I started transcribing this superb interview of Masayoshi Son by David Rubenstein but haven’t finished cleaning up the language. Be warned:
Rubenstein: When you told people your raise hundred billion dollars fund they tell you you were crazy?
Rubenstein: Some people say you suffer discrimination growing up in Japan.
Son: that made me stronger I do feel losing $70 billion of network I was so close to the cliff and almost bankrupt, somehow we made it.
Rubenstein: you are clearly one of the world’s most successful technology investors in one of the world’s most successful businessman. Let me start by asking about a fund that you’re now raising the vision fun, it’s supposed to be a fund of $100 billion. This would be the biggest fund ever raised. So when you told people you were to raise hundred billion dollars fund, did they tell you, you were little crazy?
Son: Some did.
Rubenstein: You had a meeting with a man who was the deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and is now the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. As I understand the story is you went in and in one hour you convinced him to invest $45 billion.
Son: That’s not true. It was 45 minutes. That’s 45 minutes 45 billion that sorry. One billion dollars per minute.
Rubenstein: What did you say to persuade him to get $45 billion?
Son: The first time I went I said I will give you a gift. A Masa gift. A one trillion dollar gift. He opened up his eyes. Okay, now it’s interesting. So I woke up him and said here’s how: You invest hundred billion dollars to my fund and I give you $1 trillion.
Rubenstein: What is it that you told people what was the vision that you actually gave them?
Son: so one vision which is singularity. That the computing passes the capacity of the human brain.
Rubenstein: the word means that is the point at which a computer becomes smarter than the human brain.
Son: is today already computers smarter than mankind for tassel goal or where the full cast to some expert systems computers already smarter but in 30 years most of the subject that we are thinking they will be smarter than us that’s my belief
Rubenstein: let’s go back and talk about your upbringing a bit so you are of Korean descent your grandfather came from Korea and moved to Japan many years ago and your parents were born in Japan did you suffer discrimination growing up in Japan?
Son: this I had some experience but I feel now it was good that made me know stronger to walk hotter so I have to prove that I am not different from any other guys in on the ferry and saying so I have to walk hard to prove the value.
Rubenstein: your family adopted a Japanese name at one point.
Son: exiting span and it was at this sum. The Japanese government forced every Korean to change to Japanese they said it was not their intention that we have to you had a change that made me even more ha that because I was feeding that I was hiding something I was even path
Rubenstein: you did not grow up in Tokyo you grew up in a relatively small town as I write this and not in Japan get in the side of the southern part of Japan so at one point is said that you were very interested in meeting the head of McDonald’s. Why were you interested the head of McDonald’s. Did you like McDonald’s food?
Son: He wrote the book and that book became the best seller. I was so impressed and say oh my God this is great and the guy from wall about it must be great.
Rubenstein: so how old were you when you want to meet him
Son: I called to his she’s the assistant. they was so expensive I made almost hundred calls and say in the this is my name. I’m a student and could you ask him to spend sit send me some time. Then I tried a different assistant so many times and and they don’t give me the right answer. So I said okay this is a waste of my telephone bill. so I flew into Tokyo and I said I came because the the phone call become becoming more expensive than a plane ticket. And I said tell him exactly the way I said: “you don’t have to look at me. you don’t have to talk to me. you can keep on working or whatever you’re doing. I just want to see his face for three minutes.” I’m not bothering him. I just I’m so impressed and respecting, I want to see him. If you tell him that I’m not going to bother him, time is money he says, not going to damage his life.
She actually asked and he said okay okay.
He spent 15 minutes talking to me face-to-face.
Rubenstein: and he gave some advice?
Son: I asked him what business should I do? He said: computer. If I were you at this point in time I would go into computers. Don’t look at the past industries, look at the future industries.
Rubenstein: great okay to give you that advice to number one in your class and then you go to University California Berkeley this one you were there I understand you were not being a student so much you are doing business on the side. .
Son: while I was in good students and but I said in the five minutes I would allow other than study and I have to make money I want to on 10,000 and up amounts and I will allow me myself five minutes a day so I asked my friends is in there good job that I can $10,000 in five minutes a day just. to my friends that you’re crazy it’s impossible. nothing that you want to sell so soon on either one of the so I said okay what is the best most efficient use of my time its invention its invention.
and I have to find a path and if I get the path and five minutes if I focus again, some idea I can make some idea so I set the alarm clock 55 minutes dictate fibers as, interventional, I did that
Rubenstein: and it worked it worked you invented a machine that help people translate languages you that while was the elephant diction the first elected dictionary the minister then using a conviction the first one ever made was by myself first electric dictionary this you sold it to Sharp and you made a lot of money $1.7 million so would you do with 1.7 million
Son: why I use to stop Softbank as you move back I did I did one more prosaic and made another 1.5 minutes so made 3.2 million 18 months so that is better than 10,000 that up amounts right I stow that to my friend Brooke I love $3.2 million and I kept walking only five minutes a day as I as I promise you then if you graduated and you made these successful inventions you move back up to Japan
Rubenstein: why did you move back to Japan not that it’s not a great place to move back to but you’re in Silicon Valley or you want to stay there I created a company and my employees ask me to stay but I said no I promise to my mother when I was when I decide to come study in the state she was crying in the airport and I said no don’t cry mom after I graduate from the school I come back I promise is lonely don’t come by you that this is the forever enough failure I promise you don’t worry I promise so I kept my
Rubenstein: You recently did the biggest investment you’ve ever made in a company called ARM
Son: they have 99% market share for any smartphone that you have in your pocket I think it’s the company is going to be more valuable than
Rubenstein: Archie moved back to Japan and then you start a company called Softbank what was Softbank’s purpose what the business for you in so
Son: that was the beginning of the time of the personal computer got started though but this does hardware not enough software so I litigate all kinds of software from this small softer houses and I I I wholesale to the PC stores so it’s like a bank software’s bank it’s not the money back to softer wholesaling storing it in my warehouse so it’s like a concept
Rubenstein: so was very successful Softbank stock is going up and then you decide at some point to start investing one of the investments you made is considered by many people to be the most successful investment in the history of mankind you invested roughly $20 million in Ali Baba at the time it went public it was worth roughly $90 billion so 20 million to 90 billion is a return about 4500% now Jack Ma is a very distinguished individual now now one of the most successful entrepreneurs the world
Son: what is it that I made you feel this was worth 20 and $20 million but he had no business plan and zero Rivet employees may be 3540 employees but his eyes was very strong strong eyes strong shining eyes I could tell from the way he told the way he look at he has a cut is my he has a needless so she’s business model was wrong is the way he poked the way in a he can bring young Chinese people following him
Rubenstein: before Yahoo was so famous you made an early investment which was attacked by successful how did you hear of Yahoo yeah
Son: yes the US was still private 15 employees and that I call Ms. city and to take hundred million dollars of investment so at the time we visited it we agreed they grew from 15 to 35 people that a 35 people and we invest hundred million dollars to on 35% and actually vent ideal and made the great be done and at the same time I convinced him to start Jen venture board of a Jaffa Japan where we put $1.2 million they put their .8 million $2 million start up We owned 60%
Rubenstein: Let’s talk about one big mistake you made overall office you very excess almost everything you’ve touched but you were making a lot of Internet investments around the turn-of-the-century around your 2000 1999 2001 the market went down in the in the than a tech crash and it is said that you personally lost $70 billion of net worth the greatest loss that any human being is ever suffered financially so how do you feel losing $70 billion of net worth while you
Son: before that actually my net was personal and that was was increasing can be done that a public full three days I begin richer than Bill Gates was that that upset him or love the fly told to anybody else stuck start Grasso so in in six months after that I was surprised when done 99% so we owe almost went bankrupt and somehow I survived
Rubenstein: you rebuild your business and among the things you did was you bought some very well-known companies so you bought of Vodafone’s mobile telephone business in Japan
Son: that time is it now is a time to go next days which is the Internet will become more worried than so I have to either get their license from the government for the spectrum or acquire Vodafone Japan and first I applied for the. Licensed to the government and the government said no and that is no more spectrum actually sue the government and that know for YM big fight but then I end Vodafone Japan became available to the billion dollars I had to be done dollars so it can be in the assault where to get the money so I call Ms. the bank know that the Vodafone Japan, around and become successful and become great Castrol believe me and then the money and they did they did and it turned out to be very successful
Rubenstein: recently you did the biggest investment you’ve ever made in a company called ARM you us harm which is a semiconductor manufacturer based in London why did you spend $31 billion buying a semiconductor manufacture when many people think that that’s not the future
Son: it’s a exit study for be done the work you it’s not the money fascinates a design design house they design all the tip chipset they have 99% market share for any smartphone that you have in your pocket is has 99% market share I in next 20 years it’s gonna be taking a sip of 1 trillion chips designed for 1 trillion chips so I said this is this is the company this is no they can live in the on the us anymore without tip chip is everywhere in the car for Janetta Everett so if chip is something that everybody needs and if that is one company has 90% market share there must be a value then not monetizing well enough but if I only we can monetize much better that’s my belief so I think it’s the company is going to be more valuable than Google not have and avoid private company
Rubenstein: you don’t worry that robots can become so smart they can wipe out humanity
Son: some people worry but when the Roma super intelligence go beyond monetizing that is they said all fighting is the not efficient way of living how money is better in the future
Rubenstein: you are a big believer in robots it is your view I guess artificial intelligence is a good thing and ultimately will not hurt humanity is that correct so you don’t worry that they robots could become so smart they could wipe out humanity as some people worry?
Son: there is a danger of that there is a danger but if you look at the Monk times history people were kidding each other with many about those diff among different tribes in the raise saw but today’s world we don’t have that kind of things every day life we are more civilized so when the robot super intelligence go beyond monetizing tasers and they said while fighting is the not efficient way of leaving the how money is better it’s more social so we really live in harmony and they think about us they help us and they tried to amuse us have a good laugh each other what gives you the greatest pleasure in the world the thing is no I have a vision have a vision of seniority that’s really coming so we created his own fun we go and change the wall together and create a better Walt better while the full for human living so that excites me know what is thinking about what is the future what is the how we can change the life of people for the better humanity is so that people don’t need to dive for unnecessary reasons like having an accident or having the disease while having the disaster to protect human from all those in the sadness is a good thing I
Rubenstein: so imagining those things and investing create the group and having great pro that great solution is exciting and up-to-date your comeback and you’re having enormous net worth by any human standards one of the richest men in the world what you do with all this money
Son: while I haven’t decided what to do
Rubenstein: ever decided by your 60 years old now you got the site at some point deciding
Son: how to spend with respect is more difficult than making money that was a headache I had the night when I became so is matter what
Rubenstein: you had a headache and you lost that headache now you got it again right you have any plans to keep doing this for 10 years or 20 years yet
Son: in my age of 19 I needed 50 years my life and in my age of 60s between 60 and 69 I would decide that my successor and have my successor people running it so my next me as I have to do that but even after I find the successor and give him about Dawn to run as a captaincy I would probably stay working with him coaching him and as long as I probably I cannot forget about this excitement
Rubenstein: your parents are still alive they must be extremely proud of you
Son: all that actually very proud of me and they’re very happy we are happy for many and no we don’t live together but the the call me occasionally and know my dad is funny he he has a unique idea crazy idea and he always called me as I have an idea you have to do this as he knows everything I’m doing and he sees very clear the very smart and he talk about business to mail out
Rubenstein: you are Japanese and but your Korean descent you’re different than most Japanese business people who were very consensus oriented not maybe as entrepreneurial as you are as I’ve been a challenge for you in building up your business in Japan built of tenants
Son: but the uniqueness is actually good if the pack of other people this way I am unique I have more opportunities so the difficulty time if you flip over become the advantage of final question if you can live your life over extraordinary story is or anything you would do differently than you.I may but this is the life I’m enjoying so much that I would love to do it again I was so lucky I was so close to in a fold-down from the cliff so I don’t I can do it twice but but this is definitely exciting life I’m having fun