Like many entrepreneurs, Masayoshi Son was born a guest with a sense of reassurance and constant determination to succeed. Growing up in a poor Korean family that originally migrated to Japan hidden in a small fishing boat, Son grew up in an extremely lowly neighborhood. But thanks to his natural ingenuity, incredible perseverance, amazing beauty and fun ability to look forward to the next generation, Son proved to be one of the world’s leading investors. The SoftBank Group founded in 1981 is now one of the five most valuable companies in Japan, with shares in many of the most advanced technology companies on the market.
In the mind of the Son, the evils of birth gave him a good life. “The cards they gave me meant I was starting to shrink less than anyone else, but in the end it became a powerful source of encouragement and strength for me to keep doing the impossible. I thank God for that gift,” Son tells author Atsuo Inoue, a Japanese author who has been researching. the businessman for more than 30 years.
Sometimes, High Goal resembles Balzac’s vague book about the unexpected rise of a regional hero who wants to be at risk as he attracts his future wife, skirts in failure, survives liver disease and earns his fortune. At the age of 19, Son wrote his 50-year plan to start a business. Now 45 years later, the 64-year-old continues to improve his life, dividing his daily notes into five-minute sections. She worked so hard as a teenager in the US that she arrived late for her wedding. In Inoue’s narrative, we learn that the Son is: “A round face, a child’s face; Friendly talk. Almost tall. Infinite power. Sometimes I get angry. ”
Inoue greatly benefits from the privileges given to Son and his friends and the book contains descriptive text as well as narratives. But that approach to its origins comes at a price: rejection of the author’s ideas. Almost all of Son’s statements are taken literally. There is no record of Son’s reputation or of the cruelty his Vision Fund managers use to protect their contracts. More space is provided to explain why We Work in the end it will come in handy as money rather than reflecting on the shortcomings of the mortgage industry, which collapsed in 2019.
However, the story Inoue tells is interesting and inspiring. Despite being relatively young, Son won a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1970’s when the computer revolution began to shape the world. Son was quick to understand the potential for professionalism and the urgency to form relationships with other leading figures, including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. He was also instrumental in seeing the potential for online change and mobile transformation, outsourcing Vodafone Japan and Sprint mobile businesses and investing heavily in Alibaba, China.
Its largest Vision Fund is now spending billions on AI transformation. The money has invested in 164 tech companies, which have given many of them more money than most smart companies do. Some critics have described this method as a “foie gras” method – forcing ducks to fatten their livers. “AI is the most amazing thing that people have ever made and I am ready to throw away everything I have,” Son said.
For non-Japanese readers, Inoue provides fascinating insights into the culture and traditions of the country through Son’s experiences. But Son’s conviction that he can strengthen Japan in the future by building world-class knowledge does not appear to be going the way he wants it to. Instead of leading AI transformation, Japan lags far behind the US and China. Nor is it guaranteed that Baby will be able to fulfill his dream of starting a sustainable business that will last for centuries. Without the magnetic field of the Child, it is difficult to see how SoftBank can fit in.
However, Son insists that we should look to the future, look 100, 200 or 300 years into the future instead of focusing on the political world. “Are all these decisions being made to protect the minor interests associated with geography and small-scale ideologies of justice as well as short-term ideologies that really benefit people?” he asks. “Whenever you think you’re lost, don’t look to the future.”
High Goal: Masayoshi Son, SoftBank Group and Silicon Valley Disruption by Atsuo Inoue, Hodder & Stoughton, £ 20, 338 pages
John Thornhill is the professional editor of FT