Silicon Valley startups are still taking Saudi cash

Silicon Valley startups are still taking Saudi cash despite the intense controversy over the ...

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 5:54 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 5:54 PM

Silicon Valley startups are still taking Saudi cash despite the intense controversy over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Two deals made public this week show that SoftBank (SFTBF) is pressing ahead with investments by its Vision Fund, a major player in Silicon Valley that is backed by $45 billion in Saudi government money.

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View, a startup that makes smart energy-saving windows, said Friday that it has received $1.1 billion from the Vision Fund.

The investment was announced one day after Zume, a tech firm that uses robots to make pizza, said in a regulatory filing that it received $375 million in new funding on October 17.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that money also came from the $93 billion Vision Fund. Zume did not respond to questions from CNN Business about the source of the investment.

The cash infusions are the first big moves by the Vision Fund since the Khashoggi's killing raised questions over SoftBank's relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia first denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's murder in its consulate in Istanbul before arguing that a group of rogue operators were responsible. The Saudi attorney general later acknowledged that he was killed in a premeditated murder.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son stayed away from a major investment summit in Saudi Arabia that was overshadowed by the killing, despite his company being a key player in showcase projects designed to transform the country's economy.

Some tech titans have distanced themselves from Saudi Arabia.

Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has said he wouldn't accept an investment from the country's sovereign wealth fund because of the murder. His statement comes just weeks after he raised the possibility of taking Tesla private with Saudi cash.

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Data from Dealogic shows the Vision Fund has pumped billions into tech startups around the world.

Last year, it invested $4.4 billion in WeWork, the startup that has set up popular co-working spaces in cities across the globe. Slack, DoorDash and Improbable Worlds are among other startups that have received Vision Fund cash.

Zume and View fit right into the fund's portfolio of ambitious tech startups.

Zume wants to use technology to advance automation in the food industry. It deploys robots alongside humans to speed up the cooking process, and operates delivery trucks with ovens programmed to make pies en route to customers.

View manufacturers smart windows that can be controlled remotely via the internet. It says the glass lets in the optimum amount of natural light, reduces heat and glare, and cuts building energy consumption by up to 20%.

"We are excited to have this strong endorsement of our vision from SoftBank, a firm widely recognized for supporting category creating companies," CEO Rao Mulpuri said in a statement.

Both companies did not respond to questions on Friday about whether they were concerned about the source of the new investment funds.

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