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SoftBank's Latest Billion-Dollar Investment Is In A Smart Glass Company

The Greystar-developed EXO Apartments in Reston, Va.

SoftBank's Vision Fund, the $100B venture capital vehicle backed by $45B in Saudi Arabian money, has made another major investment into a commercial real estate business.

The fund has invested $1.1B into View Inc., the maker of View Dynamic Glass, smart window technology that allows the owner of a building to adjust how much light and glare a window lets in. While its products are much more expensive than standard glass, View says it saves customers money long-term by allowing them to better control their built environment and reducing the need for blinds or shades.

The Vision Fund investment adds to the $800M in venture capital California-based View has already brought in as it has expanded nationwide. View Dynamic Glass is installed in 35M SF of commercial buildings across the U.S., including the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. It has scaled up rapidly as more developers have looked for ways to increase natural light in their buildings to attract office tenants.

"We believe that View has created an entire new market category that makes buildings healthier and smarter,” SoftBank Investment Advisers partner Tom Cheung said in a statement. “They are reinventing the way we create building spaces by putting the well-being of occupants first.”

The Vision Fund has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, as have all Saudi-connected business dealings since the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul. While the Saudi royal family has admitted to its role in the killing, it is still unclear what, if any, action the U.S. government will take against one of its closest allies in the Middle East.

The $1.1B investment in View — it is the sole investor in this funding round — is the biggest investment announcement by far SoftBank has made since the Khashoggi scandal.

“Obviously, what happened in the region there is quite concerning,” View CEO Rao Mulpuri told Bloomberg. “But, at the same time, we’ve now built a relationship of getting to know SoftBank over a long period of time, and we are quite comfortable moving forward with this investment.”