Focusing on the potential impact of the global pandemic early on starting last quarter of 2019 helped Vision Fund Investment companies be better prepared, said Kirthiga Reddy, Partner, SoftBank Investment Advisers. In a exclusive interaction with BusinessToday.In, she said the fund had recently analysed its investments across sectors, to see which of them had a COVID-19 tailwind effect (for instance, like e-commerce and edtech that are witnessing huge growth because of COVID-19) and those that had neutral or a negative impact. "We found that most of our investments are in positive league or neutral impacted categories" said Reddy.
Elaborating on the support that stakeholders of the fund extended to its investee companies, she said that the first thing to do was to help companies understand the impact of COVID on their own business strategy and the people side of things. "We spent a lot of time streamlining operations and lining up for greater and better unit economics and profitability. The good thing is we actually started that focus way back in the last quarter of 2019," she added.
With companies being better prepared to respond to the changes, Kirthiga says that most of their companies have more than 18-24 months of cash runway. As a positive outcome of the pandemic, many companies are also looking to capitalise on opportunities created by COVID-19. One of the two examples of such portfolio companies is Collective Health, which helps the self insured employer benefit scheme in the US, created a product within weeks to help employees return back safely to work. The other being WeWork which is also witnessing new demand from enterprises who are demanding space for their employees to go to work to closer to where they live.
Kirthiga being the first female partner at the $100 billion dollar SoftBank Vision Fund says her firm is hungry for diverse perspective. "While I might be the first, but certainly not the last. We have other incredible women partners like Lydia Jett and we have very strong leadership across all levels," said Reddy.
The firm's focus on diversity which started a couple of years ago, saw the creation of a diversity council with the CEO of Vision Fund, Rajeev Misra and Catherine Lenson, CHRO, leading the way in setting the diversity goals. "We have also invested deeply in supporting our employee affinity groups whether it is gender based,under-represented minorities LGBTQ, giving them voice, giving them executive sponsorship and many programs that touch our external ecosystem," added Reddy.
With her work and focus on frontier tech, enterprise tech and health tech investments, Kirthiga says bold founders with clear vision, deep understanding of markets and addressable market size for the solution are at the core of choosing a company to fund by SoftBank. "I am a tech investor and it's about the use of next generation technology, AI, data and innovative differentiated business models to solve the needs and create a differentiated market," she further said. Kirthiga is also the recipient of Business Today's Most Powerful Women Award 2020.