You had an unusual childhood. How did that prepare you for this work?
My childhood was a lot of fun, but yes, it was unusual. I was born in Sacramento, California, and then my family moved to Jordan, and then to Saudi Arabia, where we lived for 10 years until I returned to the U.S. for college. I attended international schools growing up, and there were 40-plus nationalities in my high school. Exposure to people from other ethnicities and cultures at a young age taught me the power of diversity and how to connect and relate with people from any background.
What are the most important personality traits for the founders you work with?
More than anything, CEOs need to be able to absorb whatever gets thrown at them and act quickly. Issues come out of nowhere. Executives who can combine adaptability with a hunger to create something special: that is when you have the makings of a successful entrepreneur. We have worked with founders who navigated their companies through incredibly hard times, simply because of their sheer will to not quit. They met every new obstacle with a determination to find a way forward. In the end, that's what made the difference.
Yes, we are investors, but we are not passive capital. We are active participants along for the journey.
What do you bring to the founders you work with?
We take a hybrid role. Yes, we are investors, but we are not passive capital. We are active participants along for the journey. Many of us bring our personal experiences—as tenured investors, as CEOs and company builders, and as bankers—but also the full force of SoftBank’s resources. Masa describes investments as family members. These investments are supported financially (via our capital) and strategically (via mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and global expansion support). I believe that what is different about SoftBank versus others is the force and speed with which this happens: one of our software investments added over $10 million in revenue in just six weeks.
What's your focus area?
Enterprise software. I have spent the last 10 years investing equally across the consumer internet and enterprise software; my focus on software now comes from the belief that enterprise will transform in many of the same ways consumer-facing companies have transformed. I predict that the proliferation of data, the wide-ranging impacts of automation, and artificial intelligence will transform business processes. both front- and back-office. Software is the only conduit to do this at scale, and it’s setting the stage for the next era of productivity.
What strategic principles guide you in your work?
I once had a boss who described investing as an art, not a science. Think about ride sharing. Early in its development, conventional wisdom was that, at best, it might grow to be the size of the taxi market. Instead, pioneering companies have created an entirely new market. Too much science and you may lose the transformative upside; too much art and you lose a crisp and coherent vision.
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