UNICEF Innovation Fund
The UNICEF Innovation Fund provides up to $100K equity-free funding, tailored mentorship to grow open-source solutions and businesses, and access to UNICEF’s network. It provides early-stage funding and support to frontier technology solutions.
- Open source: The Innovation Fund invests exclusively in open source solutions. The Fund generates value by building open source IP and scalable digital public goods, strengthening communities of problem solvers, and growing solutions that bring results for children and the world.
- Equity-free: The Innovation Fund provides value that can be measured and counted in real-time. They recognize it’s much less important to see direct (and individual) cash flow – and much more important to see communities of problem solvers creating global digital public goods that can be repurposed, adapted, and scaled across a wide range of partners’ needs. They achieve this by gaining access to open-source intellectual property, and the communities we are creating around the products we invest in.
- Smart investing: The Fund launched the Smart Investing initiative to invest in a diverse portfolio of startups from 2019 onwards. Through Smart Investing, they commit to improving diversity, so that half of the new portfolio of startup companies we bring in every year has a female lead. In the longer term, their goal is to grow the share of female-led companies in our overall portfolio from 30% to 50%.
- Impact: The Fund monitors the progress of each investment in real-time. They measure progress on two different levels. First, aggregated metrics for all portfolio companies tracking the sustainability of the business and the technology developed. Second, the social impact which is specific to the context and the type of solution that the startup is building.
- UNICEF’s Innovation Fund invests 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. Our ambition is to build successful digital solutions into Global Digital Public Goods, to ensure fair, equitable, and open access to these unique and new tools for human development on a global scale.
- The UNICEF Innovation Fund is the first financial vehicle of its kind in the United Nations and enables UNICEF to learn from and shape markets of emerging technology that exist at the intersection of $100 billion business markets and 1 billion persons’ needs.
All companies of the portfolio receive tailored support for product development, building a business model, and user testing based on their own needs assessment. Startups also gain access to the UNICEF 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.
- Business growth: A network of mentors helps startup teams develop their business model and strategy around open-source technology, to grow their company and ultimately profit.
Funding: It provides up to $100K equity-free funding to open source frontier tech solutions showing promising results. 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.