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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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