Over the course of his career, Ren has spent more than a decade as a SoftBank senior executive. There, he has played a leading role in acquisitions, investments, joint ventures, strategic planning, and operations. He rejoined SoftBank to work on the Vision Fund after spending five years directing corporate planning and development at Amazon. His current role at the Vision Fund is focused on delivering operational support to the portfolio's consumer sector companies in Asia.
How did you get started in your career?
I started out as a consultant with Accenture. Then, after getting my MBA, I had the chance to go to work with Masa in the earliest days of SoftBank Group. It was incredible. There was just a tiny handful of us at the holding company level, and we'd get together with Masa and spend long hours brainstorming about the business opportunities we were seeing. Masa helped me understand the power of thinking strategically and long term—always starting with a long-term vision and working backward. It changed how I think.
You've been with SoftBank for most of your career. How does that context affect your work with Vision Fund?
Outside SoftBank, I spent five years at Accenture and another five at Amazon, learning how to identify and capitalize on disruptive business opportunities globally. Now back at SBIA, I have the incredible opportunity to incorporate some of the best practices I learned at these two global companies along with the many valuable experiences I’ve had during my 15 years at SoftBank. SoftBank has transformed itself many times since I first joined in 1999. Having experienced that transformation and rapid growth, I’m very excited to work with founders and CEOs of Vision Fund portfolio companies to help them create value.
We come from varied backgrounds, but we're all people who have built and run complex endeavors. And we work together to create value for the companies in our ecosystem.
What does Vision Fund’s Operating Group offer founders?
We are a group of experts with experience in a wide range of different industries and functions. Together, we've done just about everything. We’ve built companies from scratch, expanded into global markets, created and implemented go-to-market strategies—you name it. I think that’s our strength: We come from varied backgrounds, but we're all people who have built and run complex endeavors. And we work together to create value for the companies in our ecosystem.
How does the Operating Group put that experience into practice at Vision Fund?
Here are a couple of examples: We’re working with a number of portfolio companies looking to enter or expand their footprint in Japan by leveraging our network inside and outside of SoftBank. Regardless of the business model—B2C or B2B—business is fundamentally human to human. Helping them find the best connections and partnerships is the key to success.
Our operating partners have deep experience in a range of global markets. China and Brazil are target countries for many companies, and I work closely with my local counterparts to conduct market research, identify partner/investment targets, and make connections with them.
How do you approach your relationship with founders?
It's my job to adjust to each founder and make sure I'm providing value. I draw on my experiences working closely with Masa and expanding major companies into a new markets to identify and create SoftBank ecosystem synergies. I don't want to force my ideas on them, both because that's not productive and because these are very intelligent and successful people who know their own businesses very well. What I try to do instead is help them see connections, and then help them build the systems and relationships that let them take big leaps in terms of scale.