Billionaire Taizo Son ditches Japan to move to Singapore, plans $100m for SEA startups

Taizo Son. Photo: Bloomberg

Taizo Son, who built his fortune on hit smartphone game Puzzle & Dragons, has relocated to the city-state from Tokyo and plans to invest $100 million in Southeast Asia within five years. The younger brother of SoftBank Group Corp.’s founder said in Singapore on Monday he’d become frustrated by regulation in Japan as well as the country’s education system.

“I tried very hard by lobbying the Japanese government: ‘Why don’t we have a regulatory sandbox to bring some innovative ideas?,”’ Son told the event arranged by the private bank of DBS Group Holdings Ltd. “But the country’s too big and very slow to move. But here, even the government, regulators are innovation-minded.”

Singapore’s high rate of internet use and a reliance on online data-processing has helped propel Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Smart Nation initiative since it was launched in 2014. The program has seen the government, agencies and companies look to use technology to change how things are done, from self-driving buses and traffic management to public transport fares that are charged automatically.

With little crime, low personal tax rates and no capital gains tax, the country has already drawn other billionaires, including Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook Inc.

Taizo Son founded gamemaker GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. and is now chief executive officer of Mistletoe, a combination of early-stage venture firm, incubator and entrepreneur-in-residence program. His brother Masayoshi Son is chairman of SoftBank and is Japan’s second-richest man with a net worth of $12.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

After moving to the wealthy enclave of Sentosa, Taizo Son expects to receive his permanent residency within three months.

He was partly motivated by his three-year-old son after losing confidence in Japan’s education system, which he said has failed to adapt from the approach used to build the company into a postwar industrial giant.

The Japanese system is “extremely terrible” at creating entrepreneurs and Son said he intends to open a school in Singapore after recently opening a new school near Tokyo that encourages children to learn without teachers.

Among his existing investments in the region is games and e-commerce operator Garena, the most valuable startup in Southeast Asia.

At the event, Son laid out his vision for a futuristic city where large vehicles go underground, commuting is done on personal mobility devices and people can shower with water purification systems the size of a suitcase.

“I’m getting an inspiration from Venice because inside Venice there is no car,” he said. He added an aspiration to redesign cities away from the industrialized, car-centric model of the 20th century to one that is more “human-centric.”

(By Yoolim Lee, David Roman and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen)

Also Read: SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son lays out vision with Jobsian style

Forget retirement. SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son aims to be $100b tech investor

 

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.