Softbank Starts an Accelerator Program


SoftBank Investment Advisers oversees the Japanese conglomerate’s Vision Fund for tech investing. On Wednesday, it will begin its diversity-focused Emerge accelerator program in Europe.

The company first opened Emerge last year in the U.S. with WeWork Labs, the office rental firm’s start-up incubator. They did this to support 14 start-ups whose founders come from underrepresented backgrounds. SoftBank announces it has invested $5 million over 13 start-ups in the program so far.

Presently, Softbank Is Making Emerge to Europe — but With a Twist


This time, it’s taking in Speedinvest and various other notable venture capital investors in the continent to grant access to a wider network of potential investors and partners.

Softbank is a leading investor in the later stages, with extensive global successes, such as Uber. Oliver Holle, co-founder and managing partner of Speedinvest, informed CNBC in an interview. But they are not locked up for investing in those very early nascent steps of company building.

Other venture funds competing in the European program include Breega, Cherry Ventures, first-minute capital, and Kindred.

Start-up accelerator programs are a popular way for entrepreneurs to access mentorship in the early days of growing their companies. Many well-known tech firms petitioned for accelerator schemes and started successful businesses, including Stripe, Airbnb, and Coinbase.

Two critical differences between conventional accelerator programs and SoftBank’s are that the latter concentrates on founders from Black and other minority backgrounds — it also invests in the companies.

It shifted from being an accelerator regarding connections, tools, networks, and opportunities to being an accelerator that supported the companies at the end of it, Catherine Lenson, managing partner and chief human resources officer at SoftBank Investment Advisers, reported CNBC.

Last year, the murder of George Floyd and following Black Lives Matter protests fronting police brutality and racism sparked discussions in boardrooms regarding how companies should address diversity. Unfortunately, tech is a sector that has a poor rap for variety. People working in the industry are predominantly white and male.

Various tech investors — including SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz — have recognized initiatives directed at tackling the issue. Like London-based Ada Ventures, some firms supported new standards for venture capital that take diversity to the forefront of investment decisions.

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