Softbank Puts Hefty Investment Into Ridesharing Operation Grab

October 9, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Ridesharing is easily one of the biggest advances for mobile payments, and with good reason. It’s the high-water mark of convenience to be able to pull out a phone, tap a few points on a touchscreen and have a ride to just about anywhere. We’ve already seen several firms get into this market, and now we can add one more to the fray in Grab, who just took home a fresh billion dollars in funding from several sources.

One of the biggest donors in the funding round accounted for half of the take by itself. Softbank, which had already put a slug of cash in Grab, came back for more and dropped a healthy $500 million into the latest round. So far, Grab has pulled in $6.1 billion in funding, with not only Softbank, but also Toyota and Chinese ridesharing operation Didi Chuxing getting in on it.

Reports suggest it’s now valued at $11 billion total. Grab has recently diversified its operations into food delivery, mobile payments and money transfers, which should account for at least some reasons behind the new investment.

There may have been another reason behind the move; Softbank and Toyota, just before the addition of new funding into Grab, also rolled out an “autonomous mobility project” set to be launched next April with around $17.5 million US in capital.

Regardless of the motives, the new slug of funding elevates Grab to be the fourth largest ridesharing operation on the planet, behind Uber, Didi Chuxing itself, and Lyft.

Ridesharing is an excellent use of mobile payments, and it works particularly well in large urban environments. That Softbank was working on an “autonomous mobility project” just ahead of the addition of funding into Grab suggests that Softbank might be eager to use Grab as a means to test out said autonomous mobility project, almost certainly a kind of self-driving car. If you can imagine Uber without the Uber drivers, that could be a real coup.

Softbank could be on to something here, and though we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out, it might well be worth several hundred million dollars in investment.