The Top 25: #5 Jeff Housenbold, SoftBank Investment Advisers

Jeffrey Housenbold earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a dean’s fellow, and his undergraduate degrees in economics and business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was an Andrew Carnegie presidential scholar who graduated with high honours.

He ran online photo-printing service Shutterfly for more than a decade “turning a modest 100-employee business into a successful market leader worth more than $1.8bn and overseeing 20-times growth in revenue, profit and market capitalisation”, according to one biography.

Since joining SoftBank in June 2017, Housenbold has led investments in nearly a dozen high-profile deals. Nomination him as a Rising Star, Rajeev Misra, CEO of SoftBank Investment Advisers, which manages the SoftBank Vision Fund, said: “Jeff Housenbold has been with the fund since inception. He has built a good team of 12 investors and is very active with his portfolio companies.”

The portfolio includes DoorDash, Katerra, Oyo, Compass, OpenDoor, Plenty, Wag, Brandless, Heed and InMobi. In November alone, of at least 24 deals in first 11 months of last year, and looking just at Housenbold’s favoured area of ecommerce and services, the Vision Fund has backed Indonesia-based online storefront Tokopedia’s $1bn round, South Korea-based e-commerce provider Coupang’s $2bn round, China-based on-demand online services holding company Alibaba Bendi Shenghuo Fuwu Gonsi’s $4bn round, and US-based delivery service Zume Pizza’s $375m round.

In March, delivery service DoorDash raised $535m in a series D round led by SoftBank Group with participation from existing investors Sequoia Capital, GIC and Wellcome Trust. Housenbold joined DoorDash’s board at that time, adding to directorships he has held at Grab, Plenty, Katerra, Wag and Chegg.

SoftBank also invested $300m in dog-walking service Wag, giving SoftBank a 45% stake in the company. Other deals, such as Opendoor and Compass in the summer, were for real estate services, while bigger bets in the area include WeWork.

“Venture capital has never been done at this scale,” Housenbold has said. The Vision Fund allows entrepreneurs “to go after bigger more audacious goals”, he added in a profile by newswire Bloomberg.

At a StrictlyVC event in San Francisco in September, Housenbold said: “In the continuum of venture capital, we are late-stage growth. Our minimum cheque size is $100m. We are looking for product-market fit, meaning some revenue and some traction, before we typically come into a deal. It depends on which industry and which company. It could be gross merchandise volume. It could be revenue. If it is in enterprise software, it could be how many clients, the diversification of the revenue and the repeats and retention rates.

“But we are looking for companies that are growing very quickly and could deploy a lot of capital in a differentiated way to either capture new customers, market share, enter into new geographies, expand their product portfolio, or move into adjacent markets.”