UNICEF Innovation Fund Graduate: Afinidata

Using artificial intelligence to provide parents with personalized early childhood education activities

Andreana Castellanos, CEO, Afinidata
UNICEF graduate - Afinidata
31 March 2020

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Afinidata, graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community. 

Existing early-childhood education options, such as daycare or private tutors, are often expensive and difficult to scale. There is a large gap for effective, easy-to-access educational tools that are inclusive with lower income families. Imagine if each parent had their own virtual tutor for free to help them provide adequate early-childhood education (ECE) to their children. 

Afinidata uses artificial intelligence to provide parents with a personal assistant that guides them with personalized and effortless early-childhood activities, delivered directly into messaging apps they already use to communicate with family and friends and without requiring any new downloads. 

The past twelve months was one the most impactful years in Afinidata history. After receiving investment from the UNICEF Innovation Fund, our company growth was incredible, changing the path for Afinidata and for the families that use our Virtual Tutor ‘Afini’.

To date we have:

  • Reached 45,000 families in 10 months.
  • Delivered over 600,000 educational sessions 
  • Developed a unique machine learning algorithm with 24% higher usage rate compared to similar applications. 
  • Formed strategic partnerships with academia Harvard, Swiss Tropical & Public Health Institute.
Parents who use Afinidata
Parents who use Afinidata


The biggest challenges our team faced were user growth sustainability, improved support service to retain users and acquire new ones. All this, while simultaneously testing new functionalities and business models. Also, we didn’t know how to track the Virtual Tutor’s impact. We knew we were reaching families, but how do we retain them? Were we really helping them? Were we giving the solution they were looking for?

These problems were real, and we faced them by tracking little flaws until they were solved. We also expanded our team to make sure specialized people were working on specific problems, bringing solutions and innovation to Afinidata.

Tracking Impact

From the beginning of our development process  we decided to focus on how to track impact by creating a three stage plan.

Phase one - Engagement: we knew we had to engage with parents, persuading them to try Afinidata. If that didn’t happen, we lost. We had to create a relevant solution adapted to their lifestyle that kept them connected with us.

For this, we designed multiple interviews and user tests to discover pains and gains, and worked with parents who already used the Virtual Tutor. Through intense user research, we improved on functionalities, created a solution that doesn’t tell parents what to do, but instead strengthened our relationship with them, making them feel heard so we could later use technology to guide them and give them the best recommendation.

After several iterations, our algorithm and user experience has increased up to 24% more usage rate against other solutions that suggest generic content or based only on child's age and not personalized.

Selva, 2, engages in supervised play-based learning at the Torore centre, a UNICEF-supported Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme.

Phase two - Child’s development through self-reporting milestones: we asked parents to report to us the milestones their child had already achieved using this to create better and personalized content suggestions and to track the Virtual Tutor’s impact on child’s development.

The feedback we have received from parents using Afinidata has been particularly encouraging:

“Afinidata gives me the best activities so I can spend time with my baby. I like it because they’re easy and creative.”

Luisa Hernandez, Parent

“Great activities. I can spend time with my baby while stimulating his brain.”

Karilyn Fuente, Parent and Afinidata user
Afinidata team
Afinidata team

We are proud and honored of the awards we received in 2019  because it’s a reflection of the hard work, invested hours, testing, vision and hope. Here are some of them:

UNICEF Innovation Fund

  • Selected as 1 of 13 companies from thousands around the world.
  • First Guatemalan company ever selected.

Futurebound Accelerator Program

  • Early childhood accelerator program in Colorado, USA.
  • Selected among 140 companies from around the world.

Seedstars Guatemala

  • Swiss-based world startup competition for emerging markets.
  • We won! Selected as TOP Guatemalan startup.
  • 1 of 19 companies qualified to compete in LATAM regionals.

Seedstars Latin America

  • Swiss-based world startup competition for emerging markets.
  • Selected as Top 9 finalists in LATAM.
  • Qualified for World Competition to win $500K
Afinidata team

What’s Next? 

Finally, this is how 2020 looks for Afinidata. Phase three - Randomized Controlled Trial: we know we are impacting children’s lives in the long term. We are changing the game for children thanks to Botnar Foundation, University of Basel, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute,, ETH Zurich and Harvard. In a Multi-Investigator Project, the principal investigators along with Afinidata will assess this platform through a randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 2,400 families with young children in San Marcos province, Perú Cajamarca region. We are looking to grow our business model and take Afinidata to the next level: WORLDWIDE.

Hope you can stay around to see how Afinidata keeps changing the world, bringing equal opportunities to those who need them.


About the UNICEF Innovation Fund:

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund invests up to $100k in early stage, open-source, emerging technology digital public goods with the potential to impact children on a global scale. It also provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, access to a network of experts and partners to allow for scale and growth. The investments can go either to UNICEF Country Offices or to private sector companies in UNICEF programme countries.