SoftBank’s early-stage venture capital unit Deepcore is preparing for a second investment fund in two or three years for AI startups. Deepcore’s second fund could cross the $55 billion that was raised in the first round.
Chief Executive Officer Katsumasa Niki said in an interview that Deepcore is focused on discovering new-generation companies in the industry and redirecting them to Japan. Japanese companies have been relatively slow in catching up with AI opportunities.
Against this background, Niki said, “I wish an enterprise which can be like a GAFA will start its life in Japan.”
Deepcore is an incubation firm founded by SoftBank last year. The firm set up its first AID fund where SoftBank, Yahoo Japan, Dentsu, among others invested in. Niki said that as of May, Deepcore’s fund has invested in 18 early-stage startups.
“The number of startups here is fewer than the US and Europe, and we need to increase it by providing such an environment that engineers can open up a business,” Niki said.
Several Japanese firms have tried to explore opportunities in the US but they are not fully aware of how they want to work the startup technology.
For the most part, Japanese firms have developed their technology in-house in an effort to secure their intellectual property. Deep learning in AI has not influenced the mainstream in Japan. Now the Japanese have reached a point where it is imperative for them to become integrated with AI technology.
Besides SoftBank, Toyota has also invested efforts to capitalise on AI technology. In 2016, the company established a R&D unit in Silicon Valley after realising how competitive the industry is.