Disrupt Africa reported in January the UNICEF Innovation Fund was looking to back early-stage startups developing blockchain-based solutions with “the potential to benefit humanity”, and six companies from across the world have now been announced as recipients of up to US$100,000 equity-free funding.
One of them is Tunisian development studio Utopixar, which will use the funding to over the next 12 months deliver a social collaboration tool for communities and organisations to facilitate in participative decision-making and value transfer.
The other funded companies were Atix Labs (Argentina), Onesmart (Mexico), Prescrypto (Mexico), Statwig (India), and W3 Engineers (Bangladesh). They were selected from more than 100 applications across 50 countries, and join 20 other technology startups currently under management by the fund in fields such as machine learning, virtual reality, and drones.
“Blockchain technology is still at an early stage, and there is a great deal of experimentation, failure, and learning ahead of us as we see how, and where, we can use this technology to create a better world,” said Chris Fabian, principal adviser at UNICEF Innovation. “That’s exactly the stage when UNICEF Innovation Fund invests: when our financing, technical support, and focus on vulnerable populations can help a technology grow and mature in the most fair and equitable way possible.”
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.
In addition to funding the startups, the fund will also provide product and technology assistance, support with business growth, and access to a network of experts and partners. It 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.