We were able to develop precise business growth strategies and impact metric plans that have enabled us to transform into a more scalable project.
UNICEF’s support helped Xcapit build value, with a premium put on discovery, iteration, survey, and experimentation with the end user
The funding is awarded in 2-3 tranches based on an agreed work plan with the Venture Fund portfolio managers.
The funding is intended for prototype testing and validation, and to get the solution to a stage where the company has proof that the solution and the business model work. This includes being able to generate data to show impact, usability and strategy.
The Venture Fund makes fiat and crypto investments. Each call for funding indicates the kind of funding that investees will receive.
We review, select, and invite high-performing startups from our existing portfolio to apply for growth-stage funding and support. Startups that receive invitations to apply for growth funding must demonstrate significant progress, scalability, and a proven track record of impact. Through this new funding strategy, we aim to catalyze further innovation and drive meaningful results. We envision startups leveraging this growth funding to achieve transformative outcomes for children.
Funding is awarded based on a careful evaluation process that considers several factors. Startups must meet specific mandatory requirements, such as the ability to receive crypto in their country. The technical evaluation includes the strength of Open Source technology, alignment with relevant technological advancements, the team's capabilities, evidence of impact, alignment with UNICEF's programmatic goals, and financial sustainability. These criteria help determine the funding amount and ensure that selected startups align with UNICEF's objectives, possess growth potential, and can make a positive impact on children and communities.
Growth funding represents a new phase of support for our Venture Fund graduates, designed to propel their solutions to the next level of scale and sustainability. Startups awarded with growth-stage funding are expected to strategically utilize the funds to:
The Venture Fund makes fiat and crypto investments. Each call for funding indicates the kind of funding that investees will recieve.
Over 4-5 months, companies receive tailored support for product development, building a business model and strategy around Open Source technology, and user testing. Startups will likely receive a combination of technical and strategic mentorship from the Venture Fund. They also gain access to the Ventures team’s tech expertise, networks, and platforms to help them reach the stage where they can prove that their solutions work and tap into larger funding sources.
Validation methods to optimize software delivery performance will look at code quality, technical specifications, system architecture, user requirements, development methodology and frameworks, and testing. Requirements and considerations enabling the solution to be nominated as a digital public good will also be addressed.
Data security and privacy measures have to be in place especially for solutions that have direct touch points with vulnerable populations. More broadly, this mentorship also covers compliance with various regulations and best practices related to data security and privacy, including UNICEF’s data security standards, and other relevant international regulations.
Solutions involving artificial intelligence and data science (AI/DS) are supported for optimal model deployment, prototype building, and AI-based functionality for existing digital public goods.
In democratizing sustainable access to digital innovation, it’s vital to understand the different forms an Open Source (OS) project and community may take. This mentorship covers the foundations of Open Source intellectual property (legal and licensing), OS business models, common OS tools and workflows, documentation, continuous integration for continuous contribution, and OS archetypes.
This mentorship looks at the development of effective value proposition, business and revenue models, partnership and customer journeys, scaling and fundraising, user group identification and testing, and revenue generation. It also uniquely shares business modalities for developing and scaling Open Source digital solutions.
Evidence of impact is vital to attracting further investment and enabling growth and scale. growth. Topics here include defining, measuring, and using data for driving greater social impact; how to create impact measurement plans using theory of change, performance- or results-based metrics, and translating data to insights for practical use.
Covers human-centered UI and UX design, predicting user behavior to create optimal experiences, creating user personas, and user journey mapping.
The Venture Fund identifies opportunities for the most promising and top-performing startups in its portfolio to be deployed by UNICEF in a range of applications and country settings for country office pilots, long-term agreements, and inclusion in the Global Innovation Portfolios.
Example of a recent pilot was one carried out in 2022 with UNICEF Nepal, the Nepalese government and local municipalities, and Fund graduate Rumsan for the implementation of a cash transfer project in a rural community. Using blockchain for cash and voucher assistance dramatically reduced the duration of cash transfers which conventionally take multiple days from beneficiary registration to actual payout. To date, 16 startup solutions have had deployments with UNICEF Country or Regional Offices.
Long-term agreements or LTAs are open for use by UNICEF offices and other UN agencies worldwide, with consequent contracts tailored to the specific needs of the requesting office. Companies that graduate from the Fund and are awarded with LTAs have proven that their solutions generate value for UNICEF’s programmes. To date 18 companies from the portfolio are on global LTAs with UNICEF.
UNICEF Global Innovation Portfolios, managed by the Office of Innovation, are curated sets of investments that focus on pressing challenges to accelerate results where UNICEF can achieve the greatest impact. This portfolio approach makes evidence-based decisions about which problems to tackle based on programme-led analysis of areas most in need of acceleration solutions through new or significantly improved interventions. Innovations are then assessed against key criteria to identify solutions best suited to solving these challenges, resulting in portfolios that enable UNICEF to balance resources between scaling up tried-and-tested solutions and developing nascent solutions from the early stages.
Technology solutions achieve greater results when they add value to and create efficiencies as a component of a larger system. A commitment to Open Source allows for collaboration at all levels of a company, and technology collaborations have been a hallmark of our portfolio companies. We’ve seen collaborations between startups within our portfolio, such as Weni and Somleng, Weni and Talk2U, and Kotani Pay and Treejer; as well as collaborations between our supported startups and more mature digital public goods such as RapidPro, which has collaborated with Weni and Somleng.
The Venture Fund leverages external events and its network of partners and potential investors to disseminate learnings from, for, and about the Fund's portfolio. In October 2022, the Venture Fund team and three founders from the newly graduated 2021 blockchain cohort attended DevCon in Bogota, Colombia to discuss real-world use cases of Open Source blockchain tech in social impact. In April this year, founders of two startups within the portfolio—Tilli, AI-powered gamified social-emotional learning for kids and Nubian VR, which provides WebXR localized learning content—attended the United Nations Youth Forum of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC Youth Forum) at UN HQ in New York to give recommendations and innovative ideas in preparation for the SDG Summit. The Fund works with the inhouse communications team to identify and create content around key moments in startups' investment journeys and amplify them with a global audience. Quarterly updates are also sent to portfolio companies (both alumni and active investees) to share cohort news and collaboration and funding opportunities in and outside UNICEF.