SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund has helped usher in a new era in fundraising, for better or worse. The bigger check sizes (the so-called mega-fund’s minimum individual investment is $100 million) are helping startups stay private longer and go global more quickly.
“The environment has changed,” said Kirthiga Reddy, SoftBank’s first female investing partner and the former managing director of Facebook India, speaking earlier this week at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women International Summit in London. Reddy likens SoftBank’s big checks to long-term capital that helps entrepreneurs “think bigger.” But many in the industry worry that pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into a handful of startups can have detrimental impact, inflating valuations (even more than is customary in the technology sector) and making it harder for smaller, less-funded startups to compete.
In Reddy’s view, SoftBank is making bold bets on companies that will have major impact in the world, like Vir, which is trying to “transform” treatment for infectious diseases. She also pointed to some of the firm’s lesser-known investments, including a mapping software maker called Mapbox, whose technology is used by other SoftBank portfolio companies like DoorDash, and emphasized the advantage of the massive investment vehicle’s growing network of well-funded companies. “The power of the ecosystem, that is so real and alive when you think about the SoftBank Vision Fund,” said Reddy, speaking during a conference session titled “Funding Innovation.”
The importance of ecosystems was also brought up by another speaker, Adaire Fox-Martin, during the same panel. Fox-Martin is a member of the executive board of SAP, where a program called One Billion Lives aims to seed social ventures cooked up by the company’s own employees. “We provide them [the employees-turned-entrepreneurs] with technology, funding, time, and support.”
According to Fox-Martin, a little more than 40% of company founders in the social enterprise sector are female. The percentage of female entrepreneurs across all funded startups, however, is much, much smaller. And it’s especially problematic when looking at larger deals: Last year, the 10 biggest deals all went to companies founded by men.
To be sure, the fundraising environment has changed, but not for all.
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