The venture arm of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a global agency that provides humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, has announced its latest round of investments today.
Seven tech companies in six countries across the world, including Kenya, Argentina, India, Mexico, Rwanda, and Nepal, are recipients. Each company will receive up to $100,000 in seed funding, with five companies electing to receive a portion of this in Ethereum.
“Supporting female-led companies is ‘smart investing’ and more important than ever as we accelerate our efforts to support underrepresented communities. We’re thrilled that this new cohort of investments is composed of a strong group of companies, of which the majority are female-led,” shared UNICEF Ventures Lead Sunita Grote in a statement.
She added, “COVID-19 has impacted children and their communities, and many around the world will continue to see their lives disrupted significantly. We can see how important inclusive and affordable digital solutions are, including those that open access to financial systems and services.”
Digital Public Goods are needed to solve the challenges children face today, which the UNICEF supports startups creating and piloting new open-source solutions and leveraging frontier technology.
The majority of the startups are developing pathways to financial inclusion – decentralized decision-making tools, loan and investment services for unserved communities, and remittances and community currencies – which is especially important in the face of COVID-19 economic hardships and the compounding impacts on education, social protection, and healthcare.
Who receives what and where?
The UNICEF Venture Fund is investing in the following companies, five of which are female-led teams:
Xcapit, a company in Argentina, is developing a gamified savings application. Their solution enables low- and lower-middle-income families to improve their economic situation through easy access to financial services.
Somish Blockchain Labs, a company in India, is working on a protocol for decentralized governance with a flexible toolkit to governance models for decentralized applications (dApps). The product, called GovBlocks, essentially creates decision-making structures for Decentralized Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) and allows for the exploration of how to engage communities in decision making. They are one of five female-led startups in the cohort.
BX Smart Labs, a company in Mexico, is developing a decentralized app for saving circles. Savings circles run by small groups of relatives, friends, or neighbors are a common practice worldwide and provide a way for people to loan and save money even when they can’t access traditional banking and credit card accounts. They are one of five female-led startups in the cohort.
Leaf Global Fintech, a company in Rwanda, is creating a lending platform and virtual bank. They’re working on a low-tech solution to open new pathways for those without internet access to connect to banks and other roadblocks. Over 6,000 transactions have already taken place on the platform. They are one of five female-led startups in the cohort.
Rumsan, a company in Nepal, is developing a Digital Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) management system that uses mobile-based blockchain tokens, ensuring faster fund transfers to beneficiaries, even those in the most hard-to-reach areas. They are one of five female-led startups in the cohort.
Grassroots Economics, a company in Kenya, is developing a digital token platform. It is an open-source pan-African response and recovery relief platform that allows aid workers and fragile communities to receive payments digitally, create and trade digital tokens, remotely track KPIs, and access risk communications.
KotaniPay, another company in Kenya, is developing a platform for transfers/remittance, savings, withdrawals, loans, and payments. It serves as a frictionless bridge between cryptocurrency and fiat currencies and enables users to access the blockchain via USD.