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Business Deals

SoftBank Vision Fund bets $100m on US AI startup Globality

Deal marks modest start to year for investment vehicle led by Masayoshi Son

SoftBank Vision Fund's $100 million investment in Globality marks its first announced deal of 2019.

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group's $100 billion venture capital fund, SoftBank Vision Fund, has invested $100 million in U.S.-based Globality, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to help companies find services.

In a media release published Monday, Globality said the deal brings the company's total funding to $172 million since it was founded three years ago. Previous investors include former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, former PwC Chairman Dennis Nally and Ken Goldman, former chief financial officer at Yahoo.

"This investment will accelerate our efforts to empower companies to find and select the best service providers at the right price for every project, while enabling greater economic inclusion around the world," said Joel Hyatt, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Globality.

The startup provides a marketplace for businesses looking for third-party services in areas such as marketing, consulting and legal services. Globality says it helps companies find the services they need using machine learning, cutting the sourcing process from months to hours, and delivering savings of at least 20%.

"Professional services represent a multitrillion [dollar] global market, but procurement is mainly still a cumbersome manual process," said Jeffrey Housenbold, a managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, who is joining the board of Globality following the investment.

Vision Fund, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, made its first announced investment of the year with the deal. It did not participate in the $2 billion investment in WeWork, which was made directly by SoftBank Group. Masayoshi Son, SoftBank's chairman and CEO, is betting on new industries such as ride-hailing in the belief that technologies such as AI will reshape business.

The investment in Globality is at the lower end of a typical Vision Fund deal, which usually bets at least $100 million on the companies it backs, a large amount in the venture capital industry. The idea is to take a sizable minority stake and enable the startup to grow more quickly than its rivals. A SoftBank representative said the relatively small Globality deal does not indicate a more conservative investment strategy.

The Vision Fund's other investments include Slack, a workplace messaging app, and Automation Anywhere, a developer of automation software.

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