On the 18th of August Astana Hub and techpreneurs held 2 sessions: info session with startup teams and another Speed Networking event with our guest speaker – Chris Fabian, co-founder of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit. He currently runs UNICEF’s Ventures and is looking for open source technology startups to invest in.
The first session gathered startup teams to learn more about UNICEF Ventures opportunities. “6 years ago when I first started working with UNICEF, I had no idea it was $5.5 billion company represented in 135 countries” says Chris.
“Although, UNICEF is run under an old system of bureaucracy, our unit has the innovative approach with all the startup people working in it”
Chris is visiting Kazakhstan for the first time, and in couple of days he is flying to Kyrgyzstan. This trip around the region has 2 goals:
- He is looking for startup projects that are both: making good impact on the society as a whole and making money
- He wanted to get a sense of what kind of projects are being executed here in the region
Chris also shared a 3 step-secret of how they choose projects to invest in.
Number 1: Team. It has to have brain diversity. So the team would be able to take into account all the possible perspectives in the future development
Number 2: Product. It has to have a space in the market. For that, market testing must be done; for that, a minimum viable product must be built
Number 3: Discussion. The management team has to disagree whether to fund this project. Based on the previous experiences, when the management 100% agrees on investing, the startups are not successful. After the team agrees on investing startups, they do tranche based funding of about $100000
Even though they follow these 3 steps in choosing a project, “our success rate is very low” says Chris.
“Our expectations are that 10% of the invested projects would succeed”
UNICEF invests in early stage projects, thus they take the higher risks. On the second round of investment, when their partners step in, the risks are reduced. UNICEF Ventures operate as a tool to try and analyze the future of the startups. Chris himself has founded 8 companies, of which one was very good, the other one okay and the rest were a total disaster.
“There is no guarantee of success and knowing this helps us accept the failure and move one”
Every 2 months UNICEF calls for specific startups, e.g today they need blockchain related project, in 2 months they will call for machine learning based startups. “You can apply any time, but your project will be reviewed within the call time for your type of startup” shared Chris.
*You may review all the projects in real time here*
Speed Networking started from a brief introduction of Chris Fabian and was continued by Q&A session with our speaker. After that our guests had a chance to network with 20 other participants of the event. As per usual, each pair had 3 minutes to introduce each other and what they do. When it was my turn to talk to Chris, he shared:
“The startup-ecosystem in Kazakhstan is very similar to the one in Egypt and in the Middle East region”
Overall, the events were very informative for both Chris Fabian and our guests. We hope these sessions will bring on new collaborations and inspire creation of new projects.
Full interview with Chris Fabian will be uploaded on the website soon.