SoftBank’s AI-focused incubator subsidiary Deepcore is planning to raise around ₹385 crores ($55 million) for its second AI-investment fund dedicated to promising startups working in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to a Bloomberg report.
Japan-based holding conglomerate SoftBank launched Deepcore last year and it has reportedly received funding from investors like Yahoo Japan and Dentsu since then. The latest development comes a week after SoftBank added renowned AI researcher Yutaka Matsuo to its board.
“Deepcore will form a dedicated AI fund in two to three years as it expands its core startup incubation business. The number of startups here is fewer than the U.S. and Europe, and we need to increase it by providing such environment that engineers can open up a business,” says Katsumasa Niki, CEO of SoftBank.
The upcoming AI-focused fund will be a separate entity from the SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund. With the announcement, SoftBank plans to address the deficit of global AI firms in Japan and erect a company that can give competition to giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.
Katsumasa has overseen investment project for SoftBank until 2016 and has helped the company with deals like acquisition of Vodafone’s Japan-based mobile unit and Sprint Corp. In December last year, SoftBank brought in former Facebook India MD Kirthiga Reddy to join the team that manages SoftBank’s Vision Fund, making her the first female venture partner at SoftBank. Prior to that, the company had appointed Sumer Juneja, previously a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, to head its India operations.
Deepcore also counts soccer player Keisuke Honda as its investor and has invested in 18 early-stage startups. The Japanese incubator invested ₹207 crores ($29.5 million) in San Francisco-based tech startup Engineer.ai in November last year. Earlier this year, SoftBank’s venture capital firm, SoftBank Ventures Korea, re-branded itself to SoftBank Ventures Asia to expand its investment activities in Southeast Asia and China.
In December 2018, SoftBank partnered with Invest India, GoI’s official investment promotion agency to launch Tech4Future challenge for Indian startups that have developed a global product in sectors like artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity and facial recognition.
Last year, Reuters reported that the Vision Fund was looking to open an office in Saudi Arabia, which is home to the fund’s biggest backer – the sovereign wealth fund PIF. According to a Bloomberg report, the sovereign wealth fund had reportedly planned to commit $45 billion to a second massive Vision Fund. Softbank Corp is also planning to IPO its $100 billion Vision Fund.