Recently, semiconductor startup Wiliot was funded by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son via SoftBank with a $200 million investment. SoftBank is currently the leading investor in the company which operates Australia, Germany, Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine.
Previously, Amazon Web Services, venture capital affiliates of Samsung and mobile carrier NTT Docomo also participated in an investment in the company.
SoftBank’s investment may be a stepping stone for Wiliot’s growth – which is already healthy.
Wiliot offers a stamp-sized chip designed to enable object recognition at scale. This could benefit the e-commerce and logistics companies of SoftBank’s Vision Fund portfolio.
The Vision Fund is known to have invested billions of dollars in a range of technology companies around the world. Wiliot may partner with other Vision Fund investments like Coupang or Flipkart.
SoftBank’s recent investments are mainly in logistics and warehouses. Specifically, this year, JD Logistics received capital from SoftBank, and a 40% stake in AutoStore was purchased for $2.8 billion by the investment giant.
Products move through the supply chain in crates, packages and pallets connected by Wiliot via encrypted and cloud-enabled chips. A total of $270 million in venture capital has been raised by Wiliot over the years, and the latest fundraising round was oversubscribed.
Wiliot Senior Vice President, Stephen Statler, sees the interest from financial and strategic investors in Wiliot, and is paying attention to autonomous warehouses, robotics and “smart” retail sectors.
Wiliot belongs to a small high-tech industry that designs chips for object recognition similar to QR encoding and radio frequency identification. The sector only about 10 startups and all of them have been able to grow their valuations.
The technology and semiconductor team at market research firm IDC forecasts that the value of these companies will grow to $2 billion in the next five years, and half of them will lead the industry.
Because of the need to tag with a wireless, battery-free tracker to manage goods along the demand chain, the logistics chip industry will likely continue to grow and scale further in the near future.