Deepcore, an AI-focused incubator and subsidiary of SoftBank Group of Japan, is planning to raise more than 6 billion yen (~ US$55 million) for its second artificial intelligence (AI) investment fund dedicated to promising startups in artificial intelligence,” reported Bloomberg.
Launched last year by Softbank, Deepcore Inc has reportedly received previous funding from investors including Yahoo Japan and Dentsu. The news of the new fund comes about a week after SoftBank added renowned AI researcher Yutaka Matsuo to its board.
Deepcore is preparing to form a new AI investment fund in two to three years as it expands its core startup incubation business, said CEO of Softbank, Katsumasa Niki, in an interview to bloomberg.
The upcoming AI Fund will be a separate entity from $100 billion SoftBank Vision Fund. With the AI fund, the Japan-based conglomerate aims to address deficit of global AI firms in its home country and erect a company that can give a serious competition to GAFA giants — Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
“The number of startups here is fewer than the U.S. and Europe, and we need to increase it by providing such environment that engineers can open up a business,” said Softbank CEO, Katsumasa, who oversaw investment projects for SoftBank until 2016 and was instrumental in the acquisitions of Vodafone’s Japan mobile unit and Sprint Corp.
Softbank founder Masayoshi Son said, what unifies those investments is the way they will use AI, redefining every industry and creating new ones.
Deepcore’s first AI Fund counts SoftBank, Yahoo Japan Corp., Dentsu Inc. and soccer player Keisuke Honda as its investors and the fund has so far invested in 18 early-stage startups to date.
Last November, Engineer.ai, a San Francisco-based tech startup, raised a $29.5 million Series A that included contribution from Deepcore.
In December, Softbank partnered with Invest India, a government of India’s official investment promotion agency, and SoftBank Group of Japan to launch Tech4Future challenge for Indian startups that have developed a global product in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Face Recognition and Cyber Security.
Earlier this year, Softbank’s venture capital arm, SoftBank Ventures Korea, re-branded to SoftBank Ventures Asia to focus its emphasis of investments in Southeast Asia and China.