SoftBank Vision Fund portfolio starts to take shape

The tech giant led investments of more than $300m in US-based indoor farming company Plenty and self-driving technology specialist Brain Corp.

The outlines of SoftBank’s Vision Fund are starting to appear after it closed on two investments worth over $300 million this week.

The Japanese technology giant has used capital from the Vision Fund – which has so far received $93 billion in commitments towards a $100 billion target it expects to finalise later this year – to lead a $200 million investment round in San Francisco-based indoor farming company Plenty as well as a $114 million financing round for Brain Corp, an artificial intelligence company that specialises in self-driving technology.

Following the investment in Plenty, Vision Fund’s managing director Jeffrey Housenbold will join the company’s board of directors.

Plenty uses plant science and patented technology to build indoor farms using LED lighting, micro-sensor technology and big data processing. SoftBank’s investment will be used to expand in the US and abroad, it said in a company statement.

Brain Corp, on the other hand, creates technology that transforms manually operated machines into autonomous robots. The firm’s investment will be used to further develop AI technology and create brains for multi-use commercial and consumer robots.

The firm’s investments are in line with its technology-focused strategy. Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank Group, said earlier the fund would back cutting-edge tech companies focused on the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Capital from the Vision Fund has also been invested in UK virtual reality Improbable and New York-based co-working space company WeWork and satellite operator Intelsat.

Earlier this year, SoftBank agreed to acquire US investment group Fortress for $3.3 billion, a deal which is understood to have fortified its asset management know-how.

The Vision Fund was launched last year in partnership with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. If successful, it would be the largest private equity fund ever raised. Other investors in the fund include Mubadala Investment Company, Apple, Qualcomm, Foxconn, Sharp and the family office of Oracle founder Larry Ellis.