Photo ops of SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son sometimes show him chatting happily with his company's humanoid robot, the childlike Pepper, or grinning as President Donald Trump heaps praise on him for creating American jobs.
It's clear Son, Japan's richest person, stands out in Japan Inc.
He is no "salaryman" president, those typical executives who rise gradually and quietly through the ranks, Japan-style, in a corporate culture that frowns upon mavericks and tends to squelch self-made ventures.
Since founding SoftBank in 1981, Son, a Japanese of Korean ancestry who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, has won both criticism and accolades as a daring investor who has gathered partners in diverse technology sectors from around the world.
Sometimes those adventures cost him. But often, they have paid off.
SoftBank Group Corp. reported Monday a 98 percent drop in its April-June profit at 5.5 billion yen ($50 million) on losses stemming from investments in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.
Quarterly sales rose 3 percent to 2.19 trillion yen ($20 billion), while the Tokyo-based company's operating profit, which highlights core operations, logged a 50 percent increase year-on-year as its U.S. mobile carrier Sprint, previously a drain on the bottom line, boosted profitability.
The first telecoms carrier to offer the iPhone in Japan, SoftBank has bought British semiconductor company ARM. Its acquisition of U.S. robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics is awaiting regulatory approval. Recently, it has announced it will invest in Encored, a U.S. company specializing in IoT technology in the energy sector.
Son believes artificial intelligence combined with data gathered by billions of sensors will benefit people more than the 19th Century Industrial Revolution, helping to treat cancer, deliver accident-free driving and grow safer food.
Son also has money to invest: a private fund he set up last year for global investments in the technology sector, called the Vision Fund, with the potential to grow to as much as $100 billion. Trump has praised him for promising to invest $50 billion in U.S. startups to create 50,000 jobs.
Son stressed at a news conference Monday that his company was neither an old-style Japanese "zaibatsu," a business conglomerate with roots dating to the 19th century Meiji Era, nor a venture capital outfit pursuing a quick payback.
SoftBank tries to influence strategy in the businesses it invests in, without exerting outright control or overhauling their management, he said, instead collaborating on a shared vision of what he called the "information revolution."
"We don't try to stamp our color on our group companies," he said. "We feel a brand should be free."
Son's spectacular rags-to-riches story, making one big acquisition after another including an approximately 40 percent stake in Yahoo in the 1990s, has left many skeptical over what appears to be a risky way to run a business, said Satoru Kikuchi, a senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Co.
But as he added stakes in one technology powerhouse after the other, names like Microsoft Corp., Novell, Cisco Systems, Ziff-Davis and Comdex, Son has shifted gears when necessary, adjusting his portfolio and often emerging a winner and winning trust from key investors, Kikuchi said.
"His goal is to become the No. 1 company in the world through expanding in the technology area," he said. "He has the ability to gather money and information. He can act, and he can make decisions."
In a recent, nearly three-hour presentation in Tokyo, Son presented some of the ventures he is partnering with, including OneWeb, whose founder and chairman Greg Wyler wants to use satellites instead of underground cables to provide affordable internet access for everyone.
He showed off Spot, a four-legged robot that can climb steps and dance. ARM's chips are found in nearly all smartphones and wearables, he noted. Data gathered from such omnipresent sensors provide far more comprehensive data than what can be gathered through mobile phones or computers, Son said.
"Those who rule chips will rule the entire world. Those who rule data will rule the entire world." Son said. "That's what people of the future will say."
SoftBank also runs a solar power business, which Son plunged into with fervor after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan. His business empire also includes financial-technology, ride-booking services and a baseball team, the Softbank Hawks.
Takenobu Miki, who worked closely with Son in the late 1990s and early 2000s, says Son excels in bringing together partners whom he thinks will be instrumental in the future.
Big Japanese companies often hoard resources like money, facilities and employees. Son doesn't, says Miki, who now has his own business, Japan Flagship Project Co., which provides consulting and project management, among other services.
He says those who criticize Son for chasing quick bucks misjudge him.
"What you don't want is an unprofitable company," said Miki. "And he has a passion, a dream."
Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama
Read more from the original source:
- Live Caption, Googles automatic captioning technology, is now available on Pixel 4 - TechCrunch - October 16th, 2019
- Drones, apps and smart lockers: The technology transforming healthcare in Africa - CNN - October 16th, 2019
- Mind-reading technology is everyone's next big security nightmare - ZDNet - October 16th, 2019
- The 7 Biggest Technology Trends That Will Transform Telecoms In 2020 - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- The Role Of Technology In The Evolution Of Communication - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- The Revolutionary Impact Of Immersive Technology On Education - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- Super-Resolution Imaging Technologies in Life Science | 2019-2024 Technology Highlights and Market Outlook - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - October 16th, 2019
- Schools should take the occasional break from technology - here's why - Study International News - October 16th, 2019
- Finding a balance between security and responsive technology - ITProPortal - October 16th, 2019
- NBN chief blames Australia's poor speed rating on 'unrepresentative' data - The Guardian - October 16th, 2019
- 5 smart home technology trends to keep your eye on in 2019 - Silicon Canals - October 16th, 2019
- Technology has changed the world, the world has changed technology - The Upcoming - October 16th, 2019
- Technology sparks dramatic rise in scams reported to the Lincoln Police Dept. - 1011now - October 16th, 2019
- Technology is redefining that client-financial advisor relationship - CNBC - October 16th, 2019
- APPIX Officially Launches Incredible Broadcast Technology That Creates Immersive Experiences And Audience Engagement At Concerts And Events - MarTech... - October 16th, 2019
- Gathr Lab Launches New Technology Set to Break the Black-Box Approach and Empower Marketers to Understand, Reach and Grow Their Audiences - Business... - October 16th, 2019
- Integrating the Science of How We Learn into Education Technology - Harvard Business Review - October 16th, 2019
- Google And Levis Partner Up To Bring Us Wearable Technology - Forbes - October 16th, 2019
- UK vulnerable to malicious meddling in election, warns study - The Guardian - October 16th, 2019
- Professor/Associate Professor/Assistant Professor in Food Science and Technology job with BNU-HKBU UNITED INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE | 183631 - Times... - October 16th, 2019
- Digital welfare state: big tech allowed to target and surveil the poor, UN is warned - The Guardian - October 16th, 2019
- South Korean startups gather momentum - The Guardian - October 16th, 2019
- Technology killing off corporate America: Average life span of companies under 20 years - CNBC - August 25th, 2017
- Automated technology isn't going anywhere and it's changing ... - USA TODAY - August 25th, 2017
- AMD Technology Falls Short... Really? - Seeking Alpha - August 25th, 2017
- Morgan Stanley: This next big technology trend could start the 'fourth industrial revolution' - CNBC - August 25th, 2017
- Mortgage technology provider Blend raised another $100 million led by Greylock - TechCrunch - August 25th, 2017
- Philips to build health technology center in Tennessee - ABC News - August 25th, 2017
- Melinda Gates: I spent my career in technology. I wasn't prepared for ... - Washington Post - August 25th, 2017
- Information technology can help build peace. This is how. - Washington Post - August 25th, 2017
- Blockchain Technology Is Set to Disrupt Every Industry--and Music Is Next - Inc.com - August 22nd, 2017
- Campus police using technology to solve and prevent crimes - The Rolla Daily News - August 22nd, 2017
- 3 ways blockchain technology will change how we game - VentureBeat - August 20th, 2017
- Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Genital Cutting - Voice of America - August 20th, 2017
- Taking a stand on Charlottesville, technology companies seek balance with free speech - The Independent - August 20th, 2017
- Technology and the New Republic just never seemed to click - The Guardian - August 20th, 2017
- Arizona edges to front of states eyeing blockchain technology - Arizona Daily Star - August 18th, 2017
- How technology is about to transform the way we save cash forever - Telegraph.co.uk - August 18th, 2017
- Tester talks technology with local business leaders - The Bozeman Daily Chronicle - August 18th, 2017
- 5 Questions: Is your child addicted to technology? - Philly.com - August 18th, 2017
- Opinion: This technology shift opens up new possibilities for iPhones, Androids and virtual reality - MarketWatch - August 16th, 2017
- The glow of technology has a dark side - Houston Chronicle - August 16th, 2017
- How Technology is Now Empowering Educators - Inc.com - August 15th, 2017
- How Technology Might Get Out of Control - Bloomberg - August 15th, 2017
- Trump administration goes after China over intellectual property, advanced technology - Washington Post - August 15th, 2017
- Building technology in Oklahoma, shipping all over the world - NewsOK.com - August 15th, 2017
- OKC startup pioneers technology that prevents accidental IV disconnects for hospital patients - NewsOK.com - August 15th, 2017
- Modernizing Government Technology Act to get second path to passage in Senate NDAA - FederalNewsRadio.com - August 14th, 2017
- ASCAP Names Tristan Boutros Chief Technology Officer - Variety - August 14th, 2017
- This Technology Could Stop the World's Deadliest Animal - Mother Jones - August 14th, 2017
- Technology Speeds Up Timeline on Quarterly Close - Wall Street Journal (subscription) - August 14th, 2017
- Trump Administration to Begin Probe of Alleged Chinese Technology Theft - Wall Street Journal (subscription) - August 13th, 2017
- 'Blockchain technology will change the world': Fidelity Labs SVP - CNBC - August 13th, 2017
- Victoria Teo, Technology Field, Sustainability, and the Roman Goddess - The Good Men Project (blog) - August 13th, 2017
- Technology migrations are more painful, and cloud isn't making them any easier - ZDNet - August 13th, 2017
- The fictitious movie technology we wish was real - CNET - August 13th, 2017
- Synchronous ledger technology (aka blockchain): The companies to watch - ZDNet - August 11th, 2017
- Scientists create world's first mutant ants with gene editing technology - Fox News - August 11th, 2017
- AWS just proved why standards drive technology platforms - TechCrunch - August 10th, 2017
- These Technology Index Funds Are Crushing It in 2017 - Motley Fool - August 10th, 2017
- Despite Proven Technology, Attempts To Make Table Saws Safer Drag On - NPR - August 10th, 2017
- 4 Best Technology Mutual Funds With Low Expense Ratios - Seeking Alpha - August 10th, 2017
- Mass market hopes for battery-free cell phone technology - Reuters - August 10th, 2017
- CB&I selling technology business, suspending dividend - Chron.com - August 10th, 2017
- Why SMBs Should Opt for Best-of-Breed Marketing Technology - eMarketer - August 9th, 2017
- Mazda says it has made a long-awaited breakthrough in engine technology - Ars Technica - August 9th, 2017
- Clyde Space to build cubesats for Audacy technology demonstration - SpaceNews - August 9th, 2017
- Elon Musk's Boring Company to use Tesla's technology for its tunnel project under LA - Electrek - August 9th, 2017
- DXC Technology posts $245m EBIT in first quarter since merger - ZDNet - August 9th, 2017
- 'Breakthrough' microchip technology helps heal wounds, nerves and organ damage - The Independent - August 9th, 2017
- Keeping up with technology - The Sun Daily - August 8th, 2017
- Google fires employee who wrote memo about women in technology jobs - The Boston Globe - August 8th, 2017
- Apple Needs Micron Technology - Seeking Alpha - August 8th, 2017
- Police looking for multiple suspects following Northwest Side shooting - WOAI - August 8th, 2017
- "Technology should look like something in your grandmother's room" says Oki Sato - Dezeen - August 8th, 2017
- Victim of 9/11 identified after 16 years using new DNA technology - The Independent - August 8th, 2017
- Newer traffic technology designed to cut back on wait time and accidents - KSFY - August 8th, 2017
- This insanely advanced technology could power a future colony on Mars. - SYFY WIRE (blog) - August 6th, 2017
- India team helps IBM create technology to battle hackers - The Hindu - August 6th, 2017
- School Crossings: 1:1 technology explained - Chippewa Herald - August 6th, 2017