Business / Corporate

SoftBank eyeing burgers and digital pharmacy for second Vision Fund

by Gillian Tan, Sarah Mcbride and Giles Turner

Bloomberg

SoftBank Group Corp. is teeing up investments for the successor to its gargantuan Vision Fund. It’s in talks to back a pharmaceutical delivery startup, a company focused on robotic burger-making and a maker of lab-grown meat, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Vision Fund 2 is the next iteration of SoftBank’s first $100 billion fund, which since 2017 has sent tremors through the startup world with its giant bets on tech companies, including the now-flailing co-working firm WeWork. The Japanese conglomerate is still in the process of raising money for the new fund, and has said it expects it to be even larger than the first.

Among the startups that SoftBank is weighing investments in are Alto Pharmacy, Creator and Memphis Meats, said the people, all of whom asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Representatives for SoftBank’s Vision Fund declined to comment, as did Memphis Meats and Alto Pharmacy. Creator did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The size of the forthcoming funding rounds were not immediately known. Of the pending investments, the company that has raised the most so far is Alto Pharmacy, which offers same-day prescription deliveries among other services, and has amassed $104 million from investors to date. The San Francisco-based startup, once known as ScriptDash, raised $50 million in a December 2018 funding round from investors including Greenoaks Capital, Zola Global and Jackson Square Ventures.

Some of the potential bets are coming at an earlier stage than those of previous SoftBank investments. Creator, previously known as Momentum Machines, has raised about $24 million to date, according to PitchBook. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported talks around the investment.

Memphis Meats, a 4-year-old San Francisco-based upstart, is seeking to develop meat from cells to eliminate the need for raising and slaughtering animals. So far, it’s raised about $20 million from investors, including the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods Inc. and Richard Branson’s Virgin. AgFunderNews earlier this month reported that SoftBank is in negotiations to participate in a roughly $250 million fundraising round for the startup.

The original Vision Fund has not announced any investments since August, unusual for a fund that regularly makes new bets or follow-up investments. In the three months ending June 30, it spent $7.2 billion on 31 new investments, according to an August presentation. With 85 percent of its capital committed, the first fund is at the “expected end” of its investment period, SoftBank said in that presentation.

Recent commitments include leading a $231 million financing for Brazilian fintech company Creditas Solucoes Financeiras Ltda. this summer, investing $110 million in Swiss energy company Energy Vault in August and leading a $200 million financing for supply-chain platform C2FO, based in Leawood, Kansas, also in August.

SoftBank in July said investors including Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Mizuho Bank Ltd. and others had indicated willingness to commit about $108 billion to its second Vision Fund. But as the vehicle’s bet on WeWork soured, some of the biggest backers of the first fund, including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co., which contributed $45 billion and $15 billion respectively, have reconsidered how much to pour into the new fund, it was reported last month.

SoftBank is eyeing a writedown of $5 billion or more on its debut Vision Fund, which will reflect the plunge in value of some of its holdings, including WeWork parent We Co. and Uber Technologies Inc., Bloomberg reported this week.

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