US-based startups lead by minorities receive $2 million+ funds from Softbank

Founders of 14 startups will receive $150,000 each through the Emerge accelerator program.

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Global investment group SoftBank Corp is expected to support 14 U.S. start-ups led by colored founders and other underrepresented groups with a capital infusion of $2 million or more as part of its effort to help more a more assorted array of entrepreneurs.

The financial support will back the inaugural members of the Emerge accelerator program which partners with Softbank’s WeWork Labs and SoftBank Investment Advisers to nurture minority-led startups.

SoftBank Vision Fund Chief Executive Rajeev Misra said the company is bound to encouraging diversity and breaking down some of the barriers that minority entrepreneurs face.

The first class of the Emerge program, a program created by Softbank that pairs up minority founders with SoftBank professionals for eight weeks, presented their firms to more than 100 investors in online video presentations this week. The firm is granting at least US$150,000 to each of the 14 founders through the Emerge accelerator program.

Earlier this month, SoftBank unveiled a separate $100 million Opportunity Growth Fund to promote and invest only in founders of color, marking a collective effort to bankroll ideas from more diverse groups.

Throughout the years, colored founders have faced challenges to find funding for their companies. According to a study by RateMyInvestor, a platform that enables startups to anonymously critique interactions with venture capitalists, colored people make up 1 percent of venture-backed founders.

Jeff Housenbold, the managing partner of SoftBank Investment Advisors, said that investing in colored founders and other entrepreneurs of other underrepresented categories is important in delivering equality to these communities.

“Funding diverse founders is not charity,” Housenbold said at the start of the virtual event.

The second group of the Emerge program is set to begin later this year.