UNICEF Innovation Fund Selection Process
The UNICEF Innovation (Venture) Fund (‘Fund’) is a pooled funding vehicle that makes up to $100K equity-free investments, providing early stage (seed) finance to for-profit technology start-ups that benefit humanity.
On a regular basis, the Fund starts new, targeted outreach to identify companies working on a specific technology. These calls for applications have previously focused on blockchain, data science, artificial intelligence, drones and extended reality. The selection process takes about six months and allows the UNICEF team to perform all due diligence needed to fund the companies that fit the investment criteria (more on the criteria below).
The UNICEF Venture Fund selection process is divided into 6 stages:
Phase 1: Expression of interest (EOI) [6-8 weeks]
The selection process starts when we launch a call for applications where start-ups can submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) in line with the specific focus of the call (example of last call here). These submissions are guided by the REOIand submitted through the website www.unicefinnovationfund.org.
Key things to know:
Promotion: We utilize several communication channels to share our calls for applications, but the safest way to stay up to date on our different funding efforts is through our social media channels - take your pick, we have them all (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin)
Timeframe: After announcing a new deadline publicly, we normally give upto 6 weeks until a deadline (you’ll see our EOI form is open all year-long. That is because we accept applications on a rolling basis, but we will only review your application when the technology that you use is publicly announced to be under consideration).
Q&A: If you have questions about a call for applications, you can submit them through our site’s question form. We regularly check on the questions submitted and we post both the questions and answers received, through the Jotform or through e-mail, on our website through this link (this ensures everyone gets access to the same information).
Webinar: During the time the calls are open, we organize a webinar to explain the details of the new call. This is not only an informative resource but also a way for us to meet potential investees and relevant stakeholders, and respond to key questions (details of where and when are always shared on social media)
Phase 2: Expression of interest Review [2 weeks]
After the deadline, UNICEF reviews EOI applications to shortlist relevant candidates. This process takes approximately two weeks.
For more details about the selection criteria and key data points we consider within the EOI stage, read both the landing page of the call being advertised and the REOI.
Shortlisted companies are invited to submit a more in-depth proposal -- in UNICEF’s terms, a Request for Proposals for Services.
Phase 3: Request for Proposals (RFPS) [3 - 4 weeks]
We give the shortlisted start-ups 3-4 weeks to complete this proposal. The RFPS is an extended version of the EOI. Essentially our team wants to understand the details of your company, the prototype that you built, the solution you envision and the team (among other details).
After the deadline, UNICEF starts with the RFPS Review that consists of the technical review (see phase 4) and the financial review (see phase 5).
Phase 4: Technical Review [6 weeks]
The technical review process has two parts:
1. Proposal review:
Based on the submitted technical proposals, our team conducts another (more in-depth) review. After this assessment, selected companies are invited to a demo call.
2. Demo review:
The Demo interview happens online and lasts around 30 minutes. Demos are joined by a panel of UNICEF experts including relevant technology specialists and programmatic experts. Its purpose is to:
Verify the existence of the product/prototype
Assess the consistency of the product with the proposal submitted
Evaluate the composition and nature of interaction between team members
Assess the software / hardware development to date
After the demos, companies are evaluated under a scoring system once again and a final shortlist moves them on to the Financial review.
Phase 5: Financial Review [2-4 weeks]
At this stage, UNICEF does an internal assessment of the financial budget proposal. When needed, UNICEF seeks for additional clarification from the company. This assessment should allow us to evaluate if the project is reflected in the milestones, and these are aligned with the budget request.
Phase 6: Contract Signing [2-3 weeks]
The RFPS process results in the issuing of an institutional contract that contains UNICEF’s General Terms and Conditions and two annexes: 1) A funding agreement; and 2) The workplan and budget that outlines in more detail the deliverables and milestones for the funding period.
We know it’s a long process but if you are thinking about submitting a proposal, the effort is worth it! - to share from others who’ve successfully received UNICEF’s investment:
"The most interesting part of UNICEF’s due diligence process was that one of the templates we had to complete (the project plan). That list of milestones and activities allows entrepreneurs to think of their idea as a project with specific actions, budget and clear control points so not only it helped us frame our solution better but also we ended up using it as a base to review the projects that we fund through our platform (Circles of Angels)."
Marcio Degiovannini, Co-Founder, Atix Labs
“The value that the UNICEF Innovation Fund has added to Bothub goes well beyond funding. We have been assisted since the creation of Business Canvas to the practical application in market research and content creation.”
Ilhasoft, a Venture Fund graduate helping reach people in 50+ languages through inclusive AI Chatbot technology
"Applying is worth the effort mainly for the mentorship and network! Being able to say we were part of the UNICEF Innovation fund has also opened more opportunities for us to connect with an international market."
Stephanie Sy and Pia Faustino, Thinking Machines