SoftBank Investment Advisers (SoftBank) and Speedinvest are together launching SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge accelerator in Europe. The programme aims to promote diversity in tech by connecting underrepresented founders with the capital, tools, and networks needed to help scale their businesses.
Catherine Lenson, Managing Partner & CHRO at SoftBank Investment Advisers, says, “As an industry, we’re missing out on the diverse perspectives that drive true innovation, because of a lack of representation. Our first Emerge founder cohort showed the depth of untapped talent and inspired us to explore ways to do even more through the program. We are proud to be partnering with many of Europe’s most progressive investors and are excited to work with some of the region’s most visionary founders.”
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The launch builds on the success of the first Emerge cohort in the US in summer 2020, through which SoftBank invested $5M across 13 startups.
The accelerator programme was established in 2019 by SoftBank Investment Advisers. It combines a customised 8-week mentoring program with capital investment to support future growth. The programme also offers participant founders access to SoftBank professionals, portfolio companies, industry experts, and Europe’s wider VC support networks.
Emerge has five eligibility criteria, these include:
- Seed-stage startup with a working product
- Using technology to disrupt a large or growing market
- Experiencing strong growth with early customer validation
- Business model that has potential to scale
- At least one company founder identifies as non-white, female, LGBTQ, disabled and/or is a refugee
The programme is open to European startups, and founders can directly apply here.
What to expect from Emerge?
Emerge aims to foster a more equitable tech ecosystem. It will accept around ten companies from across Europe. Founders will be given a chance to join a broad community of entrepreneurs and innovators with the opportunity to share experiences. Additionally, participants will also receive direct investment to support future growth.
Besides Speedinvest, Emerge founders will also have access to other European investors, including Breega, Cherry Ventures, firstminute capital, and Kindred. The programme will be delivered in collaboration with WeWork Labs, which will support the curriculum development.
Speaking on the development, Oliver Holle, co-founder & Partner at Speedinvest says, “To drive innovation, building a level playing field for diverse European founders is no longer a want-to-have but a must. At Speedinvest, we could not be more excited to partner up with SoftBank on Emerge as this program truly embodies what we love to do – to help support Europe’s very best early-stage founders, no matter their background, and truly make a difference in their entrepreneurial journeys.”
Startups that make the grade will be announced in mid-August, and the sessions will start from September. The programme will conclude with a showcase day in October, wherein the companies will pitch their businesses live to a group of top European investors.
Excerpts from other VCs
Emerge looks to provide attention to the European ecosystem of the founder community, who have been underserved for far too long.
Maria Palma, who is a partner at Kindred Capital, believes that structural and network-based elements of VC, unfortunately, results in a group of founders getting less access to venture than they should. And, which is why, according to her, “programmes like this, that go deeper on the relationship-building and fundraising aspects of a startup, are so important.”
Lina Wenner, Associate Partner at firstminute capital says, “In theory, it has long been proven that diverse founding teams drive better and more sustainable results. In reality, we are far too slow in putting this to practice. That is why we are excited to be part of the change that Softbank and Speedinvest are initiating with Emerge.”
Ben Marrel, founding Partner of Breega, adds, “While the industry as a whole is aware of a persisting diversity and inclusion gap in tech, finding efficient ways of bridging that gap isn’t easy.” And hence, with this opportunity, Breega looks to offer operational support to early-stage founders as well as getting involved and giving underrepresented founders the boost they need.
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