CEO, SoftBank Investment Advisers, Investment Committee Member, SBIA
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it shaped your career?
People have certain affinities. Mine are for math and physics, and science in general. It was my dream to do fundamental research. Some want to be football stars, musicians. For me, it was about working at Bell Labs.
How do you spot opportunities?
The first part is simple. If we look at a business proposal that provides a better service at a cheaper cost—something that uses technology to deliver higher quality more efficiently—it will be successful. We also look at the entrepreneur. Is this individual going to be able to scale quickly? Is he or she going to capture market share and go global? Because a good idea can be copied by somebody else. In fact, if the idea is good, you can guarantee that it will be copied. So you need to use your lead time to build barriers to entry.
It's not the first person who wins. Think about companies like Google and Alibaba. They weren't the first, but they were driven by ambitious founders with a clear vision and a deep understanding of their customer.
The founders we work with are very good at finding ways to move forward, because they don't limit their thinking. That expansiveness is a lot of what makes us interested in partnering with them and supporting their work.
How do you see founders overcoming barriers?
As I’ve said, I think that many barriers are mental. The founders we work with are very good at finding ways to move forward, because they don't limit their thinking. That expansiveness is a lot of what makes us interested in partnering with them and supporting their work.
What qualities do you look for when you’re building a team?
I assume candidates have the IQ, so EQ—emotional intelligence—is very important. We look for leaders who inspire trust, and can in turn hire great people themselves.
We also hire people from different backgrounds. Greg, who was CEO of SoftBank Ventures Korea, has a very different skill set than Kirthiga, who built Facebook’s operations in India, or Michael, who helped lead Goldman’s Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Group. They’re all different. That’s intentional.
What I don't want to do is hire people who are similar to me. I want to recruit people who bring a different perspective. It's very easy to manage people who are similar to you, but that comfort zone means that you’ll never go beyond your existing limitations. If you want to grow, you have to hire for diversity, not comfort. To that end, hiring more senior women investors is a top priority for us.
What do you anticipate for the future of technology?
We believe the artificial intelligence revolution is here. We believe that this one, in contrast with previous tech cycles, will be compressed, and the innovation will come even quicker.
So we get really excited about founders who are building platforms for AI. We look for companies that sit between suppliers and consumers and leverage data to provide the technology and insights that an individual hotel operator, ride-share driver, or real estate broker couldn’t develop on their own. That enables the suppliers to provide higher quality goods and services at a cheaper price to their customers. You can’t beat that.
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