WeWork and SoftBank unveil the first 14 startups in their Emerge accelerator for underrepresented founders

SoftBank Investment Advisers and WeWork Labs say they’ve officially kicked off the first session of Emerge, an accelerator program designed for underrepresented founders.

In their press release, the companies describe Emerge as “launched by SoftBank with support from WeWork Labs” (that’s the co-working company’s global accelerator program), with a goal of bringing more equality to tech and venture capital.

It’s an equity-free, eight-week program that includes workshops, access to mentors from SoftBank and the WeWork community and sessions with SoftBank executives. It all culminates in a showcase event for investors and SoftBank partners.

The Emerge website describes the program as based in San Mateo, Calif. — but given COVID-19, the sessions and programming are all virtual.

“Supporting underrepresented founders is a top priority for us, ensuring we see more diverse startups across the tech ecosystem,” said Catherine Lenson, managing partner and chief human resources officer at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “There is a lack of diversity in the sector as a whole, and we need to do more to address it. That is why we’re excited to launch this program and to see the positive impact that these inspiring founders will have.”

This is also a reminder that while the larger corporate entities are currently embroiled in a legal and financial dispute, WeWork and its largest investor remain closely intertwined.

Here are the 14 startups in the initial program:

  • Aquagenuity, which allows users to take any smart device and track water quality and monitor their environment in real time
  • Bridge to College, which helps students choose colleges wisely by matching and providing data
  • Caldo uses flexible automation and mobile designs to power satellite eateries for restaurants
  • GameJolt, a platform for gamers to follow more than 100,000 games while they’re still in development
  • Koniku, which is diagnosing disease using breath
  • Mogul, which helps employers find diverse talent
  • Moment AI, which uses AI to understand the driver and improve safety
  • Node, which builds houses through a proprietary assembly kit
  • OjaExpress, a marketplace connecting immigrants and foodies to local ethnic mom-and-pop grocery stores
  • Proven, which offers personalized skin care products powered by The Skin Genome Project, winner of MIT’s 2018 Artificial Intelligence Award
  • Rebellyous Foods, a production stack for plant-based meat
  • ScriptHealth, which provides easy access to prescription medications
  • Shyft, which builds IoT hardware and integrated software to connect and intelligently manage distributed energy resources
  • SPS, a cross-border payments provider operating across all major U.S. states and Canada