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Accelerator Case Studies

UNICEF Kazakhstan & Astana Hub (Supported as an add-on for the startup)​

How did they begin to support DPGs? –UNICEF Kazakhstan & Astana Hub​

As part of the work with UNICEF’s Giga aligned with MOU between UNICEF Kazakhstan and Ministry of digital development, innovations and aerospace industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Astana Hub (Accelerator) was idetified as a best candidate to carry out the DPG work reflected in the workplan between UNICEF Kazakhstan and the Ministry of education and science of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Stakeholders involved – UNICEF Kazakhstan & Astana Hub​

  • UNICEF Kazakhstan: The Innovation Officer that has been working for 2-3 years primarily in the education space with online content and working with the Giga initiative in Kazakhstan. Including setting up the programme documentation, and tracking results and activities.

  • Astana Hub (Accelerator) - This quasi-government organization was the accelerator implementation partner which is an international technology park for IT startups with a main function to create an enabling environment for free development of Kazakh and foreign technology companies governed by the Digital Kazakhstan 2018-2025 state strategy.

    • For example, 5000 startups have to bring in investment funding as the digital strategic programme objectives of Astana Hub, and UNICEF's objective is helping startups grow from the idea to product stage with support from technological partners.

    • Kazakhstan positions itself as an innovation hub for the Central Asia region. In 2017, Kazakhstan joined the global digitalization movement with the launch of the Digital Kazakhstan strategic program. The Kazakhstan Government, through its Digital Program intends to create the needed infrastructure, talent, and ecosystem to promote digitalization of the economy. Implementing digital solutions to digitize government and business is key to its success. Also, transforming the IT sector to become a net exporter of technology will be a game changer. The program is aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the Kazakhstani economy and improving quality of life through the progressive development of the digital ecosystem in the country. The 5 priority areas for the implementation of the program include: digitalization of the economy, proactive digital government, development of digital infrastructure, development of a creative society and the development of human capital, creation of an innovation ecosystem. The digital government agenda aims to improve the efficiency and accessibility of government services. This entails transforming the policy making process through data analysis and technology (using open / big data for predictive analytics); new ways of involving citizens (principles of open government, including open legislation, open budget, etc.); digitalization of public service delivery (paperless and digital services by default, integrated information systems); and the smart cities initiative. Kazakhstan aims to benefit both from existing DPGs to accelerate the digitization of the economy and by using or creating its own DPGs and positioning them for other countries. Digital public goods can be leveraged for Kazakhstan and multiple countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

    • Last year, Digital Education Lab hosted an acceleration program. There were 38 startups with support of Astana Hub, whereby 4 of them were selected for seed funding, and 2 of them were selected to move forward with their DPG nomination.

Conducted a DPG needs assessment– UNICEF Kazakhstan & Astana Hub​

UNICEF Kazakhstan conducted a DPG needs assessment to identify gaps that can be solved with digital public goods (DPGs), identifying which solutions are already in place or to be developed. The result was a curated database of information that can be leveraged to close these gaps.

They also analyzed how the existing DPGs in Kazakhstan can be scaled to grow to other countries and used more widely and analyzed government capabilities to create, adopt, procure, and maintain opensource software for government. The main outcomes of the needs assessment will be reflected in joint plans with relevant ministries for 2022 after the validation of the research at the Giga steering committee level this year.

The main observations are grouped by priority areas of the needs assessment including areas such as digital economy and transformation; accessibility and inclusion; employment opportunities and skills; digital health services; and education.

Funding Allocation – UNICEF Kazakhstan & Astana Hub​

  1. Incentivized $3000 USD per startup. One of them used blockchain technology and required more funding at $1000. There was also an investment of $2000 USD into another startup.

  2. Astana Hub directly funds the startups, this is in agreement with UNICEF where UNICEF funds the accelerator as an implementation partner and the accelerator funds the startup.

Recruitment & Awareness– UNICEF Kazakhstan & Astana Hub​

  1. Recruitment: This has been the most challenging because startups initially against open source may see making their code open source as a set back, and are very protective of their IP. UNICEF shared the opportunity to become a DPG, unlocking the opportunity to scale their project to other countries as well.

  2. Public Awareness: Conducted a series of webinars to get to know DPGs and open source inclusive business models, which shared other startup DPG stories on how they went open source and became DPGs. They engaged Microsoft to share their experiences on making inclusive products for children. In total they plan to have 7 webinars.

UNICEF's Venture Fund – startup portfolio experience (Standalone Program)​​

Compiled Resources

  1. Startup Needs Assessment

  2. Onboarding package

  3. Venture Fund Structure & Technical Assistance Overview

  4. Venture Fund 12 months milestones

  5. Sample Startup 12 months milestones

Structure of Program – GenU Cohort​

The Venture Fund startup investment programme is based on milestones that the project sets at the very beginning with the portfolio manager for a duration of 12 months. There is some negotiation with the portfolio company on adding product feature milestones to the contract as well.

Firstly, it is important to conduct a needs assessment which will help build the strategy to identify areas where the programme can best support the startup. You can view a sample needs assessment here.

You can view the Venture Fund's 12 month milestones and Sample Startup's Milestones.

6 months milestone requirements:​

  1. Verification that source code is available (on GitHub)

  2. Verification that an OSI-approved license (or comparable) is distributed with the source code

  3. This should be set up as a separate file titled in the root folder of the project

12 months contractual requirements:​

  1. 80% unit test coverage in its final form must be completed by the end of the investment cycle.

    • Test coverage must be managed in some way through a CI integrated pipeline (such as coveralls).
  2. A thorough and well-organized README that includes:

    • How developers can get started developing (how to clone the repository, create a branch, install, copy a database)
    • Dev environment, prerequisites, and instructions on local configuration/set-up
    • Details about how the open source community can engage
  3. Deployment Instructions that include how and where the software is hosted. This includes: 

    • Source code for the application layer, well-documented instructions for setting up multiple components and deploying docker images, and any necessary drivers. Corresponding GitHub repository link should be included for each component used in deployment.

    • If the product includes both software and hardware, please include photos/drawings, written instructions, other explanations for completing software setup/installation on the hardware.

  4. Verification that source code is available (on Github or similar).

  5. Verification that a free or open source license is distributed with the source code.

  6. Signed affidavit: 

    • In the case of original work: of copyright ownership; or

    • In the case of derivative work: signed statement of facts of copyright for the modifications and links/copies of the original work and its license.

Learnings - Structure of Program​

6 months milestone check-in learnings 

  • It's a health check-in with the companies on a product standpoint to understand where their pilot or product development is currently at.
  • If you are planning to split the funding across phases based on a contract, at 6 months, it is also a good contractual check-in to see if they will be able to receive the next phase of funding and ask for clarifications on any of the upcoming milestones.
  • Request a live demo, as well as conduct a code review to get a good sense of what they’ve built and where they are at.
  • Important to discuss the DPG process: realized some teams had no documentation at all. Some teams didn't have the data protection mechanisms in place. These should be emphasized at the beginning – from an open source standpoint.

12 months milestone check-in learnings

  • If the startup is not yet gaining revenue, push for product features and documentation milestones.
  • Open Source Challenges - Around the development of building an open source contributor community. As this is quite difficult, the team loses the momentum of going open source.

Support Offered​

Subject Matter Experts

Through past experience, mentors who are subject matter experts are a strong source of support for startups, namely, early-stage startups. They communicate lessons learned and pass on their knowledge, failures and successes, ultimately making the startup more lean, decisive and swift in taking action. UNICEF Innovation has the ability to identify subject matter experts as “mentors”. We have a strong network of internal and external mentors we can connect you with if/when required.

Technical Support includes: Mobile & IoT, Blockchain, Machine Learning, Virtual & Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Drones, Hardware, Alternative and Augmentative Communication.

Tailored One-to-one Mentorship Program

In addition to the Subject Matter Experts, as part of their journey with the UNICEF Venture Fund, they will also be offered access to our tailored one-to-one mentoring program with both a business and open source mentor.

The business mentorship program will take place over 3-5 months and will concentrate on topics such as your value proposition, competition map, stakeholder map, sales & activities, pricing and business models, growth plan, financial projections, and metrics.

The open source mentorship program will offer support in the areas of licensing, repository development in line with the principles of developing in the open, and open source community engagement.

Virtual and In-person Workshops

Over the course of the investment, the UNICEF Venture Fund will invite the startups to a series of Virtual Workshops, providing the teams access to mentors, training, and resources and the opportunity to network and meet with the other startups in your cohort, the UNICEF Innovation team, and industry experts.

The Venture Fund team also hosts an in-person workshop closer to the graduation milestone from the Venture Fund.

Data Networks and Platforms

Core to the investment strategy of the Fund is to build cohorts and scalable platforms of solutions. Startups can leverage UNICEF Ventures’ dedicated technical teams, which hosts and shares data platforms including:

  • Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridors: located in Malawi, Kazakhstan and Sierra Leone for testing use cases across transportation of medical supplies, vaccines and collection of imagery and machine learning applications, as well as emergency situations.
  • Magic Box​: UNICEF’s big data platform Magic Box is active in six countries with applications in epidemic responses, mapping schools and measuring poverty.​
  • Project Connect​: Mapping school connectivity globally and eliminating the digital divide, increasing opportunity for every community. ​
  • RapidPro: Collects data via short message service (SMS) and other communication channels to enable real-time data collection and mass-communication with target end-users, including beneficiaries and frontline workers. ​
  • UNICEF Country Offices​: UNICEF Country Offices have also been instrumental in both providing and leveraging local networks to provide portfolio companies access to relevant data sets.

Mentorship and Technical Assistance (TA)​

Portfolio companies are offered access to tailored one-to-one mentoring programs with both a business and open-source mentor.

Topics Covered Agile Scrum • Value proposition • Competition Map • Stakeholder map • Sales & activities •Pricing and Business Models • Growth plan • Financial projections • Metrics • Investor Mapping​Licensing • Repository Development in line with the principles of developing in the open, • Open source community engagement.​
Duration​4-6 Months​4-6 Months​
Mentor/​ Startup Interaction Frequency​Bi-Monthly​Bi-Monthly or Monthly (Depending on the stage of the program)​
Resources (Please see most updated resources in the provided in the other section of the guide)​Business Mentorship Curriculum, Pitch Deck Template​, 2-Pager Solution PitchUNICEF Open Source Guidelines​, FOSS project success criteria​, Milestone Roadmap - master template​, Mission Statement Guide​ , Grading Rubrics​ , Open Source Reading List​, Contributor Stakeholder Mapping Exercise​

Learnings - Mentorship & Technical Assistance​


  • Lesson
    • Companies requested that business mentorship commence earlier in the programme​
    • Programmatic mentors (Health, WASH, ECD, etc.) add instrumental feedback to companies development​
  • The way forward
    • Commence business mentorship immediately after Quarter 1 of the investment​
    • When applicable, include programmatic divisions as mentors

Follow-on Support

  • Lesson
    • Demo Days have historically seen a low turnout and lack of follow-on traction​
    • Companies require additional resources for follow-on support, post graduation​
    • Not all companies are prepared for follow-on funding immediately after graduation
  • The way forward
    • Reformat the structure of Demo Days. i.e.,  organize according to region rather than technology area​
    • Incorporate  guidance and resources for Investor Mapping ​
    • Consider alternative pathways for scaling the portfolio companies, i.e., Country Office Deployment ​

Follow on support​

Previously, the team had a bi-annual check-in on the teams metrics after the programme ended. UNICEF also kept track of the startup's dashboard to see metrics such as revenue growth, capital raised and how they're progressing from a team standpoint. Now, there will be a dedicated person on the team to help streamline and support these companies once the programme finishes.

Follow on support Learnings : It's important to connect with the local UNICEF CO and understand their programmatic needs in order to connect the portfolio companies and see there is progress on

ING Fintech Cohort (Standalone Program)​

How did this program start?

ING & UNICEF have a joint global partnership. For this specific program, ING and UNICEF have found an opportunity to identify market-based fintech solutions that can close service gaps, reduce financial barriers to skills training, and help young people rise out of poverty. It took about one year of a conversation between ING & UNICEF before the programme was ready to launch.


Main Objectives of the Pilot Program – ING Fintech Cohort​

  1. Social Impact: Make a profound impact on (local) communities via startups and entrepreneurs that the investment program supports

  2. Partnership Value: Demonstrate that working together delivers compelling additional value to both parties

  3. Business Case: Make an impact by collaborating and investing effectively

Funding: ING and ARM have both contributed US$200,000 for a total of $400,000 in funding.

Results to be achieved:

  1. Positive evaluation on working together by UNICEF and ING

  2. Ability to raise graduation investment by startups

  3. Post-investment financial growth financial growth performance of startups

  4. 500K+ young people and mothers impacted positively by the start-ups in the year after investments

  5. Possibility to scale solution / technology to other markets

Scope of Program – ING Fintech Cohort​

  • Geography; focus on a country where UNICEF and ING are active, specifically the Philippines

  • Stage; startups seeking seed funding with a grant of up to USD $100K

  • Target Group; focus on technology that positively impacts mothers, children and young people up to the age of 24

  • Technology; frontier tech companies with a technology that can be used to solve financial challenges

  • Problem domain; start-ups that address financial and banking challenges across the SDGs

Sourcing & Startup Selection Criteria - ING Fintech Cohort​

General Eligibility Criteria:​

  • You must be registered as a private company in a UNICEF programme country.
  • You should have a focus on the Philippines; companies with products who intend to enter the Philippines market may be considered.
  • You are working on open source technology solutions or willing to be opensource under the following licenses or their equivalent: (i) for software, a GNU General Public license, MIT or BSD; (ii) for hardware, a CERN, MIT or TAPR open license and; (iii) for design or content, a CC-BY license.
  • You have an existing prototype of the solution with promising results from initial pilots.
  • Your solution has the potential to positively impact the lives of families, children or young people.

Areas of startup focus:

  • Financial Services: Can we increase access to banking and other financial services by making it easier and simpler to access appropriate products and services, particularly for youth and marginalized communities?

  • Credit: Are there applications of technology that could responsibly increase access for young entrepreneurs or parents to loans for education and skills development?

  • Insurance: Can frontier technology allow access to insurance, particularly in disaster-prone areas?

  • Transparency: Can we use blockchain or smart contracts to improve on existing financial mechanisms? Can we use financial data to help solve humanitarian or social challenges?

  • Financial education: Can we use new technologies that employ games, or “nudges” and incentives to promote positive financial decision making, and improve financial skills? Can virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR) be used in the design of innovative learning experiences (financial education, math, etc.), to reach more marginalized groups, including children and youth with disabilities?

Sourcing & Startup Selection Criteria Learnings:​

  • Had 40 applications, which is above average understanding that there is a double niche to find startups working on Fintech and willing to go open source.
  • Most of the lead developers on the startup teams were convinced, but harder to convince the teams, and outside developers.
  • Most challenging was to shift the culture within the entire leadership of startups to go open source, many were mainly interested because of the funding.
  • Do a landscape survey of open source businesses, to scan for open source developer communities, and source the startups from there.

Stakeholders involved - ING Fintech Cohort​

  1. IdeaSpace (Accelerator): is a non-profit organization running founder-focused programs for early-stage tech startup founders solving emerging market issues. They worked on providing local networks and connections to the startup ecosystem, mentorship, and co-working space for the startups. This accelerator work was contracted out by UNICEF.

  2. UNICEF Innovation Fund (Fintech Program Lead): provided the coordination of various stakeholders on the program and supported the start-ups through equity-free investments of up to US$100K. UNICEF's Venture Fund also provided technical mentorship to the cohort.

  3. ING (Funding & Mentorship): Group is a Dutch multinational banking and financial services corporation. They worked with UNICEF by having their employees involved with the mentorship aspect of the program.

  4. ARM (Funding): Since 2015, UNICEF and ARM have been seeking to unlock the life-saving potential of technology by discovering and inspiring new technologies to solve the most complex problem facing the world's children, now and in the future.

  5. UNICEF Philippines (Local Support): Had local consultant to help with the outreach to ecosystem stakeholders and callout for applications.

Value Drivers for the Stakeholders – ING Fintech Cohort​

Viable for ING

  • At the end of the pilot program at least one start-up is sufficiently valuable to ING for a follow-up business partnership or additional investment in the start-up by ING
  • In-country delivery of at least 5 employees with core knowledge/expertise
  • Global/Regional delivery of at least 5 employees with core knowledge/expertise
  • Via joint communications and PR to reach 10 million people – brand value for ING in the Philippines, Asia, and/or global.

Viable for UNICEF

  • AAt least 1-2 solutions picked up by UNICEF country offices for further piloting / scaling
  • Benefit from ING's insights and expertise in assessing start-ups from a number of perspectives, including from a business, financial, technical and end-user point of view
  • Brand value to UNICEF of jointly advertise the programme project

Stakeholder Management Learnings - ING Fintech Cohort​

  1. Have someone in the Country Office (CO) level (in country) who has experience with UNICEF's Venture Fund to make the programmatic link. It would be great to connect with someone in the CO who has T4D (Technology for Development) or Innovation Officers who advise and run this with an accelerator directly.

  2. When searching for partners, ideally it would be great to have pro-open source support, rather than neutrality, i.e., those that are excited about opensource solutions (particularly their team members who could be technical open source mentors and developers that could contribute to project code).

Mentorship Engagement – ING Fintech Cohort​

  • Kicked off through a meet and greet with ING, UNICEF Philippines and IdeaSpace and the startups.

  • Each startup had the same business mentors and technical mentor once a month (usually meeting with the lead developer and founder). Met at least 8 times in the 12 month programme.

  • Engagement style:

    • Mentors could engage from low touch expert pool (I.e., Delivering on Data session) and high touch (I.e., ING Innovation Lab members wanted to be hands on and involved in all meetings).
    • Followed a standard goal oriented series of steps with a rigorous structure for the mentors to keep the startups on track.
  • IdeaSpace: Hosted workshops on product design and other resources from their curriculum, with a follow individual appointments with these mentors.

  • ING: helped the startups navigate the regulatory environment in Fintech.

Structure & Timeline – ING Fintech Cohort​

  • Duration: 12 months program

  • Design & Launch: 2 months (Jan-Feb)

  • Promote, Launch, Event: 1 month (Mar-Apr)

  • Application Review & Contracting: 2 months (Early May)

  • Program kicks off and mentorship support begins: 1 year (May 2020 – May 2021) with interim report halfway through

Structure & Timeline Learning : Main challenge is that startups are struggling with their workplan to get their open source requirements with other competing business priorities.

Pedagogy & Curriculum – ING Fintech Cohort​

See the visual timeline here.

Development Phase 1 (Months 1-6)​

  • Onboarding: Needs Assessment with Entrepreneurs
  • Curriculum Focus & Support: Prototyping, Development, User Testing, Iteration, Business Model Development, Open Source Licensing Support

Review & Evaluation of Progress (Month 6)

Development Phase 2 (Months 7-12)​

  • Follow-on Funding Discussion: Development, User Testing, Iteration, Deployment, User & Customer Acquisition, Open Source Community Engagement


  • Review & evaluation of progress

  • Demo Day

  • Follow-on Support

Sample Curriculum Topic: 9 Principles of Digital Development​

  1. Design with the User: User-centered design starts with getting to know the people you are designing for through conversation, observation, and co-creation.

  2. Understand the Existing Ecosystem: Well-designed initiatives and digital tools consider the particular structures and needs that exist in each country, region, and community.

  3. Design for Scale: Achieving scale requires adoption beyond an initiative’s pilot population and often necessitates securing funding or partners that take the initiative to new communities or regions.

  4. Build for Sustainability: Building sustainable programs, platforms, and digital tools is essential to maintain user and stakeholder support, as well as to maximize long-term impact.

  5. Be Data Driven: When an initiative is data driven, quality information is available to the right people when they need it, and they are using those data to take action.

  6. Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation: An open approach to digital development can help to increase collaboration in the digital development community and avoid duplicating work that has already been done.

  7. Reuse and Improve: Reusing and improving is about taking the work of the global development community further than any organization or program can do alone.

  8. Address Privacy & Security: Addressing privacy and security in digital development involves careful consideration of which data are collected and how data are acquired, used, stored, and shared.

  9. Be Collaborative: Being collaborative mean sharing information, insights, strategies, and resources across projects, organizations, and sectors, leading to increased efficiency and impact.

Pedagogy & Curriculum Learnings:​

  • In Q4, startup are still working on their Q3 milestones, particularly on the open source aspect. Many of the startups came in with a low understanding of open source, this was the largest part of learning for the incoming cohort.

  • Many of the startups came in with a low understanding of open source, this was the largest part of learning for the incoming cohort.

DPG Support – ING Fintech Cohort​

  • DPG support: At the beginning of the cohort, the organizing team did not have details yet in mind about supporting startups to DPG status, it was more about going open source first, and did a DPG introduction presentation in Q3 of the program.

  • DPG Support Learnings:

    • Startups need to see the motivation of getting to DPG status and hear about it from other founders
    • Only 3 out of 7 applied for DPG nominations.

Follow up support – ING Fintech Cohort​

As this program became a pilot, it was difficult to find support. The program team is looking for Country Offices to potentially support the companies and direct them to apply to the Venture Fund. There is also potential to connect the startups to ING's Singapore Innovation Lab for mentorship or network support.