Figuring Out What SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son Will Do With $100 Billion
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The venerable journalist Michael Lewis made a remark in a New York Times Book Review interview three years ago that has stuck with me, that “writers go on hot streaks.” (He was praising the prolific Roger Angell.) My friend and former Fortune colleague Katie Benner, ace technology reporter with The New York Times, is on such a hot streak.
Required reading this morning is her keenly observed explanatory profile of just what the hell Masayoshi Son of SoftBank is up to with his seemingly willy-nilly Vision Fund. Son has been plunking down a billion here and a billion there for months now, and many have wondered what if anything it is all adding up to. Benner’s fascinating conclusion, at once hiding in plain sight while also based on her typically dogged reporting, is that Son is snapping up pieces of every company he can that stands to solve the puzzle of the data science revolution.
Son already is a veritable investing and entrepreneurial genius, having started his own software and telecommunications company and invested early in Yahoo, Alibaba (BABA), and gamer Supercell, billion-dollar returns all. Son also has been public about his belief in the “singularity,” the once-fringe notion that machines eventually will be smarter than humans. Per Benner, Son has been openly articulating his thesis to the entrepreneurs he courts for rat-a-tat-tat investments.
If Son is right, he’ll earn himself and his investors fortunes vastly greater than the one he already has amassed. If he’s wrong—or early—he’ll be yet another dreamer who thought big and failed miserably. Either way we’ll have Katie Benner to thank for helping us make sense of it all.
The Canadian writer Gary Stephen Ross sent me the briefest of emails Tuesday. It was all subject line, in fact, and it read “Prime Minster.” I knew what he meant immediately. That’s how I identified Canada’s head of government, Justin Trudeau, in my column that morning.
I thanked Ross and told him typos really annoy me. (I’ve had a streak of my own lately, and I’m not happy about it.) Well that got two writers emailing about how important even the smallest of errors is. “Everything that you publish brands you as someone who’s meticulous or someone who’s sloppy,” wrote Ross, who it turns out teaches a course on effective communication in organizations.
In his honor, I read every word in this column three times before submitting it. I so hope I’ve done right by him and all of you.