August 19, 2019
If you’re a SoftBank employee, you can now invest in the Vision Fund.
The Japanese tech behemoth plans to lend up to $20 billion to its employees to buy stakes in its second mega-venture fund, according to The Wall Street Journal. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son may account for as much as $15 billion of that amount.
It’s not uncommon for investment funds to give their employees a share of the profit as part of their compensation. But SoftBank is lending to its ~400 employees, allowing them to buy those stakes, charging around 5% interest and in most cases requiring little money down.
The WSJ notes that SoftBank did the same thing for its first Vision Fund, which now includes about $8 billion of employee money. Yes, the loans are believed to “better align its managers’ interests with those of Vision Fund investors” because the fund investments can be canceled if someone departs or is found to have done a reckless deal.
But here’s where it gets tricky:
The lending adds leverage to the Vision Fund’s already risky investments and, if the fund struggles, would put SoftBank in an awkward position trying to collect from some of its most senior executives and could ultimately lose money.
Much of Mr. Son’s wealth is tied up in his shares of SoftBank itself, which he could be forced to sell to repay the loans.
This seems … risky? But as we all know by now, Son is no stranger to risk. I saw a tweet that sums this up perfectly: “It’ll be a spectacular failure or spectacularly brilliant. Either way, it’ll be spectacular.”
‘MORE CAPITALIZED:’ Better.com is on a fundraising spree. After initially raising $70 million for its Series C round in January and raising another $25 million in add-on funding, online mortgage lender Better.com has officially closed off the Series C with a total of $160 million raised.
Activant Capital led the latest influx in funding and was joined by Ping An Insurance, Ally Financial, Citigroup, AGNC, American Express Ventures, and Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), as well as existing investors Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins, and Pine Brook. The $160 million round takes the New York-based company’s total funding to $254 million to date and brings its valuation to north of $600 million.
My colleague Rey Mashayekhi reports:
The capital will be used to further scale the mortgage lender’s operations and grow its product offerings, founder and CEO Vishal Garg told Fortune. Garg noted that Better.com has tripled its growth year-on-year since launching in 2016; while the company is at $5 billion in originations to date, Better.com financed $1 billion worth of mortgages in the second quarter of 2019—more than in all of 2016 and 2017 combined—and is on track to lend more than $4 billion in 2019.
“The way things are going, we’re going to be at $10 [billion] to $15 billion of originations next year, which would make us the largest fintech in America,” according to Garg. “We had a lot of strategic investors who weren’t able to make the first close and were really interested in the company. To accommodate them, and considering the growth rate we’ve had this year and our need for further investment capital, we decided to extend the round… We just needed to be way more capitalized.”
The line, “We just needed to be way more capitalized” seems to encapsulate the theme of 2019.
CHANGE THE WORLD: Mo’ money doesn’t always equal mo’ problems. Fortune’s Change the World list is out today. It spotlights 52 companies that are addressing social problems as part of their core business strategy.
Featured on this year’s list is Walmart, the only company to make our Change the World roster five years in a row. Fortune’s Deputy Editor Brian O’Keefe’s conducted a revealing Q&A with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, in which the chief executive talks about how automation will change jobs, why he’s changed the way he works, and how he’s navigating the aftermath of the tragedy in El Paso.