UNICEF Innovation Fund announces its largest investment round yet

Thirteen new startups added to the 2019 investment portfolio

UNICEF Innovation
boy wearing vr headset
09 December 2018

Thirteen startup companies using frontier technology solutions to address complex challenges and create fairer opportunities for children and young people will receive seed funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund.

This is our largest investment round to date - bringing the portfolio of start-up investments to 33 - and features two new technology areas.

In addition, 5 out of these 13 companies have female founders - bringing the proportion of female-founded companies in our portfolio to 30%. This is still far from the balance we are looking to achieve. Watch this space for more on our efforts to fix the balance for our Fund.

landing page shown on a monitor
Part of our blockchain cohort, Prescrypto showcase their solution RxChain providing a platform for patients and doctors to track medical prescriptions in a consolidated and secure data repository.

The Fund selected companies will collaborate within four different cohorts -- blockchain, extended reality (XR), Data Science and Internet of Things. The companies will not only benefit from the seed investment provided by UNICEF, but will also gain access to UNICEF’s Ventures team and networks -- providing support from technical assistance to networking with industry leaders, as well as creating a community around the open source solutions developed.

A brief overview of the thirteen startups:

Blockchain - these investments are part of UNICEF's larger blockchain explorations of using smart-contracts for organisational efficiencies, creating distributed decision-making processes, and working to build knowledge and understanding of distributed ledger technology both in the United Nations and in the countries where UNICEF works.

  • Atix labs in Argentina is developing a global social platform that connects Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with funders in different locations facilitating the investment process, and giving more visibility to how the SMEs use the funding they receive.
  • Onesmart based in Mexico, will address the misappropriation of funds in emerging markets with the scale of its prototype application which uses blockchain and AI to increase transparency and accountability of government allocations of resources.
  • Prescrypto in Mexico is developing RxChain which provides an open platform that allows patients and doctors to track medical prescriptions in a consolidated and secure data repository.
  • W3 Engineers in Bangladesh works as a mobile connectivity platform. It allows users within the network to give connectivity access to other users directly between smartphones, instead of relying on internet and cell networks.
  • StaTwig in India is aiming to reduce wastage of vaccines by preventing supply-chain failures. By tracking the products from manufacturers to users, StaTwig records vital information about the product’s journey to a blockchain that connects the entire supply-chain.
  • Utopixar, a Tunisia-based company is leveraging local knowledge and resources and matching them to projects -- in effect, developing a platform for communities to collaborate and create their own impact tokens (that are exchanged to address social challenges.)
Guy wearing a VR headset
Part of the UNICEF Innovation Fund's VR cohort, NubianVR is developing learning content built in WebXR.

Extended Reality (XR) - these investments are part of the Fund’s work in the XR space, to explore the use of XR technology to solve real human problems and make it more open. The Fund is investing in XR prototypes that impact specific areas of UNICEF’s programmatic work, teach the language of XR, and increase its accessibility. These companies are joining a portfolio of now seven investments:

  • Veative is a global provider of VR education and learning simulations for schools and industries. Their STEM library itself boasts 500+ modules of  high quality content. With UNICEF’s investment, Veative will be open sourcing part of its content library and making it available to access via WebVR. Veative is present in a number of countries, and has potential to scale its technology to a vast network of schools.
  • Imisi 3D are early adopters of VR in Africa, with a significant VR community built around the company. With UNICEF’s support Imisi 3D will explore how to best develop educational content design according to curriculum needs and connectivity constraints of schools in Nigeria.
  • NubianVR is developing learning content built in WebXR. Similar to Imisi 3D, with UNICEF’s support the company will explore how to best design this content according to curriculum needs and connectivity constraints of the school system in Ghana, with particular focus on learning what it takes to make content available for consumption in WebXR.
  • Utopic’s project offers a library of resources that includes mini VR games that assess reading skills. The Chile-based company uses VR games that have been specifically tailored to increase children's motivation while assessing their reading skills in a non-traditional, more sociocultural way of approaching to testing.
screenshot of 2 steps on interacting with the afinidata chatbot
Joining the Fund's AI cohort, Afinidata, showcases their solution using artificial intelligence to provide parents with a personal assistant.

Data Science/ Artificial Intelligence - these companies join a portfolio of 5 companies that are working with sophisticated applications of computer science including data mining, data processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and others, to help make the world a better place.

  • Avyantra in India addresses the early diagnosis of neonatal sepsis by applying a machine learning model that captures data of newborns with neonatal sepsis conditions and their associated treatments.
  • Afinidata, in Guatemala, uses artificial intelligence to provide parents with a personal assistant that guides them with personalized and effortless early-childhood activities.

Internet of Things: the Fund is exploring how IoT technology can be used to assess and improve access to clean water:

  • Conative Labs in Egypt is developing hardware called ‘Nilebot’ that senses the water quality of aquaculture in real-time.  Furthermore, the potential applications of the core technology such as agriculture and residential water quality monitoring are very promising in their ability to support water sanitation activities.

About UNICEF Innovation Fund: The Fund has been specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that has the potential to impact children on a global scale. The core motivation of the IF is to fund "clusters" or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology, like UAVs, Blockchain, Data Science and AI or virtual reality - so that UNICEF can both shape markets and also learn about and guide these technologies to benefit children.

As well as funding the start-up companies, UNICEF’s Innovation Fund will provide product and technology assistance, support with business growth, access to a network of experts and partners. The Fund also actively seeks second-round investment and support for companies it has invested in, as well as the opportunity to scale-up these technologies, when they are successful, in the more than 190 countries and territories where UNICEF operates.

More info: www.unicefinnovationfund.org
Join our conversations online. Follow us at @unicefinnovate