SoftBank in Japan

SoftBank catches up on AI developments with multi-billion dollar investment

Japan-based tech company SoftBank (NASDAQ: SFTBF) has turned its attention to artificial intelligence (AI), with analysts predicting that the firm’s investment in the field could climb as high as $9 billion.

The last 12 months have been eventful for the tech company, with executives hinting at high-level partnerships and investments in frontline AI developers. After months of peering from the sidelines, SoftBank says it is ready to throw its hat in the ring in an attempt to close the gap between it and other industry-first movers.

SoftBank Chief Financial Officer Yoshimitsu Goto disclosed to reporters that the company has a healthy balance sheet and can go toe-to-toe with leading firms in the ecosystem. Rather than focus on building out its in-house AI offerings from scratch, Goto confirmed that the company will invest in fledgling AI companies in line with its corporate strategy.

“We will, in principle, be keeping the same kind of trend in terms of the pace of investment activities,” said Goto.

The company has sizable stakes in Alibaba Group (NASDAQ: BABAF), Sprint Corporation, Boston Dynamics, Yahoo Japan, Uber (NASDAQ: UBER), and Brightstar (NASDAQ: BTSR), but a full pivot to AI could see the company splurge funds in leading AI companies.

“The reason we’ve been keeping our balance sheet at a very safe level is because we would like to be prepared and we would like to be flexible if there is anything that we would like to move on,” added Goto.

SoftBank’s subsidiary, Arm, planning on developing its own AI chips before the end of 2025, while the company has entered high-profile conversations with OpenAI’s Sam Altman for a global fund for AI chip manufacturing. While the bulk of conversations revolve around the hardware space, there are whispers that SoftBank could invest in AI software in the coming months to rival first-movers.

Although described as a counteroffensive, SoftBank’s foray into AI will not be a walk in the park, with the company billed to face stiff competition from existing players.

Already OpenAI, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), and Meta (NASDAQ: META) have earmarked over $40 billion for AI development, while Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is extending its reach via multi-billion investments in the United KingdomAustralia, and Southeast Asia.

A streak with emerging technology

SoftBank has made several investments in in emerging technologies, including blockchain technology and quantum computing.

In 2018, the company reportedly partnered with Synchronoss and TBCASoft for a blockchain-based mobile payments service.

The telecommunications firm has previously leaned on blockchain to track and reduce its carbon emissions while increasing the size of its bets in digital currency mining firms, but a focus on AI could see a reduction in investments in blockchain.

In order for artificial intelligence (AI) to work right within the law and thrive in the face of growing challenges, it needs to integrate an enterprise blockchain system that ensures data input quality and ownership—allowing it to keep data safe while also guaranteeing the immutability of data. Check out CoinGeek’s coverage on this emerging tech to learn more why Enterprise blockchain will be the backbone of AI.

Watch The Web3 trifecta: AI, metaverse & blockchain

YouTube video

New to blockchain? Check out CoinGeek’s Blockchain for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about blockchain technology.