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SoftBank Makes $146M Bet on AI Firm Qraft

#artificialintelligence

SoftBank is investing $146 million in the South Korean artificial intelligence (AI) company Qraft Technologies Inc. to help it expand into the U.S. As The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Monday (Jan. The companies declined to disclose Qraft's valuation, per the WSJ. SoftBank, based in Tokyo, is one of the largest tech investors in the world, managing a portfolio in excess of $100 billion. Qraft has 50 employees, most of whom work on the company's AI project and who own about a third of the business, with outside investors controlling the rest. "SoftBank [now] makes up a large portion of that," Robert Nestor, the U.S. CEO of Qraft., told the WSJ.


WSJ News Exclusive

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Founded in 2016 by its chief executive, Marcus Hyung-Sik Kim, the Seoul-based firm plans to use the investment to further its expansion into the U.S. and other key markets, said Robert Nestor, Qraft's U.S. CEO. The companies declined to disclose Qraft's valuation. Tokyo's SoftBank is one of the world's largest investors in technology companies, with its Vision Fund and a successor managing a portfolio of more than $100 billion. Asset managers, once skeptical of the value of AI and mindful of their staffs' concerns that the programs would replace human stock- and bond-pickers, are now looking to add data-analysis tools that can help them combat chronic underperformance and justify the fees they charge investors. The industry's awakening has triggered an arms race to hire the programmers who can develop those tools and spot the market signals hidden in the data.