SoftBank Plans AI Tour for Founders to Boost Technology Adoption

(Bloomberg) — SoftBank Group Corp . will take a group of its Indian startup founders to Silicon Valley next month for an artificial intelligence tour as the Japanese investor ramps up efforts to bring the technology to its portfolio companies.

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The investor is helping portfolio companies adopt AI and has arranged meetings for the founders it backs with the leading players in the field, Sumer Juneja, managing partner who oversees Europe, Middle East, Africa and India investments at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, said in an interview in Mumbai. SoftBank expects to bring many of the 20 founders from its Indian companies on the trip, he said, without naming specific names. Its portfolio in the country includes Oyo Hotels, service provider Ola and delivery firm Swiggy.

SoftBank, led by Masayoshi Son, started making startup investments again in the June quarter after stalling as investors soured on money-losing startups. The Japanese company has built a cash pile of more than $40 billion and is in the process of taking chip designer Arm Holdings Ltd. publicly in a deal that will raise additional cash.

“What we don’t want to do is invest in a company that misses the AI ​​wave and then three years later becomes irrelevant,” Juneja said. “Having a sophisticated tech team and being in the right industry where it could use AI to make the business model even more efficient is a must for us to write new checks.”

Investors are rushing to back AI companies worldwide as products like ChatGPT quickly gain popularity. Companies in many sectors, including software-as-a-service, will become redundant if they don’t quickly adopt AI use cases, according to Juneja. However, the biggest challenge with AI today is how to best use it.

“If you’re late to the AI ​​party, you’re toast, and if you’re too early, it won’t affect your revenue. We’re helping to make the transition right,” he said.

Son invested more than $140 billion in startups after creating the Vision Fund in 2017, which champions the potential of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. But many of those investments have fallen in value, including office-sharing startup WeWork Inc.

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