SoftBank Bets Big on AI: Invests in Perplexity at $3 Billion Valuation

According to a report from Bloomberg, SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund 2 is set to make a significant investment in US artificial intelligence startup Perplexity AI, valuing the company at $3 billion. According to sources familiar with the matter, SoftBank plans to invest between $10 million and $20 million as part of a larger $250 million funding round.

Perplexity AI, founded less than two years ago, has distinguished itself in the competitive AI landscape by providing real-time information and positioning itself as an “answer engine” rather than a traditional search engine. The startup uses various large language models, including OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Meta’s open-source Llama, to generate informative responses to user queries.

This investment marks SoftBank’s latest foray into the AI sector, aligning with founder Masayoshi Son’s recently announced vision for the future of AI. Son has committed to realizing what he calls “artificial super intelligence” (ASI), describing it as his life’s purpose and the ultimate goal for SoftBank.

The deal also builds upon an existing partnership between SoftBank and Perplexity. Earlier this year, the companies announced a collaboration offering SoftBank’s Japanese wireless customers a free one-year subscription to Perplexity’s premium service.

Despite its rapid growth and increasing valuation, Perplexity has faced some controversy. The startup has been criticized for its news summarization feature, with some media outlets accusing it of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Perplexity’s CEO, Aravind Srinivas, has defended the platform, describing it as “more of an aggregator of information” rather than a content creator.

SoftBank’s investment in Perplexity comes as the Japanese conglomerate seeks to accelerate its AI investments. The company is reportedly working on a $100 billion project called Izanagi, focused on AI-related chips, and has recently invested $200 million in Tempus AI, a medical data analysis startup.