SoftBank Launches Diversity-Focused Accelerator Program for European Startup Companies

By Mariliana Fotopoulou Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Money bag with a Euro symbol.

SoftBank Investment Advisers and Speedinvest launched the SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge accelerator in Europe today, meant to promote diversity while providing underrepresented entrepreneurs with funding and tools to help scale their startup companies.

SoftBank Ramps Up Diversity Efforts

Startup companies that are eligible for the accelerator must have at least one founder who identifies as non-white, female, LGBTQ+, disabled, and/or is a refugee.

Named business entrepreneurs will then join an 8-week program that will connect them with operating experts at SoftBank and provide them access to multiple educational sessions and mentoring.

“As an industry, we’re missing out on the diverse perspectives that drive true innovation, because of a lack of representation,” said Catherine Lenson, the managing partner and CHRO at SoftBank Investment Advisers.

“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.”

Those who wish to apply for the program must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a seed-stage startup with an operational product;
  • Utilize technology to disrupt a major or an emerging market;
  • See strong growth with early customer validation;
  • Have a scalable business model;
  • Have at least one company founder who identifies as non-white, female, LGBTQ, disabled, and/or is a refugee.

The accelerator will also help startup founders meet other business entrepreneurs and innovators, share experiences, and allow them to meet the broader venture capital (VC) community and seek funding opportunities.

Selected participants will receive the funding and support needed to scale their business further. The startup companies will also be able to connect with top European investors such as Breega, Cherry Ventures, Firstminute Capital, and Kindred.

SoftBank first introduced its “Emerge” program last summer in the US, through which the investing company infused $5 million into 13 startup companies. The European version of the accelerator is meant to assemble a group of leading VC firms and seed-stage investors in Europe to help improve the current tech ecosystem.

“Emerge works to ensure that the companies of tomorrow represent the world today,” commented Sophia Bendz, a partner at Cherry Ventures.

The select startup founders will be announced in late August and gather together online in September. A month later, the program will end with a startup showcase where entrepreneurs will pitch their business stories to a group of leading European investors and seek funding.

The Emerge accelerator is led by SoftBank Investment Advisers and Speedinvest, one of the leading European VC funds with €450 million ($550 million) in assets under management (AUM) and 40 associate investors.

Ben Marrel, a founding partner at Breega, said the industry continues to experience a diversity and inclusion gap, and coming up with ways to close that gap is not an easy task. Hence, Breega is delighted to be “actively involved and giving underrepresented founders the boost they need.”


SoftBank Investment Advisers and Speedinvest announced the launch of the SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge accelerator in Europe today. The funding program is aimed at promoting diversity and underrepresented founders. Emerge will provide these startup companies with funding, education, and mentoring to scale their business companies.

About the Author

Headshot of Mariliana Fotopoulou

Mariliana has an MSC in Consumer Analytics and Business Strategy. She has a special interest in fast-moving industries and Big Data.

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