- Behavox, a New York startup that uses artificial intelligence to scan employee conversations, said in a statement in February that it had raised $100 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.
- Erkin Adylov, the company’s CEO and founder,told Business Insider he was originally hopingto raise between $25 million and $50 million in fall 2019.
- Adylov said the Vision Fund 2 investors asked him: “What if we told you that you could build an awesome business but never have to worry about money?”
- The funding is structured in a series of tranches and includes a blend of primary and secondary capital, according to a source familiar with the deal.
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The chief executive of a startup backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 said the investor pitched him on receiving far more funding than he was planning to raise.
Erkin Adylov, the 36-year-old CEO and founder of the New York startup Behavox, told Business Insider in an interview that he was hoping to raise between $25 million and $50 million in fall 2019. His company, which uses artificial intelligence to help companies suss out rogue activity among their employees, was already profitable,he said. Plus, it had raised $70 million in December 2018 and had no large projects on the horizon that would require a lot of capital.
So when SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 showed interest in investing in the company, Adylov at first dismissed the idea.
“Initially, SoftBank — we never considered them to be an investment partner,” Adylov said. “If you’re a profitable business, why the hell do you need $100 million?”
Adylov’s introduction to the fund came as a prospective customer, he told us. The Vision Fund was in search of new compliance software and had reached out to Adylov about trying Behavox.
The startup eventually landed the contract in the summer last year. The Vision Fund was so pleased with the product and sales process that in fall it inquired about making an investment, Adylov said.
The sequel to SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund has faced issues reaching its fundraising goal as big-name investors balk, The Wall Street Journal reported.
SoftBank-linked startups globally have struggled to find paths to profitability, or even stability, after huge capital infusions from SoftBank or its first Vision Fund that enabled explosive growth. So far this year, SoftBank-backed companies have laid off at least 3,000 employees globally, and that number could double with another 3,000 jobs at Oyo in China slated for cuts, according to Bloomberg.
While some startups that SoftBank or the first Vision Fund backed have gone public in recent years, others have suffered major setbacks after explosive growth failed to translate to profitability, including WeWork’s shelved initial public offering and subsequent bailout, the pizza-making-robot startup Zume’s major layoffs and pivot to sustainable packaging, and the car-leasing company Fair’s layoffs and executive shake-ups.
At least one company, the retail-focused Brandless, has shuttered entirely.
Rajeev Misra, who leads the Vision Fund, told CNBC earlier this month that dozens of its portfolio companies could go public in the next 18 months.
“We’ve made many mistakes, which is normal,” Misra told CNBC. “We learn from our mistakes and are incorporating what we learn back into our process as we embark on Vision Fund 2.”
SoftBank has big plans for Behavox
So what sold the entrepreneur on taking a check so much bigger than what he was initially hoping for?
Adylov said the investor pitched the CEO on the idea of being able to grow without having to worry about money at all. Instead of pinching pennies in an effort to remain profitable, investors at SoftBank’s Vision Fund asked how Adylov would like to grow his company without any restrictions.
“What if we told you that you could build an awesome business but never have to worry about money?” the investors said, according to Adylov.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 eventually put $100 million into Behavox in a deal announced by the startup in February.
The funding is structured in a series of tranches and includes a blend of primary and secondary capital, a source familiar with the deal told Business Insider.
Adylov said the new investor has a much different view of the company than the rest of the startup’s backers, which include Citi and Hoxton Ventures. Still, he said Behavox’s entire investor deck was supportive of bringing on SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.
He also cited the previous successes of Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s CEO who was an early investor in Yahoo and Alibaba.
As for the attention that comes to those companies that fall under the SoftBank umbrella, Adylov said he remains unbothered by it.
“I think it’s best not to make decisions based on what’s in the press or what’s on Twitter feeds,” Adylov said. “You’ve got to be able to run the company or a country or whatever it is that you’re running based on facts and based on fundamentals.”