Softbank returns to the first line of battle and in this case it is not because of its economic problems as a consequence of the decisions made in recent years.
Leaving behind the crisis of the past weeks, as a result of the losses declared by Uber and WeWork – two of their main investments -, the uncertainty of the entrepreneurial sector, the coronavirus itself and its internal accounts, SofBank has jumped on the bandwagon of protests against repression in the United States under the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Japanese fund announced the creation of a new line of investment focused solely on Latino and black entrepreneurs: the “Opportunity Growth Fund”. This would be added to that of Vision Fund I and the next II with an endowment of 100 million dollars; the equivalent of 89 million euros.
According to the founder of SoftBank, this initiative will help “break through” in business for African-Americans and Latinos “in the unfair world that hinders their success.” With this measure, they say, they seek to correct the power imbalance in the technological world. Since only 7% of the founders of technology companies backed by private equity investors are black.
A situation similar to the role of women in the industry that began with the publication on sexism and harassment by Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer.
Unlike other funds of the Japanese house, this will not come with management fees and will leave most of the capital in the hands of entrepreneurs. A novelty in the way of making SoftBank known for its aggressive business strategy.
They are not the only ones
Of course, SoftBank is not the only one who has seen the opportunity in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The world of cinema, culture or business has taken positions in favor of the rights of the African American community in the United States. In the thin line of marketing or reality.
Within the investment business Benchmark, Sequoia or Eniac Ventures have not wasted time to position themselves on social networks.
Twitter, with its blockade of Donald Trump, or the protests of Facebook employees before Zuckerberg’s positioning set the tone for a country divided on all sides.
Why now and not before
It goes without saying that this movement of interest and support for the black and Latino community in the United States has been viewed with suspicion by the community itself.
Reality or opportunism? This is precisely what is being asked within the affected communities. After all, inequalities are part of a short term, but have persisted for decades. Even within the tech community that they claim has remained indifferent to the situation before a talent that has always been there.
Why create a specific fund instead of making great investment vehicles inclusive? Why create the funds right now and not have taken previous measures? The murder of George Floyd has brought intense debate to the table in a sector that is now trying to do its homework quickly and on the run.
SoftBank itself, just before announcing the “Opportunity Growth Fund” was facing the racial crisis within its offices and specifically its investments. Just when the CEO of Banjo resigned upon learning of his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan.
In any case, technology companies –as happened with the role of women a few years ago– have set to work to find out how the sector is doing. In fact, according to Techcrunch, meetings with black founders have exploded in recent days to try to make up for lost time.
Time will tell if the measures announced by all investors are carried out as solid promises or respond to the hectic moment.