- SoftBank is planning to invest tens of billions in AI after raising nearly $5 billion from Arm's IPO.
- CEO Masayoshi Son is considering a strategic partnership with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, among other investment options.
- SoftBank aims to become a key player in the AI sector, challenging current market leader Nvidia.
September 16, 2023: SoftBank is taking bold steps in the artificial intelligence (AI) sector. Sources say that Masayoshi Son, the founder and CEO of SoftBank, is planning to invest tens of billions in AI. This comes right after the company’s UK chip designer Arm went public.
The IPO of Arm raised close to $5 billion, growing SoftBank’s available funds to almost $65 billion. The sources added that the money from the IPO and the 90% stake that SoftBank still holds in Arm will be used as collateral for loans.
Son is not new to AI or OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. He’s a “heavy user” of ChatGPT and talks almost daily with Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO. SoftBank is considering a strategic partnership with OpenAI but is also looking at its rivals for substantial investments.
One such option is the UK-based AI chipmaker Graphcore. Both OpenAI and Graphcore declined to comment, while SoftBank said they “do not comment on rumors.”
The funds are not the only thing pushing SoftBank into AI. Son has been vocal about his desire to make SoftBank a key player in the AI market.
SoftBank’s mobile unit has already partnered with OpenAI for AI services like chatbots in Japan. These services run on Microsoft’s Azure platform, OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider.
Earlier this year, insiders say that Microsoft put $10 billion into OpenAI through a multi-year deal.
Son’s passion for dealmaking has surged in recent months, according to people close to him. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the tech downturn in 2022, he took a break to focus on strengthening SoftBank’s financial base.
But the successful Arm IPO has put him back in “offence mode,” ready to negotiate big deals in AI.
Currently, NVIDIA is the big winner in the AI chip market, with a market value of over $1 trillion. SoftBank once held a stake in NVIDIA but sold it in 2019. Son is keen to get back into the competition.
Arm also has ambitions to grow in the cloud computing sector and sees AI as part of its long-term growth plan. However, experts say Arm is not yet a major player in large language models like ChatGPT, unlike NVIDIA.
(Reporting by Lavanya Ahire in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard): Reuters
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