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Softbank ready to invest in over a dozen US minority-led start-ups

SoftBank Group Corp announced it would spend US$2 million or more on 14 U.S. start-ups managed by black founders and other underrepresented groups, as part of its initiative to fund more a more diverse array of entrepreneurs.

The investments will support the inaugural members of the Emerge accelerator programme which partners with SoftBank’s WeWork Labs and SoftBank Investment Advisers to help mentor minority-led startups.

Rajeev Misra, chief executive of SoftBank’s Vision Fund said the company is committed to fostering diversity and knocking down some of the obstacles that minority entrepreneurs face.

On Thursday, the first class of the Emerge program, a program created by Softbank that connects minority founders with SoftBank professionals for eight weeks, pitched their companies to over 100 investors in online video presentations.

The company is donating a minimum of US$150,000 to each of the 14 founders through the Emerge accelerator program.

SoftBank unveiled a separate US$100 million Opportunity Growth Fund earlier this month to support and invest solely in founders of colour, marking a concerted effort to bankroll ideas from more diverse groups.

Black founders have struggled throughout the years to find financing for their businesses.

Black people make up 1 per cent of venture-backed founders, according to a study by RateMyInvestor, a platform that allows startups to critique interactions with venture capitalists anonymously.

Jeff Housenbold, SoftBank Investment Advisors managing partner, said that investing in black founders and other entrepreneurs of colour is vital to bringing equality to these communities.

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

The second group of the Emerge program will start later this year.

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