Home / Tech / This 36-year-old CEO said SoftBank handed him way more funding than he was looking for and told him he'll never have to worry about money again — here's why

This 36-year-old CEO said SoftBank handed him way more funding than he was looking for and told him he'll never have to worry about money again — here's why

Erkin Adylov CEO Behavox

  • Behavox, a New York-based 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 CEO and founder of New York-based startup Behavox, told Business Insider in an interview that he was originally only hoping to raise between $25 million and $50 million in the fall of 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 second capital, according to a source familiar with the deal. 
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The chief executive of a startup recently backed by Softbank’s Vision Fund 2 said the investor pitched him on receiving far more funding than he was initially planning to raise.

Erkin Adylov, the 36-year-old CEO and founder of New York-based startup Behavox, told Business Insider in an interview that he was hoping to raise between $25 million and $50 million in the fall of 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 potential customer, he told us. The Vision Fund was in search of new compliance software and had reached out to Adylov about testing out Behavox.

The startup eventually landed the contract in the summer of 2019. The Vision Fund was so pleased with the product and sales process that by the fall of 2019 it inquired about making an investment, Adylov said. 

The sequel to SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund has reportedly faced issues reaching its fundraising goal as big-name investors balked.    

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, per Bloomberg. 

While some startups that SoftBank or the first Vision Fund backed then have gone public in recent years, others have suffered major setbacks after explosive growth failed to translate into profitability, including WeWork’s shelved IPO and subsequent bailout, robot-pizza maker Zume’s major layoffs and pivot to sustainable packaging, and car leasing company Fair’s layoffs and executive shakeups. 

At least one company, 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 late 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.”

SEE ALSO: Here’s a look at how SoftBank’s dotcom-era investments played out — half of these 14 startups it bet on collapsed

SEE ALSO: SoftBank-backed startup Fair burned through nearly $400 million in 10 months. Insiders reveal how Softbank stepped in and cleaned house in the wake of WeWork.

SEE ALSO: A company that uses technology to help hedge funds and banks bust rogue employees just raised $70 million

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