Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
SoftBank’s Vision Fund announced its first investment in an energy company on Thursday, marking a shift for the $100 billion fund that has made its name pouring money into big tech companies like Uber, WeWork and Slack.
The Vision Fund said it completed a $110 million investment in Swiss start-up Energy Vault, which creates renewable energy storage products. Energy Vault’s system uses recycled concrete blocks built into a tower that can store and release energy.
“For the first time, we’ve got a cost point in economics with energy storage that enables renewables to be deployed below the cost of fossil fuel,” Energy Vault co-founder and CEO Robert Piconi told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Thursday.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which launched in 2017, has disrupted the venture capital model by injecting billions of dollars into start-ups, driving up their valuations. The Fund said last week its operating profit had jumped 66% year-on-year in the last quarter, thanks to valuation increases companies like food delivery platform Doordash and Indian hotel-booking firm Oyo. It said its $66.3 billion investment in 81 tech firms is now worth $82.billion.
The Vision Fund’s portfolio has so far been weighted heavily toward tech companies focused on transportation and logistics like Uber and its Southeast Asian rival Grab, as well as enterprise firms like Slack and “frontier tech” names like British chip designer Arm. In July, SoftBank launched a $108 billion-Vision Fund 2 that will target companies developing artificial intelligence.
Energy Vault did not disclose its valuation as part of the latest investment. Piconi said the funding will be used to help scale the company’s storage technology on a “multi-continent basis.” Andreas Hansson, partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join Energy Vault’s board of directors as part of the investment.
– CNBC’s Ryan Browne contributed reporting