In this episode, we had Anna Lo and Jon Hong from SoftBank Vision Fund as our guests. Both of them have overseen investments in the logistics and transportation space from SoftBank.
About Anna Lo:
Anna Lo is the Manager and Co-founder of Softbank’s Bodhi fund, focusing on early-stage companies in China, India, and selected Southeast Asia geographies. Anna relocated to the Bay Area in 2013 to be project director of SB Product Group, joint procurement arm for SoftBank Mobile and Sprint. She is currently covering global investment activities of SoftBank Group International + Vision Fund.
About Jon Hong:
Jon Hong is an experienced growth equity investor at SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Board member of GoBrands, REEF Technology, ShipBob, and Getaround who partners actively with Founders on a variety of strategic growth and operational initiatives. Previously, invested globally in public and private technology, media, and telecom companies at PointState Capital and worked at Goldman Sachs in investment banking and global investment research.
Listen to the full discussion here:
Connect with the Guest:
Some of the highlights from the podcast:
- What does Softbank look for in companies (and will they ever invest in an asset-heavy company like a shipping line?!)
- Why investing is even more binding than a marriage
- What are the trends in Logistics Technology
- Key criteria for selecting the right investments
- Sustainable Investing
- [00:50] I’ll start with you Jon because you had the latest investment that you have overseen in ShipBob. Maybe tell us a little bit about that, how it went and some references.
- [05:14] For ShipBob we saw a really interesting and attractive market in supporting e-commerce and just this continued drive to quicker delivery at cheap prices, but with also a better experience. The company obviously is growing super fast, which is something we’re all focused on as it relates to investments where growth is very important.
- [06:49] Our biggest bet on mobility and rideshare was initially to solve the transportation and people movement issue. Those investments occurred between 2014 and 2015. And you fast forward five years, for example, Grab, other than transporting people from point A to point B, other services now include food delivery and moving parcels.
- [10:37] What do you see happening at a macro level in the transportation, logistics, or last-mile fulfillment space? What are some of the big areas of development you see that you will also probably closely invest in at SoftBank Vision Fund?
- [13:01] With us investing in companies like AutoStore, which is warehouse robotics and automation, or even self-driving platforms like Nuro that help augment this rising cost of labor to help find alternative solutions that continue to drive down the cost of moving goods, so those are probably some of the bigger trends we’re seeing right now in the US.
- [15:42] The US and European importer’s solutions are probably too sophisticated for what the market needs here in Asia. So we are starting to see some of these more mature companies starting to develop that in-house to basically upsell to their existing customer base.
- [16:24] What are the criteria you use when choosing a startup to invest in?
- [17:37] We’re also looking for market leaders that are disrupting large areas, either within a region or eventually globally. These trends that we’ve touched on today and in other sectors that we invest in are global and they impact a lot of people. They bring a lot of good to people in those regions that they touch.
- [23:02] How do you assess the changing strategy for startups moving from what it was when you initially invested to some very different verticals? How do you help them decide what is worth pursuing and what is not?
- [24:01] The use of these last-mile logistics solutions for people and goods will still remain at the very core of the business.
- [27:39] Shipping lines, top ocean carriers of the world, some of them are investing heavily on the technology side on going digital, on analyzing, and having access to a lot of data. But at the core, they are still heavily asset-focused. What are your thoughts on that?
- [29:33] Are there other criteria or secret sauce of how you identify the right, the right founder, or the right CEO?
- [35:06] Maybe talk to us a little bit on what we need to do on the sustainability front on lowering emissions because transportation logistics accounts for a huge chunk of that. What are your thoughts?
- [38:57] On our major subsidiaries, they completed the conversion of 70% of electricity to renewable energy. On the SoftBank KK front for example, by the end of this fiscal year, 50% of our base stations will be using renewable energy. And I think on our internet side in Japan, we will target to get 200% of renewable energy for electricity uses in two years’ time.