UNICEF Innovation fund welcomes 1st Blockchain cohort in New York.

6 blockchain startups, 4 days, 14 mentors, deep dives, and brainstorming sessions.

Cecilia Chapiro, Blockchain Portfolio Manager & Christina Lomazzo, Blockchain Lead, UNICEF Ventures
Blockchain cohort
UNICEF Innovation/Angelica Ong

19 February 2019

Ever wondered what it means to be part of UNICEF Venture’s investment cohort? Read on to learn more about our recent workshop for our blockchain cohort.

In December 2018, UNICEF Ventures announced investments into six early-stage blockchain startups from five different countries. To kick start the investment period, the startups came together in New York City in January 2019. The jammed packed week included meeting the UNICEF team that will be supporting them throughout the year, one-on-one mentoring sessions with business, open source, communication and blockchain specialists, learning from one-another and collectively identifying areas of potential collaboration.

post it on walls as people brainstorm
UNICEF Innovation/ChristinaLomazzo
Teams mapping out product development road maps.

Who are the start-ups?

The startups in attendance at the workshop were Atix Labs (Argentina), OS City (Mexico), Utopixar (Tunisia), StaTwig (India), Prescrypto (Mexico), and W3 Engineers (Bangladesh). While all startups are working on some type of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), there is great diversity in terms of their use cases, which range from digital prescriptions, to community currency. To learn more on each of the startups, visit the investment announcement and their blogs here.

What was on the agenda?

There were four distinct themes the startups and mentors focused on. These included: product development, business model, technical elements (particularly blockchain), and open source. These various topics were presented by our mentors and the UNICEF team, after which startups were given time to have one-on-one conversations with the mentors as they solved existing challenges and evaluated new product features. Other topics throughout the week included diversity and inclusion and media training, crucial components when building sustainable ventures.

  • Day 1 - Learning about each other/open source/product development

  • Day 2 - Technical deep dive / mentoring with blockchain experts
  • Day 3 - Business mentoring, business canvas/one-on-one mentoring
  • Day 4 - Diversity & inclusion / media training / wrap up

“The workshop with the UNICEF Innovation Fund team had all the best practices of how to build a startup packed in one week. The gathered insights and feedback from mentors are a great learning boost for our team.”

Michael Bummann - Utopixar Co-founder
Day 2: Technical deep dive and mentoring with blockchain experts. Startups discuss their work plans, product development, bottlenecks to mentors.
UNICEF Innovation/Angelica Ong
Day 2: Technical deep dive and mentoring with blockchain experts. Startups discuss their work plans, product development, bottlenecks to mentors.

“The experience was unique, in particular, learning by watching UNICEF’s rockstar team taking us one step closer to building our amazing team.”

Everardo Barojas - Prescrypto CEO

Who were our mentors?

In order to push the thinking of each of these startups, the UNICEF Ventures team curated a list of mentors to guide the startups on various topics. Our special thanks to these outstanding mentors, that came to share their expertise:

  • Aya Miyaguchi - Executive Director, Ethereum Foundation
  • Galia Benartzi - Co-founder, Bancor
  • Tayfun Ugur - Business Consultant
  • Qusai Jouda - Blockchain Specialist
  • Ariana Fowler -  Blockchain Specialist
  • Nathalia Scherer - Ecosystem Development, DAO stack
  • Justin Flory - Open Source Specialist, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Stephen Jacobs - Open Source Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Ellen Cowan - Executive & Innovation Lead, Avanade
  • Sanju Sunny - Product Development Director, Avanade
  • Jenny Wrobel - Experience Design, Avanade
  • Dana Geller, Senior Vice President, Digital and Social Strategy, RXMOSAIC
  • Anne Cummings, Media Influence Strategist, RXMOSAIC
  • Chantal Yang, Diversity Specialist, The Medici Group

“This workshop shows a lot of potential – as the [teams] should have learned a lot from this and take this back to their countries or teams and adapt other people’s ways into their ways.”

Aya Miyaguchi - Executive Director, Ethereum Foundation
Mentors answering questions from our 6 blockchain startups.
UNICEF Innovation/Angelica Ong
Mentors answering questions from our 6 blockchain startups. UNICEF Innovation (From right: Aya Miyaguchi Executive Director, Ethereum Foundation, Galia Benartzi, Co-founder, Bancor, Qusai Jouda - Blockchain Specialist, Ariana Fowler - Blockchain Specialist, Nathalia Scherer - Ecosystem Development, DAO stack)

What’s next for the companies?

All six companies will be part of the UNICEF Innovation Fund portfolio of companies for the next year. Throughout this time, the UNICEF team will be supporting the companies as they strengthen their minimum viable products. This includes using human-centered design to help the startups identify challenges and opportunities at the product level and guiding them as they licence their technology as open source. The Fund will also provide business and technical support from our in-house blockchain specialists, fund team and external mentors.

Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Innovation/AngelicaOng

If you are a startup interested in applying to the UNICEF Innovation Fund, click here for more details [the deadline for the 2020 blockchain cohort will be in July, 2019].

If you’re interested in collaborating with our current investments, with follow-on funding, please reach out to us at venturefund@unicef.org.