Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.
Hello readers! This is Erin Griffith, one of the newest members of The Times’s tech team. I’m taking over the start-up and venture capital beat, which — judging from conversations on the V.C. summer party circuit — consists entirely of scooters, cryptocurrency and SoftBank. While I plan to venture far beyond that, I’m now prepared for the inevitable day that SoftBank puts scooters on the blockchain and I get to write about all three at once.
This week, though, I just needed to worry about SoftBank.
Every SoftBank investment can make waves because of the size of the company’s ambitions. SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund is larger than the total amount invested by all venture funds in the United States in 2017. The deals are so large, start-ups can now can ask themselves: I.P.O. or SoftBank?
That firepower is why SoftBank’s name tends to strike fear, envy and longing into the hearts of investors and start-up chief executives. Some investors accuse the Vision Fund of distorting the funding market by inflating start-up valuations. Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s C.E.O., has been called a “one-man bubble maker.” Some founders are desperate to get access to the company’s Scrooge McDuck pool of money. But others charge that the fund, which invests a minimum of $100 million per deal, is pushing companies to take on capital they may not want or need out of fear. (Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s C.E.O., once said he did a deal with the firm because he’d rather have SoftBank’s “capital cannon” behind him, rather than pointed at him.)
This week SoftBank positioned its capital cannon behind Brandless, sending $240 million to the e-commerce start-up, which sells a variety of organic and “clean”…
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