japanese stock picks are smartphone component maker Murata Manufacturing and electronics company TDK. Major specifications for a new 5G mobile network are expected to be set by the industry this December, he said.
When Masayoshi Son was a boy growing up in Kyushu, he kept a notebook to scribble down inventions he hoped to create one day. Today, the SoftBank founder has almost $100 billion to invest in making the next big thing a reality. Son's SoftBank Group Corp. closed the first round of a planned $100 billion investment fund, with money raised from Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, as well as Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. The Vision Fund gives the 59-year-old access to a pool of capital unparalleled in the worlds of private equity or venture capital -- the equivalent of four Silver Lakes or 15 Sequoia Capitals. He has said, without irony, that he has a 300-year plan for SoftBank and aims to build the world's most valuable company.
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