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SoftBank is leading a $280 million funding round for U.S. location mapping company Mapbox, as the Japanese conglomerate’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son ramps up deals in artificial intelligence.

According to people close to SoftBank, the investment in San Francisco-based Mapbox is part of a push into the field of artificial intelligence to fulfill Son’s promise to continue a “counterattack” and includes discussions with multiple potential investment targets, including OpenAI.

Mapbox software is the foundation of in-vehicle navigation systems from Toyota, BMW, General Motors and others—systems that are increasingly adaptable to changing conditions, and as vehicles become more autonomous, their ability to process new information will become critical.

Days after Son’s tech group’s technology group, British chip design company Arm, went public in the United States, it decided to make a new investment in Mapbox, one of the first companies backed by SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund.

The Japanese group raised nearly $5 billion in Arm’s initial public offering, and the company’s shares have risen strongly since its first trading, giving the chip designer a market value of $62 billion at the end of last week.

Analysts estimate that the money raised from the listing, combined with the potential for new financing and SoftBank’s existing cash and borrowings, could provide an estimated $65 billion for Son, who has said Arm will be the driver of the move. The core of a plan. Artificial intelligence “rules the world.”

Mapbox was valued at $1.2 billion as of its last funding round in April 2020, and has previously raised a total of $360 million since its founding in 2011, according to PitchBook, which tracks private company data. The round values ​​the company slightly higher, at about $1.3 billion, before taking into account the new money raised.

Two bankers involved in the Arm IPO and close to SoftBank said the chip group’s New York listing was largely a test of listings by other technology companies that had been shelved during the economic downturn. These companies, including several Vision Fund portfolio companies, have been waiting for a signal that the market has improved enough for them to restart their IPO plans.

Such companies could include Mapbox, which internally discussed taking it public in 2021 through a merger with a SoftBank-backed special purpose acquisition company but abandoned the idea when the tech market soured, the bankers said.

Mapbox CEO Peter Sirota said the group’s new funding will be used to enhance the way its artificial intelligence software interacts more closely with cameras and other sensors in vehicles “so that decisions can be made in the split second where data is possible”.

Mapbox’s service includes cloud-based location data used by Facebook, Snap and others. The company will attend the Tokyo Game Show for the first time this week, aiming to promote its services to developers whose games use real-world locations.

SoftBank declined to comment.


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