On a Wednesday just before the start of summer, SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son gave managers of his company’s venture capital arm a list with thousands of VC-backed startups. Frustrated that SoftBank’s two Vision Funds had missed out on investing in some hot tech companies, he wanted the partners to contact as many of the startups on the list as they could to see if they might take money from SoftBank, said four current and former employees with direct knowledge of the matter.
In meetings over the following months, Son regularly asked how many startups the partners had contacted, sometimes singling out specific individuals for not making enough calls, one of the people said. The increased pressure led to more deals, but some of Son’s subordinates decided the potential payoff wasn’t worth waiting for. A wave of senior investment partners and other personnel have left or plan to leave, in part because they were dissatisfied with what they privately said was a spray and pray strategy, said two of the people with direct knowledge of the situation.