SoftBank to split Japan business from overseas operations, including Sprint and Alibaba stakes

SoftBank's new robot, Pepper.

(By Supantha Mukherjee, Reuters) – Japanese telecoms conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp said it would separate its domestic business from overseas operations to better manage its mobile and broadband investments across the world.

The overseas unit would include SoftBank’s stakes in Sprint Corp and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and the domestic business would include its holdings in Yahoo Japan, the company said in a statement.

SoftBank’s Chief Operating Officer Nikesh Arora will lead the overseas unit and Ken Miyauchi, a SoftBank director, will lead the domestic business.

The transfer of assets will be completed by Dec. 31, SoftBank said.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)










IBM’s Watson Now Powers AI For Under Armour, Softbank’s Pepper Robot And More

IMG_4708 From its debut to the world as a Jeopardy champion in 2011, IBM’s Watson has made a name for itself as a powerful artificial intelligence platform for large enterprise applications, from medical research through to finance. Now IBM is aiming to take Watson to the consumer. Today at CES, IBM CEO Ginny Rometty unveiled strategic partnerships with sportswear maker Under Armour,… Read More

IBM unveils 4 new Watson partners: Under Armour, SoftBank, Whirlpool, Medtronic

An IBM Watson booth at a 2011 event.

IBM is today announcing new partnerships with four companies that will be working with its Watson “cognitive computing” technology for analyzing data.

Sports apparel company Under Armour will put its its Connected Fitness user data and other sources through Watson to provide “timely, evidence-based coaching about health and fitness-related issues, including outcomes achieved based on others ‘like you,’” initially through Under Armour’s Record app, according to a statement from IBM. Insights on activity, fitness, nutrition, and sleep will be available.

Meanwhile, SoftBank Robotics will collaborate with IBM on assembling a Watson-powered version of its Pepper robot for enterprise customers. Whirlpool is teaming up with IBM to make home appliances more personalized for the benefit of end users, and Medtronic has been using Watson to smarten up a diabetes management app.

The announcements show IBM is continuing to pursue the Watson opportunity, two years after forming the Watson business unit. IBM has also been getting startups to use Watson, and last year IBM acquired startup AlchemyAPI to give the technology deep learning capability and Merge Healthcare to help Watson see.

In the company’s most recent earnings statement IBM called Watson a “new high value platform” alongside the SoftLayer public cloud, the OpenPOWER server initiative, and other corporate entities, even as Watson has been around for several years — in 2011 it beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy.

Other Watson partners announced recently include Domus Semo Sancus, Engage, Macaw Speech, OpenTopic, Statsocial, and Vennli.

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IBM unveils 4 new Watson partners: Under Armour, SoftBank, Whirlpool, Medtronic

An IBM Watson booth at a 2011 event.

IBM is today announcing new partnerships with four companies that will be working with its Watson “cognitive computing” technology for analyzing data.

Sports apparel company Under Armour will put its its Connected Fitness user data and other sources through Watson to provide “timely, evidence-based coaching about health and fitness-related issues, including outcomes achieved based on others ‘like you,’” initially through Under Armour’s Record app, according to a statement from IBM. Insights on activity, fitness, nutrition, and sleep will be available.

Meanwhile, SoftBank Robotics will collaborate with IBM on assembling a Watson-powered version of its Pepper robot for enterprise customers. Whirlpool is teaming up with IBM to make home appliances more personalized for the benefit of end users, and Medtronic has been using Watson to smarten up a diabetes management app.

The announcements show IBM is continuing to pursue the Watson opportunity, two years after forming the Watson business unit. IBM has also been getting startups to use Watson, and last year IBM acquired startup AlchemyAPI to give the technology deep learning capability and Merge Healthcare to help Watson see.

In the company’s most recent earnings statement IBM called Watson a “new high value platform” alongside the SoftLayer public cloud, the OpenPOWER server initiative, and other corporate entities, even as Watson has been around for several years — in 2011 it beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy.

Other Watson partners announced recently include Domus Semo Sancus, Engage, Macaw Speech, OpenTopic, Statsocial, and Vennli.

More information:

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Didi Kuaidi Strengthens Its Tech Alliances By Adding Yahoo Co-Founder Jerry Yang As Senior Advisor

traffic in china Didi Kuaidi, the largest car-hailing app in China, announced today that it has added Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang to its board as its senior advisor. In a statement, the company said Yang’s experience will help it build its mobile platform, which is already used by 250 million people in China. Read More

Sprint is about to cut ‘thousands’ of jobs

sprint-reuters

“Thousands” of jobs are to be cut at the U.S.’s fourth-largest wireless carrier Sprint as part of cost-cutting measures, according to comments given by SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son at a Tokyo press conference Wednesday.

It comes the day after Sprint reported lower-than-expected quarterly results, in which it added 1.1 million net customers. It put the earnings miss down to aggressive promotional price-cuts, though shares still slid more than 7 percent following the announcement.

“Slashing prices has helped [Sprint] stop the bleeding of subscribers … but it has accelerated the bleeding of cash,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said in a research note cited by Reuters.

SoftBank, a Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation, acquired a 78 percent stake in Sprint two years ago for $21.6 billion.

Sprint has been particularly struggling to keep up with U.S. rival T-Mobile, which nabbed the third spot from it in the carrier race back in August.

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Japan’s SoftBank leads whopping $1B funding into U.S. fintech startup SoFi

shutterstock_156072053

SoFi, a U.S.-based student loans marketplace for lenders and borrowers, announced on Wednesday that it has secured a further $1 billion in fresh funds led by Japan’s SoftBank. It’s calling it the “largest single financing round in the fintech space to date.”

Surprisingly, SoFi is still not as well known as some other startups of its size. A post-money valuation was not disclosed, but it’s now raised a total $1.42 billion to date.

Existing investors that came back for this round include Third Point Ventures, Wellington Management Company, Institutional Venture Partners, RenRen, Baseline Ventures, and DCM Ventures.

SoFi said that the fresh funds will be used to accelerate growth by helping it bring to market “new products and experiences.” The company’s chief executive and cofounder, Mike Cagney, said the goal is to become “the most trusted financial services partner in the U.S.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 17.16.50

Since launching in the student loans space in 2011, SoFi has expanded into new offerings including mortgages, mortgage refinancing, and personal loans. It said it has now funded more than $4 billion in loans and expects to surpass $6 billion by the end of this year.

While “accelerate growth” and “new products” are fairly vague comments on how the billion freaking dollars will be used, it does get a little more specific: in the coming months it plans to expand its member services (including its Entrepreneur Program and Career Services team) by further building out its job boot camp and job board exclusive to community members. It will also simplify the user experience and push harder into mobile.

By the end of the year, SoFi plans to add 100 more employees, taking its total to 500, with existing offices in California, Montana, Washington DC, and Texas. We reported the company’s earlier $500 million round back in 2013, but it most recently raised a $200 million Series D round in February.

A big behemoth of a fintech monster to watch closely.

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Uber’s India rival, Ola, is reportedly raising $500M at a $5B valuation

Flickr / Rajarshi MITRA

Uber’s main rival in India, Ola, is raising a fresh round of funding of up to or more than $500 million, according to multiple reports.

News that Ola has already secured $225 million as part of the round was first reported by Mint on Sunday. The India-based publication, however, did not comment on the new valuation — Ola was most recently valued at about $2.5 billion as of a $400 million funding round in April.

TechCrunch seems to have first reported the new $5 billion valuation, but that has since been followed by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. The three publications are each citing their own sources familiar with the deal.


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Investors in the fresh round include new-entry Falcon Edge Capital, alongside existing investors Tiger Global Management and SoftBank, according to the reports. Ola filed the documents with India’s Registrar of Companies on September 8, Mint said.

The company is expected to make a formal announcement of the new funding round some time this month, and it’s possible the details being reported today are not yet finalised.

As in China, the battle for car-hailing apps in India does not appear to be slowing down. Ola now claims more than 750,000 rides per day, and expects to hit the one million milestone soon, according to Reuters. Uber, meanwhile, is reportedly averaging 200,000 daily rides in India.

We reported at the end of August that Ola has inked new partnerships with some of India’s largest ecommerce players to allow the more than 20 million users of its Ola Money ewallet to buy goods on those other platforms.

Ola is also expanding aggressively into autorickshaws, shuttle bus services, food delivery (Ola Café), and grocery delivery (Ola Store). It’s all part of the company’s attempt to retain an edge locally over foreign rival Uber, which is now said to be worth over $50 billion — and still raising.

VentureBeat has reached out to Ola for comment, and we’ll update you if we hear back.

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