How fast the landscape seems to shift.
Now, one of SoftBank’s besties — the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates, called the Mubadala Investment Company — is also making a splashy debut onto the scene, announcing today that it’s opening a San Francisco office, pouring $400 million into early-stage startups and committing between $50 million and $70 million to a “fund of funds” that will invest in various venture firms.
Middle Eastern investors have been funding Silicon Valley startups for years, just as have Chinese and Japanese investors (and many others). But this new formalized approach is new, and the timing is no accident.
In fact, as Recode reports, the Mubadala team will be tasked, in part, with overseeing the $15 billion that Abu Dhabi has committed to the Vision Fund, which held a close earlier this year on $93 billion. Given the money at stake, you can understand them wanting to get more involved in what’s happening on the ground.
Meanwhile, SoftBank is chipping into Mubadala’s new $400 million early-stage fund as a way to cement its relationship with the outfit, as well, presumably, as a way to look at younger, smaller companies that it can’t afford to waste time on now, given the checks it’s writing, which are typically $200 million or larger.
As a source close to SoftBank told us a couple of weeks ago: “If you can show [SoftBank] where it can invest $10 million and make a billion, who is going to say no? But how many opportunities are out there like that? If you think about size of the [Vision Fund] and you think about what’s going to move the needle, then it’s fair to say [its team] has to invest a few hundred million in something. Otherwise, it’s not worthwhile.”
The Mubadala Ventures Fund plans to invest in founder-led companies, according to Ibrahim Ajami, head of its unit. The idea is to fund Series A-stage deals and later, and to ultimately assemble a portfolio of roughly 25 companies that are based in North American and Europe.
The Mubadala Investment Company isn’t a complete stranger to tech, though it may understand chips especially well.
It’s an investor, for example, in Aquantia, a 13-year-old, San Jose, Ca.-based Ethernet manufacturer that last week filed to raise $86 million in an IPO.
It also owned a stake in Soft Machines, a Santa Clara, Ca.-based semiconductor company that was reportedly acquired last year by Intel.
Readers might also recall that it was because Mubadala wanted a stake in the U.K.-based chip designer ARM that SoftBank sold an $8 billion stake in the business to its new Vision Fund. According to a report earlier this year in the Financial Times, SoftBank made the move expressly to secure Mubadala’s backing.
Several other foreign funds, such as Qatar’s and Malaysia’s, also have recently opened offices in San Francisco, notes Recode.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund team, meanwhile, has been working out of the San Francisco offices of the hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, which SoftBank acquired in February for $3.3 billion.