In a move to improve diversity in the startup industry, Softbank will launch a USD 100 million Opportunity Growth Fund that will invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of colour, confirmed SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure in an email to employees. Softbank has said it will be the “biggest fund providing capital to black Americans and people of colour.”
The fund will invest in companies that disrupt traditional business models via technology. A portion of the earnings from the fund’s investments will also be donated to organisations dedicated to creating opportunities for people of colour.
“We have to put money behind it, set plans, and hold ourselves accountable,” wrote Claure in his email. “Founders and entrepreneurs of colour have so much potential, but they face unfair barriers that white founders don’t face. This is our opportunity to remove those barriers for a new generation of founders.”
The Japanese conglomerate’s move to support diversity comes in the midst of ongoing nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism across America after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died at the hands of police in Minneapolis last month.
While many companies have publicly voiced their support for the anti-racism protests and Black Lives Matter movement, SoftBank’s Opportunity Growth Fund promises to put their words into action as it pledges to address racial discrimination and improve diversity. Announcing the fund on Twitter, SoftBank founder and chief executive Masayoshi Son stated that “Racism is a lamentable thing,” and ended his post with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Claure also announced Softbank’s plans to create a diversity and inclusion programme in order to examine hiring biases, acknowledging the firm’s need to “do better at hiring underrepresented groups for open roles at SoftBank and our portfolio companies – especially for leadership and board seats.”
“I promise to do what I can to be an effective ally to Black Americans who have been fighting this injustice for centuries,” Claure writes. “Only by acknowledging and acting on racism – even the most subtle forms of it – can we hope to eradicate it. Otherwise, it thrives in silence.”