UNICEF Innovation Fund to Offer Equity-Free Seed Funding to AI and Data Science Startups

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The United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has opened up applications for its first 2019 cohort of data science and artificial intelligence (AI) startups.

This programme is geared towards tech startups using AI, Machine Learning or Data Science to build new, innovative and scalable solutions that respond to global problems.

Successful startups stand a chance of getting between $50,000 and $90,000 equity-free, early-stage seed investment. But to be selected, startups must already have a functional, open source prototype solution that does any of the following:

  • Apply deep learning to analyze satellite imagery and automatically map infrastructure such as schools, health centers, roads or cell towers.
  • Use digital footprints from sources like social media or mobility patterns to understand public spaces.
  • Explores ML/AI techniques to help us better understand the physical world that we live in and its rapidly changing environments.
  • Use data science and AI to understand the digital world that we live in.
  • Use data science, machine learning or artificial intelligence techniques to generate new insights from data.

To be eligible for application, startups must be resident in a Unicef programme country (Nigeria is one). The startups must also be willing to make their solutions open source.

Women-led startups are also encouraged to apply.

In addition to funding, successful startups will also be exposed to technical assistance from the UNICEF Ventures team to help validate and improve their solutions. They will also have access to mentors that will help them scale their business.

So far the innovation fund has made 72 investments in 42 countries and is looking to invest in 20 startups this year. Last month, the Unicef Innovation Fund announced 13 new investments in startups of up to $100 000. That particular cohort of startups included Lagos based virtual reality startup, Imisi 3D who received $95,000 in funding.

Applications are currently open till 28th February, 2019. Interested startups can click here to apply. Shortlisted startups will be contacted and then requested to submit a more in-depth proposal.


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