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On the back of a USD 17.9 Mn Innovation Fund for its larger blockchain explorations of smart-contracts use, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has invested in 6 additional blockchain startups, among which is Tunisia’s Utopixar who received seed funding upto USD 100 K.
The initiative, which comes months after publishing a “blockchain call” to startups that could benefit humanity and expected to complete their projects in 2019, is being facilitated through the UNICEF Office of Innovation. With the venture fund shedding the limelight on frontier technologies such as data science, machine learning, drones, and blockchain, so far, 33 startups from 23 countries have benefited from the investments. The organization looks to improving the projects’ organizational efficiencies, creating distributed decision-making processes and working to build knowledge and understanding of the distributed ledger-technology both in the United Nations and UNICEF countries.
Utoxpiar is a blockchain startup that delivers social collaboration tools for communities and organizations to facilitate participative decision-making and value transfer. The startup has secured this investment as it is among the companies selected by UNICEF from developing and emerging economies to leverage blockchain technology to solve global challenges.
The other projects benefiting from the funds are Atix Labs (Argentina), Onesmart (Mexico), Statwig (India), W3 Engineers (Bangladesh) and Prescrypto (Mexico).
Atix Labs will develop a platform for SMEs to access funds while creating traceability and Onesmart will be addressing misappropriation of funds in emerging markets with its prototype application’s scale.
Prescrypto will provide a digital solution to the lack of electronic prescriptions in developing countries leveraging a platform that allows medical service providers to view a patient’s common history and improve care level.
Statwig will be using blockchain-provided solutions to ensure efficiency in the delivery of vaccines through an enhanced supply-chain management system. Last but not least, W3 Engineers is tasked with the improvement of connectivity within the refugee and migrant communities through an offline mobile networking platform without the use of SIM cards and internet connection.
Principal Advisor of UNICEF, Chris Fabian, told Forbes that the initiative functions in semblance to a VC fund, except that the organization is exclusively investing in companies in emerging markets – companies with humanitarian service embedded into its operations. Fabian further revealed that the funds were provided to back open source companies that can be combined during the investment period.
Despite blockchain still being in its infancy, Fabian reports that the goal of the fund is to explore the potential of the technology, both in new businesses and emerging markets as part of UNICEF’s operations. Since the organization spends billions on vaccines every year, it envisages that blockchain may bring about an improvement to the procurement process and eventually be integrated into parts UNICEF’s more extensive networks.
Innovation Fund Manager, Sunita Grote, in a statement, divulged that the initiative was on the lookout for projects based in the 190 countries where UNICEF operates, that had interests in making their technology open source. The projects also had to have at least an early prototype that is valuable. The fund also targeted projects with teams that reflect gender and other kinds of diversity which UNICEF stands for.
Added to the seed funding, thee six startups will be given access to the United Nations’ network of experts, partners, and mentors while being able to receive assistance to secure another investment round to scale operations. UNICEF has partnered Gates Foundations and other funders to make it easier for companies to gain tractions after the Fund’s investment period is over. All six startups will convene in New York City for a workshop in January.
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