Masayoshi Son, a name synonymous with innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment, has played a pivotal role in shaping the technology landscape of Japan and beyond. His estimated net worth, according to Forbes, is 2,360 crores USD. This billionaire tech entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist is not only known for his business acumen but also for his eccentricity and bold investment strategies. In this article, we delve into the life, career, and impact of Masayoshi Son.
Masayoshi Son was born on August 11, 1957, in Tosu, a city in Saga Prefecture, Japan. He was born into a family of Zainichi Koreans, which refers to ethnic Koreans with permanent residency or citizenship in Japan. His grandfather, Son Jong-kyung, migrated from Daegu, Korea, during the Japanese colonial period, and his family faced challenges due to land disputes with Japan National Railways.
Despite these challenges, Son's family prospered, and his father, Son Sam-heon, started a successful sake business. To provide young Masayoshi with better educational opportunities, his family moved to a different neighbourhood.
Masayoshi Son's journey in business began with an unexpected meeting with Den Fujita, the president of Japan McDonald's. Impressed by Fujita's advice, he started studying English and computer science.
At the age of 16, Son moved to California to continue his education, where he quickly finished high school and began attending the University of California, Berkeley. There, he majored in economics and computer science and became passionate about computer technology's potential for revolutionising industries.
While still a student, Son initiated his first business endeavours. With the help of professors, he developed an electronic translator that he sold to Sharp Corporation for $1.7 million. He also imported used video game machines from Japan, installed them in dormitories and restaurants, and made $1.5 million in profit.
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in economics, he founded a video game company called Unison World, which he later sold for nearly $2 million. The company's eventual acquisition by Kyocera marked the beginning of Son's entrepreneurial success.
Masayoshi Son founded SoftBank Corp. in 1981, which initially operated as a software vendor and later transformed into a major telecommunications operator in Japan. Son used SoftBank Corp. as a means to make investments in various companies, resulting in both successes and failures.
One of his most notable successes was his early investment in Yahoo! in 1995, which established SoftBank as a key player in the internet industry. Additionally, his $20 million investment in Alibaba Group in 1999 became one of the most lucrative investments in tech history.
Son's involvement in various businesses continued as SoftBank became a significant telecom provider and later ventured into investment management.
In 2016, SoftBank announced plans to acquire Arm Holdings, a leading technology company, for a record-breaking sum of £24 billion. This acquisition marked one of the largest technology company purchases in European history. However, a subsequent deal with Nvidia, originally valued at $40 billion, did not materialise.
Son's investment strategies, particularly through the creation of SoftBank's Vision Fund, gained global attention. The $100 billion Vision Fund aimed to invest in emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, and other transformative areas. However, its performance was marred by various setbacks and failures in its portfolio, raising concerns and criticisms.
Vision Fund 2 followed, with a target of $108 billion. As of 2022, SoftBank's stock portfolio experienced a significant downturn, resulting in substantial losses.
In the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Masayoshi Son pledged to donate 10 billion yen ($120 million) and his remaining salary until retirement to support victims. His philanthropic gesture showcased his commitment to giving back and helping those in need.
Son is married to Masami Ohno, and they have two daughters. He is known for his luxurious lifestyle, owning properties and even a professional Japanese baseball team, the SoftBank Hawks.
Masayoshi Son's life and career exemplify the journey of a determined entrepreneur who ventured into technology, investment, and philanthropy. His successes and challenges reflect the unpredictability of the business world, making him a prominent figure in the global tech landscape. As he continues to navigate the dynamic world of investment and technology, his impact remains significant, and his story serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors.