Masayoshi Son, the CEO and founder of SoftBank said he is “embarrassed” by his track record following big bets on loss-making businesses like Uber and WeWork.
Masayoshi Son struck a conciliatory tone in the interview with Japan’s Nikkei Business magazine: “I'm embarrassed and impatient. After all, looking at the growth of companies in the United States and China, there is a strong feeling that this is not enough.”
The Japanese billionaire’s reputation as a tech investor has been dented by the recent poor performance of key investments in SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision fund. SoftBank and other investors pushed out WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann after plans for an initial public offering stalled as the valuation of the co-working space slumped from its $47 billion peak in January.
SoftBank’s own shares have slipped more than 30% since April as other key Vision Fund investments, like Uber, performed poorly. That company’s share price has dropped to below the IPO price as losses continue to mount. “Companies like WeWork and Uber are criticized for being in the red, but in 10 years they’ll be making substantial profits,” said Son, according to Reuters.
Son also shared a warning for founders. “Recently, I’ve been telling founders to ‘know your limit. ... Knowing your limitations will help unleash limitless possibilities,” said Son, according to Bloomberg.
The struggles of SoftBank’s banner investments come as Son has been fund raising for a second Vision Fund which was announced in July.
Masayoshi Son describes that current economic situation in Japan as “very bad” adding that “the entrepreneurial spirit has faded considerably since the prewar days and at the end of the Edo period.”
He adds, “I once thought that the size of the market in the US and China was enviable, but there are a lot of companies that are hot and growing rapidly from countries with small markets like Southeast Asia. It is not the case that Japanese entrepreneurs, including me, are making excuses.”
Warning that Japan will become “an island country ... completely forgotten” he warns that compared to China, “Japan has lost its competitiveness.”
Masayoshi Son has an estimated net worth of $18.9 billion and runs SoftBank, a mobile telecom and investment firm with $81 billion in 2017 revenue. Softbank invested $35 billion across 100 deals in 2017, including making investments in troubled co-working firm WeWork and ride hailing app Uber.