UNICEF Venture Fund

Flexible funding and networks for innovators on the ground

Group photo taken at the data science/AI and XR cohort meeting in June 2018.
June 2018, UNICEF Innovation Fund's Data Science & AI and Virtual Reality Cohorts meet for the first time on a 3-day workshop hosted by UNICEF in New York.

Entrepreneurs in UNICEF programme countries often lack access to flexible funding and the global networks to connect to other problem solvers, mentors and platforms to grow their solutions quickly.

A mobile showing a registration online via an app
UNICEF
Recent graduate of the Fund's Blockchain cohort, Amply aims to replace the existing paper-based system to register children for a government funded pre-school subsidy in South Africa through a blockchain application platform applying cryptography and distributed ledger technologies to generate and record verifiable proofs of service-delivery.

The Venture Fund collaborates with innovators on the ground in UNICEF programme countries to build and test new solutions at the pace required to keep up with the rapidly evolving challenges facing children.

The Venture Fund was launched by UNICEF in 2016 – a US$17.9 million investment fund – applying lessons learned over 8+ years, undertaking the complex work of helping to identify and grow innovations for children. The UNICEF Venture Fund makes $50–100K early stage investments in technologies for children developed by UNICEF country offices or companies in UNICEF programme countries. By providing flexible funding to early-stage innovators, it allows UNICEF to quickly assess, fund and grow open-source technology solutions that show potential to positively impact the lives of vulnerable children. 3

The Objective is to identify and pilot promising frontier technologies to develop scalable platforms that UNICEF can use in a range of applications and country settings. The fund seeks to achieve this by identifying clusters or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology - so that UNICEF can shape markets, learn from and provoke these technology sectors to benefit children. Such an investment method allows UNICEF to take small risks within particular technology portfolios, and ensure that even if many of the investments fail, the portfolio is a success.

The Portfolio currently includes 72 investments, including 33 to startup companies in countries where UNICEF is active. The Fund aims to grow its portfolio by 30 investments every year. In 2018, the Fund selected cohorts of companies working on data science and artificial intelligence, blockchain and XR. These cohorts are working on similar underlying technology stacks and are collaborating across individual products to build platforms that can more easily be brought to scale. The Venture Fund collaborates with other investors, donors and partners to co-invest and facilitate pathways to growth and scale.


Contact: venturefund@unicef.org

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