Masayoshi Son is a veteran entrepreneur and legendary investor who founded the colossal SoftBank group in 1981. But, this year he managed to do the impossible when he successfully raised a $100 Billion venture fund to invest in startups. It is the largest such fund ever raised and he aptly named it the SoftBank Vision Fund. However, nearly $45 Billion of that astronomical amount came from a single unlikely investor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund — the Public Investment Fund.
Masa recently spoke with David Rubenstein about how he managed to convince the Saudis to lead the fund in only 45 minutes. Here are 3 lessons we can all learn from Masa —
1. Showmanship beats anxiety!
When Masa approached the then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud he started the meeting by offering him a gift — a trillion dollars. This gesture was significant because not only did it command the young prince’s attention but also captivated and enamored him towards Masa’s proposition of leading his new fund. Although Masa’s massive personal wealth, global network and corporate success allow him to capitalize on many exclusive opportunities we must not forget that he too is human and hence subject to the usual emotions of self-doubt and anxiety. The easiest way to counter this instinct is to go on the offensive and, in this case, Masa used his charm and charisma instead of logic to cut through to the other side.
Use the tactic that you think will work best with the people and environment that you’re currently operating in!
2. Everyone respects the market!
Timing is just another moniker for using the market to your advantage. It is ultimately the market that proves everyone right or wrong and so it is vitally important to understand that everyone, big or small, respects it. In this case, Masa knew that Saudi Arabia was going through a sea change in terms of social and economic empowerment, and for the first time in decades was demonstrating a genuine appetite to evolve and disrupt its dependence on oil. Masa capitalized on this exact market sentiment to convince Prince Salman that investing into a new fund that would power the global technology trends of the future was the perfect opportunity to diversify his nation’s economic interests. This is how both of them understood and respected the needs of the market and formed a successful partnership.
Use your knowledge of the market forces and listen to the signals to redevelop your offering to guarantee success!
3. People buy the dream never the process!
Dreams are always simple, glorious and perfect. Processes, on the other hand, are messy, fragile and opaque. I’ve never met anyone who fell in love with the process and not the dream. This doesn’t mean we should discount the process. Far from it because ultimately great processes deliver long-term stable results and in the context of the Vision Fund they’ll be doubly more important. However, it was Masa’s dream and naked ambition coupled with his proven track record that clinched the deal because as any high net-worth individual will tell you there’s never any shortage of people trying to sell them snake oil investment opportunities.
If you can generate genuine buy-in from others it is always possible to develop the right structure and processes to realize the opportunity.