Masayoshi Son Born in the northwest part of the island of Kyushu, this 62-year-old businessman is the second richest person of Japan with a net worth of $22.7 billion. How did he acquire all of this? Courtesy of SoftBank.
SoftBank Corp. was founded by Son back in 1881. Since then, he has remained the Chairman and CEO of the company. SoftBank is a multinational conglomerate holding company that operates in different areas, especially telecommunications. Not only SoftBank, but Son also invested in some of the big-name companies including Uber, Alibaba, Yahoo! Japan, Sprint, WeWork and other technology forward organizations.
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Masayoshi Son: The Man BehindSoftBank
Back To The Start
Born on the 11th of August, 1957, Son moved to San Francisco after spending his childhood in Tosu. He finished high school there in three weeks and moved to a Roman Catholic University in Oakland. He transferred to the University of California in Berkeley to study Computer Science and Economics.
His investing endeavors started at a young age when he believed that computer technology would become a revolution in the field of commerce. He started by creating a voice-operated multilingual translator with the help of a scientist and sold it to Sharp Corp. for $1.7 million. That was just the beginning of something far greater even though it didn’t seem like that at first.
Birth of SoftBank
After graduating from Berkeley in 1980, all Son could think about was the availability of hardware and the lack of software in the market. He decided to remedy that and start distributing software. That’s how he started the journey of SoftBank in 1981 with a capital of $80,000. It all collapsed in the first try.
But Son was adamant and miles away from giving up. He drew the attention of people by making a booth at an electronics expo and tried to start the revolution of software distribution for PCs. Even though he received many positive responses, retailers were not interested in signing up with a distributor. They’d rather sign their deals with the publishers.
SoftBank back then was close to crumbling on the ground as Son only managed to salvage about one-twentieth of his cost of the booth. His luck seemed to smile a little in 1982 when he decided to dive into the publishing business. From there on, SoftBank became a force to reckon with as the company gained a value of $3 billion in a mere 5 years.
The second richest person of Japan, who was once dubbed as the “Japanese Bill Gates”. It is very private when it comes to his personal life. He met his wife Masami Ohno in university and they have two lovely daughters. Son’s family was originally from Korea and they were known as Zainichi Korean, ethnic Koreans who have permanent residency status in Japan.
Son met his idol Den Fujita, the president of Japan McDonald’s who advised him to go to the U.S. and learn English. Son paid heed to the advice and went to Serramonte High School in the South of San Francisco to study English and Computer Science.
Son’s original name was Son Jeong-ui, indicating his Korean roots. But, his family used the Japanese surname Yasumoto when Son was just a boy. Son went back to his Korean heritage when he returned from the U.S. after completing his graduation and took back his original name. Which inspired a lot of Zainichi Koreans residing in Japan.
Son The Philanthropist
Masayoshi Son was recognized as one of the top philanthropists of the world back in 2011 when he decided to donate 10 billion yen for the earthquake and tsunami victims of Tōhoku. Also, He declared that he would continue to donate his salary from SoftBank until he retires.
He is against nuclear energy and believes renewable energy to be better for society. Also, he believed this would help victims to recover from the disaster much faster.
Losing It All
SoftBank and Son both were soaring with success and net worth by 2004. SoftBank with a net worth of $180 billion and Son having a personal $78 billion in his funds, he was recognized as a role model for the Japanese.
But it all came crashing down in 2004 from the dotcom crash and caused Son to lost $70 billion personally, reported the most ever lost by an individual. His SoftBank’s stock came down 98 percent. While many would see nothing but darkness at a time like that, Son proved yet again that he didn’t know how to give up.
Rise Above All
In 2006, SoftBank bought Vodafone Japan and later on the company was known as SoftBank mobile. With the help of his friend Steve Jobs, Son became the first iPhone distributor in Japan which helped him to earn back a huge chunk of the big money.
While many investors would not dare to put big numbers into less known companies. Son was known for his impulsive investments worth millions. This characteristic of Son proved quite beneficial as he invested $20 million back in the year 2000 in a Chinese e-commerce company. The company was not one of the big players and no one would invest nearly as much as Son did at that time.
Do you know which company we’re talking about? Alibaba. Yes, Alibaba was a young startup when Son decided to invest in it and by 2014, his $20 million had turned into $60 billion. That is just one of the many examples of Son and his investments into new, aspiring companies. Without this trait, he probably wouldn’t have recovered from the crash.
In conclusion, Masayoshi Son is an entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is also a husband and a father of two. He had everything and then he lost everything. But like a phoenix, he rose back from the ashes. Without his dedication and leadership, SoftBank wouldn’t be what it is today.