GM investment signals autonomous driving focus for Softbank Vision Fund

Recode just published an update to its running tally of Softbank Vision Fund’s investments, so I wanted to add some further analysis. The main takeaway is that autonomous driving technologies have commanded the largest share of investment (38%) from the Vision Fund, if you count Uber under that umbrella.

Similarly, if you lump Uber under Softbank Vision Fund’s gig economy investments, that sector accounts for 32% of the $45.6 billion recorded by Recode.

This is, of course, because Uber remains the largest single investment from the Vision Fund, at $9.3 billion. Other autonomous car-related investments are as follows:

  • Nvidia: $5 billion
  • GM Cruise: $2.3 billion
  • Nauto: $0.2 billion
  • Mapbox: $0.2 billion
  • BrainCorp: $0.2 billion

Meanwhile, the other gig economy investments are as follows:

  • WeWork: $4.4 billion
  • Doordash: $0.5 billion
  • Wag: $0.4 billion

Admittedly WeWork doesn’t conform to the gig economy model the way Uber or Doordash (or indeed AirBnB) do, but given its positioning for freelancers, it seems appropriate to classify it this way.

Other notable categories:

  • E-commerce accounts for 9% of Softbank’s funding, with $4.1 billion. The largest investment here is Indian retailer Flipkart.
  • Healthcare investments amount to 7.9%, or $3.6 billion, led by two divisions of China’s Ping An group, Ping An Healthcare Technology and Ping An Good Doctor.
  • Fintech, with 7.5%, or $3.4 billion, led by India’s Paytm, part of One97 Communications. Paytm started life as a way for mobile users to top up their credit, and has grown to include e-commerce operations as well.
  • Not included under any categories is ARM Holdings, which at $8.2 billion is Softbank’s second largest investment under the Vision Fund (18%); this is a special case, because Softbank Corp bought ARM, and transferred part of it to the Vision Fund.

While it may not be productive to speculate on how the likes of Uber, Nauto, Mapbox and Nvidia fit together (other than the fact that they were all at Mapbox’s Locate event), it’s at least notable that the Vision Fund has invested so much into autonomous driving and other technologies or platforms that support it. The most recent, per the Recode article, is the 20% stake in GM’s Cruise division – but it’s also worth asking what about Cruise attracted Softbank, compared with similar ventures from other auto OEMs.

The other question is, given Softbank Vision Fund’s total war chest of $100 billion, how are they going to invest the remaining $55 billion or so?

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