Softbank Capital, the venture arm of Japan’s massive Softbank Corp, has just announced a brand new growth fund of $250 million that the firm is calling “the Princeville fund.”
Thus far, Softbank has focused more predominantly on seed-stage funding, and would like to expand that focus toward more mature companies looking to push into Asia, particularly Japan, China and Korea. Because of Softbank’s extensive network in Asia through Softbank Corp, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, Softbank claims to be the best possible VC firm for Asia-enticed companies to work with.
Softbank’s most impressive exits include the acquisition of OMGPOP by Zynga, BuddyMedia’s acquisition by Salesforce.com, the HuffPo’s exit into the loving arms of Aol, as well as the recent acquisition of Bluefin Labs, Twitter’s biggest acquisition yet.
The Princeville fund won’t stray too far from its usual investment focus, including companies homing in on social media, mobile apps, ecommerce, online advertising, gaming and cloud computing.
I spoke with principal Matt Krna, one of three new executives Softbank Capital has brought on to run the fund, who explained that companies are thinking globally much earlier.
“We’re seeing companies look at international much earlier than they used to,” he told TechCrunch. “Europe has fallen on hard times. Asia is large and becoming larger, and companies are focusing on Asia much earlier now, skipping over Europe.”
The expectation is that the average check size will be anywhere from $10 to $20 million for each of the 12 to 15 companies in which Softbank’s Princeville invests.
Krna indicated some trends he’s seeing in Asia that aren’t quite as mainstream here, such as mobile payments, human machine interaction, and the way we interface with our handsets will be more of a digital concierge-type service than an input task.
“Our plan is to discover some of the companies focused on these trends and prepare them for Asia before any local competition has risen up,” said Krna.
With the network of vendors, advisors, and investors Softbank has in Asia, this fund should come as welcome news to startups looking to head East.