Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank, said to shareholders on Wednesday that he wants to be viewed as a 21st century Rothschild, APA reports citing CNBC.
The billionaire said many people have asked him over the last three of four years what SoftBank Group is, with some saying him they like him “very much” as an entrepreneur but not as an investor.
“Actually, I am not a simple or a traditional investor compared to the others,” Son said. “I’ve been a bit frustrated. How should I best try to explain to you what is SoftBank? What is Masayoshi Son?”
Son said he would describe SoftBank as a “capital provider for the information revolution” in the 21st century in the same way that Mayer Amschel Rothschild was a capital provider for the industrial revolution in the 19th century.
“In the industrial revolution, one of the main players was Rothschild,” Son said, using one of the quirky slideshows that SoftBank has become well known for to illustrate his points. “We would like to be the capital provider for the information revolution. That is our new definition or new positioning I would say to describe SoftBank Group.”
Son said there were “many famous inventors (who) did a great job,” during the industrial revolution, calling out steam engine pioneer James Watt.
“But that industrial revolution did not happen only by inventors,” he said, adding that capitalists were equally as important. “Mr. Watt is quite famous, but Rothschild as the capitalist may not be fully understood, may not be fully valued,” Son said.
Today, the “information revolution (is) in full bloom,” according to Son, who said artificial intelligence is a particular area of focus for SoftBank.
“We believe that the we are the biggest in terms of providing capital,” he said on AI, adding that driving, healthcare, retail, finance and education will all be redefined by AI in the years ahead.
In the industrial revolution, manpower was replaced by machines, Son said. “In the information revolution, AI will be the one replacing machinery,” he said.
SoftBank has invested in 264 companies through its two Vision Funds, as well as a dedicated Latin America fund.
“The majority of the companies are not actually making money,” Son said. “We are taking risks and at the same time providing funds … as a capital provider.”