The top 25: Rajeev Misra and Marcelo Claure, Softbank
Japan-based telecommunications and internet conglomerate SoftBank’s first Vision Fund, the $98.6bn technology investment fund run by Rajeev Misra, was launched in 2017 and counted backing from SoftBank, Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds Mubadala and Public Investment Fund, and corporate investors Apple, Foxconn, Sharp and Qualcomm.
SoftBank is in the process of raising capital for the second Vision Fund, which is pursuing a more streamlined approach, and the firm has also been seeking external limited partners.
SoftBank said the Vision Fund was a “new fund created by the Masayoshi Son-led SoftBank Group as a result of its strongly held belief that the next stage of the information revolution is imminent, and unprecedented large scale long-term investment is required”.
Son had been an early investor in China-based e-commerce group Alibaba and internet company Yahoo Japan. In addition, he is credited to have introduced iPhone to Japan through a strategic partnership with Apple.
Son told Alibaba founder Jack Ma at University of Tokyo’s Tokyo Forum in late 2019 that he invested based on “guts” to which Ma said: “He probably has the biggest guts in the world on doing investment. Very few people in the world have that courage.”
The fund’s broadest strategy involves making long-term investments in the foundational platform businesses that will enable the next age of innovation by being active across a wide range of technology sectors from artificial intelligence to robotics and cloud technologies.
SoftBank could be seen as building a capability to see and understand full public and private dealflow while securing the financial tools to capitalise on insights gathered from trends identified in its operational businesses, such as Sprint, SoftBank’s US-based telecoms subsidiary run by its chief executive Marcelo Claure, who is also chief operating officer at telecoms firm SoftBank.
In March 2019, SoftBank launched a $5bn Latin America-focused technology fund dubbed SoftBank Innovation Fund. SoftBank’s $2bn contribution will function as the fund’s anchor investment, and it will act as its general partner while raising additional external capital. It also formed a vehicle called SoftBank Latin America Local Hub to interact with local portfolio companies to help their growth.
The unit invests in areas across e-commerce, healthcare, mobility, insurance and digital financial services in the Latin America region. Claure heads the SoftBank Innovation Fund as the CEO of the unit and oversees its activities while continuing in his other roles.
SoftBank’s portfolio in the region includes ride provider 99 and last-mile delivery platform Loggi, both of which are based in Brazil.
Claure, who was born in Bolivia, said: “Growing up in Latin America I witnessed firsthand the creativity and passion of the people. There is so much innovation and disruption taking place in the region, and I believe the business opportunities have never been stronger.
“The SoftBank Innovation Fund will become a major investor in transformative Latin American companies that are poised to redefine their industries and create new economic opportunities for millions of people.”
Claure holds a bachelor of science in economics and finance from Bentley University and honorary doctorates in commercial science from Bentley University and Universidad Tecnológica de Santa Cruz.
Before joining Sprint in 2014, he had been the CEO of SB Product Group, a joint product and procurement platform provider serving SoftBank companies, for seven months. Before that, he had been president, chairman and CEO of wireless company Brightstar for 17 years.
Misra grew up in India before moving to the US to study at University of Pennsylvania where he gained engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, three years later returning to education to gain an MBA from Sloan MIT.
Misra’s professional life started in the 1980s designing satellites at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, then a technology startup. But it was upon leaving Sloan MIT when he joined Merrill Lynch that saw the start of a career in the financial sector defined by bold investment decisions and a rapid rise to management roles.
At Merrill Lynch, Misra joined the derivatives trading desk and was promoted to managing director in a record five years, before joining Deutsche Bank in 1996. Misra spent the next decade leading a team that built one of the world’s biggest and most powerful investment banks from scratch. Leaving Deutsche Bank in 2008, Misra joined UBS in 2009 and was responsible for rejuvenating the business as head of the fixed-income operation for four years.
Misra joined SoftBank as head of strategic finance in 2014 after leaving global investment management firm Fortress Investments Group, where he had worked for less than a year. He now effectively owns his former employer as, in March 2018, SoftBank agreed to buy Fortress for $3.3bn.
Misra has a master’s in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.
In a career spanning derivatives, global markets and technology investments and dealmaking – as the New York Times noted, Misra has “the rare ability to reinvent himself”. As CEO of the SoftBank Vision Fund, the company summed up the expectations now on him: “We eagerly await his next success.”