Speedinvest, SoftBank Vision Fund, and our venture capital partners are thrilled to announce a combined $8.7 million in committed capital to the nine startups that make up the first-ever European edition of the Emerge accelerator program for exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. We’re also very excited to welcome three of the cohort companies to the Speedinvest portfolio.
The investments come as a chronic shortage of VC funding to founders from underrepresented backgrounds continues in Europe. According to this year’s State of European Tech report, released this week, while the amount of funding for female founders in Europe increased in 2021, it fell as a proportion of overall investment: just 1.1% of capital deployed went to all-women founding teams and 1.3% to ethnic minority founding teams.
“These nine founding teams are truly exceptional and represent the enormous opportunity for us to work more closely with underrepresented founders. The decision is pretty simple: our industry can either continue to work in closed echo chambers, with the same usual suspects chasing the same deals over and over again; or we can truly open ourselves up to new perspectives, ideas and partners,” said Oliver Holle, our Co-Founder and Managing Partner. “Speedinvest has made its decision. And Emerge is the perfect platform for us to put capital behind our commitment.”
SoftBank invested $2.25m across all nine companies, while Speedinvest invested a total of $5m into three startups:
In addition, Kindred Capital committed $450,700, while Breega set aside $1 million.
Including these Emerge investments, the nine companies (Blloc, Credrails, FiatRepublic, Juli, Kwara, Pear Bio, Robin AI, Vitaance, The Stack World) have now raised upwards of $23m cumulatively in closing their latest funding rounds!
The founders will now pitch top VCs across Europe to secure even more funding as part of the Emerge startup showcase.
The SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge accelerator seeks to promote diversity in tech by connecting underrepresented founders with the capital, tools and network needed to help scale their businesses. Emerge combines a customized eight-week mentoring program with capital investment to support future growth. Participant founders gain unique access to SoftBank professionals, portfolio companies, industry experts, and Europe’s wider VC support networks.
“Bringing in like-minded partners who recognise the challenge to make our industry more representative gave us more resources and amplified Emerge’s reach,” said Catherine Lenson, Managing Partner and Head of Social Impact at SoftBank Investment Advisers.
“This year covered a bigger number of themes directly applicable to founders’ challenges as they look to scale globally or intensify their engagement with regulators. While the curriculum has closed, our journey with these founders has only just begun, we’re confident that they will not only continue to scale their businesses but emerge as champions in a more equitable tech ecosystem.”
This year, Kindred, Cherry Ventures and firstminute Capital, as well Linklaters, also offered expert insights and WeWork Labs provided platform support throughout the curriculum.
Launched in June, founders were connected with mentors that provided technical and operational expertise for the entirety of the accelerator. During the two months of online workshops, roundtables and one-to-one meetings, the cohort interacted with other founders, CEOs and operating professionals, who shared their knowledge on topics such as winning users, international growth, people and culture, raising capital and connecting with investors. The curriculum was tailored to meet founders’ requests and to give them practical guidance ahead of the showcase and future fundraising.
“Joining Emerge gave us the backing of one of the best venture capital firms in the world and opened access to the networks of multiple investors,” said Clara Wanjiku Odero, CEO and founder of Credrails. “The work we did and the conversations we had during the program helped us refine our identity and position the business as we come out of stealth mode.”
“Emerge provided us with invaluable access to management expertise. We spoke to current and past CEOs of big companies who shared their experience with us,” said Duleek Ranatunga, CEO and founder of Pear Bio. “On top of that, we were paired with a mentor who had a deep understanding of life sciences and was able to discuss the technical side of our business.”
“We’re trying to displace some powerful incumbents and build one of the most diverse businesses in the world. We have big aspirations and, at Emerge, we found investors whose ambitions match our own,” said Richard Robinson, CEO and founder of Robin AI. “We were introduced to people who have been where we are and successfully grew their businesses. We don’t have all the answers, but feel more prepared to scale our company.”
With the ongoing support of our Emerge partners, and the incredibly talented founders leading the cohort companies, we’re confident that they are all on course for long-term success. And we’re privileged to play a small part in their journeys.
Speedinvest is a leading pan-European, early-stage venture capital firm. Our portfolio includes Wefox, Bitpanda, TIER Mobility, GoStudent, Curve, CoachHub, Schüttflix, TourRadar, Adverity, and Twaice.
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