Prior to joining SoftBank, Saleh was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs. Before that, he spent 17 years at Deutsche Bank, notably as Head of Corporate Coverage for Asia; and as Head of Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions for the Corporate and Investment Bank divisions of Deutsche Bank. Saleh serves on the board of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He has an MBA from the Wharton School and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Georgetown University.
How would you describe your career so far?
It's been an adventure! I got my MBA from University of Pennsylvania in 1994, right at the height of the derivatives era. I was so excited to get a job with Bankers Trust, which had invented derivatives—right when the firm started to go downhill. So I landed with Deutsche Bank, where I spent 18 years. And then I completed my banking career at Goldman Sachs. There are many stories in there from working with myriad investors and clients in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. I've been fortunate to have ridden some of the biggest waves in the investment and finance industry, and I've learned to adapt and reinvent along the way.
I’m born of a Japanese mother and a Syrian father of Saudi extraction, and I grew up in Japan and France. I've never been an obvious fit in my surroundings, so I learned how to invent possibilities for myself.
What has been the most influential thing in your life?
I'd have to say it's the thrill of invention. I’m born of a Japanese mother and a Syrian father of Saudi extraction, and I grew up in Japan and France. I've never been an obvious fit in my surroundings, so I learned how to invent possibilities for myself. I don't just let other people's assumptions shape my world. That's one of the things that drew me to the Vision Fund and to the investors and founders we work with. We're all in uncharted territory. And we're all finding ways to succeed without a roadmap.
So what drives invention?
Necessity is the mother of all invention. That's an old adage, but it's absolutely true—it’s why we came together to invent the Vision Fund. SoftBank couldn't do the level of investment that was needed to achieve a true amplifying effect for the most innovative founders in the most important domains. SoftBank Group launched SoftBank Investment Advisers and created the Vision Fund to meet that need, with the help our limited partners. SoftBank Investment Advisers and the Fund are effectively a reincarnation of SoftBank Group in a way that can match the ambition and scale of Masa’s vision.
If you had to pick one thing that you hope to accomplish in your life, what would it be?
Let's be honest, there's a huge task ahead of us. I mean all of us. We need to learn how to live on a crowded and changing planet, and we need to do it quickly. Technology can make that possible, because technology is the great enabler. When I think about our founders, they're all involved in that massive human endeavor, in one way or another. If I can do my part to accelerate innovation in areas like food security, healthcare, education, housing, and financial empowerment, I will feel like I've made a real contribution.
So what's your plan?
Just to play my role, because no one can do all of this alone. This is a really humbling place to work, because the efforts that the founders are working on are so ambitious. And as I've said, I think the stakes are very high. So we stay focused, and we keep our sense of humor.