19 Oct 2021

Linklaters partners with SoftBank on diversity-led accelerator programme

UK Magic Circle firm signs up as strategic partner for European leg of Vision Fund Emerge 2021 programme

Portraits of three members of the Softbank Emerge cohort

Three members of the cohort

UK Magic Circle firm Linklaters has become a strategic partner on SoftBank’s Vision Fund Emerge 2021 programme, intended to promote diversity in tech by supporting underrepresented startup founders.

The Japanese conglomerate’s Vision Fund is the world’s largest tech investor, with over $100bn in capital, and investments ranging from early-stage startups to established giants like Uber and ByteDance.

The Emerge programme has begun in Europe this year following its launch in the US last summer and offers founders capital, tools and a network to help them scale their business. Nine European start-ups have been selected for this year, each with at least one founder identifying as non-white, female, LGBTQ+, disabled and/or a refugee.

Cohort founders will take part in an eight-week programme with mentoring and training from European VCs including SoftBank Investment Advisers (SBIA), Speedinvest, Breega, Cherry Ventures, firstminute capital and Kindred and covering topics such hiring, culture and engaging with investors. Founders will also receive access to SBIA and partner funds’ operating professionals and will network with other entrepreneurs from across SoftBank’s ecosystem of more than 300 tech-led companies.

The start-ups will receive technical advice and insight from Linklaters, which will work with the founders to provide a framework to address legal and commercial issues relevant to their business in the early stage of development, enabling them to tap into the Linklaters’ experience and access its resources.

Among those heading Linklaters’ role in the programme are Alexandra Beidas, partner and global head of employment and incentives, and corporate partners Stuart Bedford and Lisa Chang.

Beidas commented: “We are excited to be taking tangible action to create a more equitable ecosystem for the wealth of underrepresented talent and ensuring that marginalised entrepreneurs are getting access to the tools and backing needed. We look forward to working with such an impressive cohort of founders – with the potential to be major disruptors in established markets – and supporting them on their journey.”

The cohort is made up of startups in industries ranging from medtech to financial services and life insurance and includes a business attempting to build open finance rails for Africa’s digital economy.

The programme will culminate with an event in December, when companies will pitch to a group of European investors to secure further funding in addition to the capital raised through Emerge.

Linklaters announced in May that it had elected the global head of its corporate practice, Aedamar Comiskey, as its senior partner, the firm’s first female senior partner in its almost 200-year history. Her appointment followed a run of women being named to top leadership positions in prominent US and UK firms, including Gibson Dunn announcing in March that New York partner Barbara Becker had been elected as its next chair and managing partner and Sidley Austin electing litigation and disputes partner Yvette Ostolaza as the next chair of its management committee in April. Ostolaza also became the first Latina lawyer to be appointed to lead a top ten US law firm.

A growing number of law firms across the world now operate legal tech incuabtor funds. Examples of firms targeting the wider tech sector include Hogan Lovells, which runs an incubator programme for London fintech start-ups and ‘momentum players’.

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