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Masayoshi Son Softbank Business Entrepreneur Image Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek
Masayoshi Son Softbank Business Entrepreneur Image Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek

Softbank Upends Sand Hill Road

Sand Hill Road was once the only address for startups seeking capital. Now all roads lead to SoftBank's Masayoshi Son

Sarah McBride, Selina Wang, and Peter Elstrom

Two years ago, Masayoshi Son, chief executive officer of SoftBank, sat in a Gulfstream jet high above the Arabian Gulf, en route to meet with potential investors in a new fund that would invest in technology startups. He was going through his presentation with Rajeev Misra, a key lieutenant, when something stopped him.

One of the slides included the proposed size of the fund: $30 billion. The figure would make the Vision Fund, as Son had named it, about four times the size of the largest venture capital fund ever created and bigger than any private equity fund in history.

Son stared at the number for a moment. Then he deleted the three and replace it with a one and another zero. “Life’s too short to think small,” he told a stunned Misra.

When Son came to the $100 billion slide in his presentation a few hours later, the prospective investors—executives from a state-owned fund in the Middle East—laughed. Son didn’t, continuing his presentation as if nothing had happened. “He didn’t miss a beat,” recalls Misra, now the fund’s CEO.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund would gather almost $100 billion, including $45 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, as well as capital from Apple Inc., the government of Abu Dhabi, and others. “One hundred was a simpler number,” Son says during a September interview at the Tokyo headquarters of SoftBank Group Corp., a sprawling conglome


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