At this point in time, Masayoshi Son led SoftBank is possibly the world’s most influential tech investor, and over the past decade, Son has quietly become one of the most powerful men in tech. He has bankrolled some of the world’s most innovative companies like Uber and WeWork, among others. Additionally, he has launched the $100 billion Vision Fund as well, which is engaged in investing in tech startups all over the world. Hence, when he speaks about investment opportunities in any country, then it is bound to be newsworthy. Over the years, plenty of people have been somewhat surprised at the fact that Son has not gone big on any startup in Japan. However, the ace investor finally divulged the reasons behind that particular strategy at a SoftBank event in Tokyo meant for customers as well as suppliers.
Son said that unlike in the past, Japan is no longer at the forefront of technological innovations and does not present many compelling investment opportunities. In addition to that, he seemed to imply that AI is currently the secret sauce of many new startups, and in that regard, Japan has not quite managed to develop yet. He said, “Until recently Japan was at the leading technological edge. In the most important current technology revolution – artificial intelligence – Japan has become a developing country. Unfortunately, there are virtually no companies that can be called global No 1 unicorns [any startup with a valuation of $1 billion].”
For a nation that has historically been one of the leading lights in the world of tech, that must have come as a brutal evaluation of its current prowess. However, Son was not yet done. He asked the attendees to raise their hands if any of them have a company in which a minimum of 1000 engineers specializing in AI has been employed. Not a single hand went up and needless to say, Son’s point was well and truly made. It is believed that the IT engineering talent in Japan is shrinking at an alarming rate, and the dearth of English language skills is also proving to be a stumbling block.