Business

Japan 'underdeveloped' in use of AI technology, says SoftBank's Masayoshi Son

Kyodo

SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son said Thursday that Japan has become an “underdeveloped” country in the use of artificial intelligence in businesses, lagging behind China, India and Southeast Asian countries that have fast-growing technology companies.

“Japan once was a leader in technology but has become an underdeveloped country in AI. It is in a pretty bad situation so Japan needs to awaken,” Son told an audience at a company event in Tokyo.

Among the audience were Ritesh Agarwal, CEO of Indian hotel operator Oyo Hotels & Homes, and Anthony Tan, CEO of ride-hailing company Grab Holdings Inc. of Singapore.

Oyo and Grab are among over 80 AI startups in which SoftBank Group’s $100 billion Vision Fund has invested. The fund also supports Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing Technology Co. and Uber Technologies Inc.

“The companies in China, Southeast Asia and India are growing fast by using AI,” Son said. “As I love Japan, I want to invest in Japanese companies but the reality is that there are no unicorn AI companies in the country.”

SoftBank Group has been accelerating investments with the fund, which was founded in 2017 with partners including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Son has said he will set up a new vehicle, the Vision Fund 2, on a similar scale in the near future.