Softbank is killin' it

Welcome to the Low and High weekly newsletter — a digest consisting of the most significant and relevant news, acting as a guide to the new, digital-first global economy. We cover a range of topics surrounding the future, money, power, science and more and at times, go more in-depth through our obsessions — things like what the future of mobility looks like and how borders impact people — issues and concepts that excite us and, hopefully, you too.

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In its 37 year existence, SoftBank has invested billions of dollars in numerous ventures — but its newest one is sparking a lot of backlash.

Japanese tech giant SoftBank is constantly in the news and with the company bringing in more than $16.5 billion CAD in 2017, rightly so. The company has its hands in nearly every major startup, ranging from Indian shopping website Snapdeal, co-working conglomerate WeWork, digital payments company Paytm, computer chip maker Nvidia, just to name a few.

Founded by Masayoshi Son in 1981, the company is well known for owning Vodafone Japan, one of the big three carriers in the country. It owns large portions of Yahoo! Japan, Alibaba Group, Brightstar Corp. and more. The company even announced last month that it would purchase UK firm ARM Holdings for £24.3 billion in a big bet that the company could expand into the “internet of things” business, building upon its business of licensing its technology to hardware makers, including Apple, Samsung and others.

However, the company has been in the news recently over its “Vision Fund,” a $93.15 billion USD fund aiming to make investments in the biggest and fastest-growing technology companies in existence. The fund is being contributed to by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, Mubadala Investment Company, Apple, Sharp, Qualcomm, Foxconn and of course, SoftBank itself.

For those who have been following the news recently, Saudi Arabia has been one of the big topics being talked about due to the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Normally a death wouldn’t be making international headlines — people die all the time — but it is, because the desert country keeps changing the narrative and contradicting itself on how he actually died.

Officials first claimed that after entering the consulate in Turkey on 2 October, he left “a few minutes or one hour.” In a statement from the public prosecutor, it was explained that a fight broke out between Khashoggi — who was against the government — and the people meeting him outside, ending in his death. Turkish officials told CNN that his body was cut into pieces when he was killed in Istanbul, though they couldn’t comment on the method of disposal. However, Saudi officials claimed that his body was rolled up in a rug and given to a “local cooperator” to be disposed of. “The intention was not to kill him,” Reuters was told. On 23 October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his MPs that the murder “was planned days in advance” and that he had strong evidence of this.

This leaves several questions on the table, including the why the police and emergency personnel weren’t called, where the body is now and why it was disposed of in the first place. For SoftBank, this leaves the burning question of whether it will continue to do business with the Saudis, given the recent news. Unfortunately with the recent news that for the second Vision Fund, Saudi Arabia will invest another $45 billion, it appears as though SoftBank hasn’t punitized the country for their actions, even though their stock has gone down as a result of the news.

Both Bloomberg and Quartz have some good articles about the SoftBank dilemma, including a quicktake explaining the company’s ties with the country, a piece detailing the tricky balance between publicity and business that the exec’s must now face and the retaliation various entities are serving the Saudis are facing for their actions.

Noteworthy Reads

🚗 Devon Zuegel wrote an interesting take on how currently much of the world’s infrastructure is built to serve the region, but not necessarily the people living near it. Take the Embarcadero Freeway for example — San Francisco’s waterfront used to be hidden by the highway causing the city to seem dark and uninhabitable part of the city.

💤 Sleep deficiencies are an increasingly important issue, according to Good, and apparently we only generally get only 70-120 minutes of full sleep per night, not six-to-eight hours like most people think. The Guardian explains that our perception of how much sleep we get is unfortunate and dangerous, leading to sleep deprivation and a decrease in productivity.

Obsession Hiatus

Our current obsession is the #FutureofMobility and how the ways we get around now — driving, taking the subway, electric scooters and more — are changing. With Uber debuting its scooter-share service on the sunshine coast, Ford testing autonomous vehicles via its Argo AI division in Washington, DC. and SpaceX booking its first passenger ride to the moon, the mobility industry is changing everyday.

In Case You Missed It

💨 Legalization day has passed for cannabis users in Canada which will allow for numerous new scientific opportunities researchers studying healthcare, science, policy and more.

🖥 Google admitted that it is building a government-approved and highly-censored search engine for China and though they have not said when it will launch, a leaked company transcript reveals that “it’s going to be six and nine months” until launch. The tool will reportedly link search queries to user’s phone numbers, allowing for the country’s two million censors to monitor users more easily.

💰 Previously home to 95 percent of global startup and venture capital activity including companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, WeWork and more, the US now sees little more than one-half of the world’s activity, with more than a 25 percent total drop in the last five years alone.

👀 To battle Netflix’s slate of Original series, Snap will focus on its production of its own shows to achieve full-year profitability in 2019, according to internal documents. These shows include Class of Lies, Co-Ed and Endless Summer, marking the launch of the format in the app, and a new episode of each show will be released daily.

🛌 Premier Inn is getting ready to launch a no-frills hotel room chain starting at only £19/$32.5 CAD per night with the rooms measuring a tiny 8.5 square metres in size, including the bathroom. The brand will be called Zip and is being billed as “basics done brilliantly,” as rooms will include twin single beds, air conditioning, a TV and wifi.


Our best wishes for a productive and uneventful day (or, at least a less eventful day than P&O is having today in its Senate meeting in the down under). Feel free to direct any more leaked Google transcripts, LOL-worthy Snap Original show scenes and uncomfortably small hotel room listings to our email. You can find us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates throughout the week and to discover some of our current obsessions.