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SoftBank Group announced today that it will launch its second Vision Fund with participation from Apple, Foxconn, Microsoft and other tech companies and investors. Called the Vision Fund 2, the fund will focus on AI-based technology. SoftBank said the fund’s capital has reached about $ 108 billion, based on memoranda of understandings. SoftBank Group’s own investment in the fund will be $ 38 billion.

It is worth noting that the second Vision Fund’s list of expected limited partners does not currently include any participants from the Saudi Arabia government (the first Vision Fund’s close ties to people, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who have been implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has understandably been a major source of concern for investors, companies and human rights observers).

But SoftBank Group also said is still in discussions with other participants and that the total amount of the fund is expected to increase. The full list of participants who have signed MOUs so far are: “Apple, Foxconn Technology Group, Microsoft Corporation, Mizuho Bank, Ltd., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, MUFG Bank, Ltd., The Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, Limited, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Limited, SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., Daiwa Securities Group Inc., National Investment Corporation of National Bank of Kazakhstan, Standard Chartered Bank, and major participants from Taiwan.”

SoftBank’s intention to launch Vision Fund 2 was first reported earlier this week by the Wall Street Journal. The new fund is expected to decrease SoftBank’s reliance on Saudi Arabian investment and also potentially change the relationship between startups, corporate giants like Microsoft and investors.

The second Vision Fund could help SoftBank extend its position as the most influential investor globally. Through its first $ 97 billion Vision Fund, the giant invested in dozens of high-profile growing companies, including ride hailing giants Didi Chuxing and Grab, and India-based grocery delivery startup Grofers, payments-firm Paytm, and budget lodging startup Oyo.

The maiden Vision Fund, which was announced in October 2016 and began investing in early 2017, has earned 62% returns to date, SoftBank said last month. SoftBank, known for consistently cutting checks of $ 100 million and of larger sizes, has invested in 24 of 377 unicorns globally (companies with valuation of $ 1 billion or more), according to research firm CB Insights.


TechCrunch

After a busy year, Facebook’s VR arm is returning to San Jose, Calif. on September 25 and 26 for the sixth annual Oculus Connect.

Oculus has had a transformative year with the release of its Quest and Rift S headsets, turning the high-end gaming company into one more focused on meeting the needs of mainstream consumers. Oculus Connect 6 will give the company an opportunity to hit a stride on content and software optimizations, without the specter of missing hardware features hanging heavy.

“With Quest and Rift S bringing more people into VR than ever before, OC6 is the perfect moment to think bigger, build smarter, and realize the true potential of what we’re creating together,” the company wrote in a short blog post.

For developers, this could be a more contentious meeting as Facebook’s top virtual reality hardware product remains a walled garden with only certain content permitted in the store. Apple has shifting its efforts over the past two years to nabbing top game developers and offering less monetary support to indies that are experimenting in VR for the first time.

In the teaser post, the company is already highlighting that one of the main announcements will be a first-person combat title created by Respawn Entertainment, the maker of Apex Legends.


TechCrunch

Three years after acquiring Jet for $ 3 billion, Walmart announced today that it is now more fully integrating Jet’s teams into Walmart. Jet will continue to operate as a standalone brand, mainly in large cities.

Jet president Simon Belsham will support the transition through early August. After that, Jet will be managed by Kiernan Shanahan, Walmart senior vice president of food, consumables and health and wellness and the lead of Walmart Ecommerce’s Everyday Living category. Jeff Saunders, Jet’s vice president of operations and tech lead, will lead the integration of Jet into the Everyday Living team.

In a blog post announcing the transition, Walmart Ecommerce president and CEO Marc Lore explained that the company decided to fold the rest of Jet’s teams into Walmart because “Across most of the country, we saw we could get a much higher return on our marketing investments with Walmart.com, so we’ve dialed up our marketing spend there. However, in specific large cities where Walmart has few or no stores, Jet has become hyper focused on those urban customers.”

“While this has made Jet smaller from a sales perspective, it has helped us create a smart portfolio approach where our businesses complement each other,” he added.

After Walmart acquired Jet in 2016, it merged a few of its teams, including supply chain. Combining fulfillment centers and mirroring inventory helped Walmart build its delivery logistics , enabling two-day free shipping and free next-day delivery without a membership fee, making it more competitive with Amazon, which charges a fee for its Prime program.

Jet.com relaunched last year to focus on customers in big cities, like New York, with a product assortment tailored to their shopping preferences and three-hour grocery delivery to compete with Amazon Prime Now. Jet also introduced a concierge shopping service called JetBlack last year as a standalone e-commerce business aimed at busy parents living in cities who don’t have a lot of time to shop in brick and mortar stores or browse online. Last week, JetBlack announced that its customers spend an average of $ 1,500 per month on purchases, on top of the $ 50 monthly fee they pay for the service.

In his post, Lore wrote “Jet continues to be a very valuable brand to us, and it is playing a specific role in helping Walmart reach urban customers. The focus has largely been on NY so far, and we’re looking at other cities where we might bring together Jet’s expertise and the scale and operating model of Walmart. More to come on that.”


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