HONG KONG â One of the tech worldâs deepest-pocketed investors has been scouring the globe to find and fund the technologies that are building the future.
Advanced robotics. Indoor farming. Data-driven drug research.
And now: On-demand dog walking.
The SoftBank Vision Fund, a nearly US$100 billion pot of money managed by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, is investing US$300 million in Wag, a startup in Los Angeles whose app lets you summon someone to walk your dog.
The investment is several times the US$68 million in total funding that Wag has raised since it was founded in 2015.
âWe look forward to enhancing our technology and service offerings to enable more people to keep their dogs happy and healthy,â Wagâs newly appointed chief executive, Hilary Schneider, said in a statement announcing the investment.
The fund did not say much about what it sees in Wag. Jeffrey Housenbold, who helps oversee the fund, said only that âWag is a clear leader in the rapidly growing global market for pet care services.â
Still, other investments by Son, leader of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, suggest he is not likely investing in Wag solely to bet on the business of keeping Fluffy content.
A little over a year into its existence, the Vision Fund has come to focus on companies that can collect and harness vast oceans of data to transform industries as diverse as medicine, food and finance.
Apart from big names like Uber, it has invested in such outfits as Compass, a New York-based platform for buying and selling property; Vir Biotechnology, which researches and develops treatments for infectious diseases; and Oyo, a hotel network in India.
Wagâs app keeps track of exactly where your pooch is being taken by its walker. That makes Wag a potentially useful fount of location data. (Although, to be clear, this location data is not about Wagâs users but about its usersâ dogs.)
When the Vision Fund invested in a mapping startup called Mapbox last year, the fundâs Rajeev Misra said that Mapboxâs use of sensor data to generate live maps made it an investment in âthe foundational infrastructure for the next stage of the information revolution.â
âLocation data is central and mission critical to the development of the worldâs most exciting technologies,â Misra said.
Data on the real-world comings and goings of internet users â and, evidently, their dogs â is a highly sought-after commodity among technology companies. It can attract furious controversy when it is mishandled, though. Security analysts criticized the fitness app Strava this week for inadvertently revealing the locations of military bases by publishing its usersâ running routes.
And Wag itself does not have an unblemished record for safeguarding usersâ information. The Wall Street Journal recently found unprotected pages on the companyâs website that contained the personal data, including home addresses, of at least 100 customers.
The pages were later taken down. Wag said that the problem was the result of a software glitch, and that it had no indication that hackers or thieves had gained access to the customer data.
First published at http://business.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/fp-startups/wag-the-dog-walking-service-lands-300-million-from-softbank-vision-fund