SoftBank emerged in the news last week with its sizeable bets in the equity derivative markets in the US. Despite some recent challenges, the telecoms conglomerate has been very active in large venturing deals this year as well.

SoftBank was in the news mid-September $4bn in profits from call option bets on US tech stocks have stirred speculation that the Japan-based telecoms conglomerate was the “Nasdaq whale” behind the recent rally of those stocks. However, this has not been the only market where SoftBank’s size is significant. Our chart below shows the most sizeable deals ($150m and above) in which SoftBank has participated throughout 2020. It clearly suggests that, despite the challenges its Vision Fund has faced with coworking space provider WeWork and other investments, SoftBank is still a big and bold fish swimming in the ocean of venture capital (for lack of a better metaphor, even though whales are mammals, not fish).

The largest deal with its backing we have reported this year was in China-based online tutoring service Zuoyebang, which closed a reported $750m series E round that included the Vision Fund. Zuoyebang operates a platform enabling users to access online courses and homework assistance in addition to live tutoring over video. The company claims to have 170 million monthly active users, 50 million daily active users and nearly 12 million paying subscribers.

China-based ride hailing service Didi Chuxing’s unnamed autonomous driving technology subsidiary raised more than $500m in a funding round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund II. This was the first funding round for the software business, though the latter was spun off in September 2019 as a separate company and Didi has reportedly been engaged in testing such technologies since 2016. The funding will help the spinoff company to expand research and development, run additional tests and strike more partnerships within the automotive industry.

US-based robotic fulfilment systems developer Berkshire Grey secured $263m in a series B round led by SoftBank. Khosla Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Canaan also participated in the round. Berkshire Grey has developed technology that combines robotics and artificial intelligence to automate retail, e-commerce and logistics fulfilment. Applications include sorting small packages for online businesses and just-in-time stock replenishment for stores.