The U.N.-backed vaccine program is so far behind schedule that not even 10 percent of the population in poor countries is fully vaccinated, experts say.
The U.N.-backed vaccine program is so far behind schedule that not even 10 percent of the population in poor countries is fully vaccinated, experts say.
Just 20 percent of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries have received a first Covid-19 vaccine dose — compared to 80 percent in high-and upper-middle income countries.
The president will urge nations to take on more ambitious climate targets. But as of late Thursday night, it was unclear if China had agreed to attend the virtual meeting.
On a trip through India, Mr. Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, said the global climate summit must be held in November despite concerns about the pandemic.
The international community pledged more than $1 billion in emergency funding as Afghans already unsure of where their next meal will come from risk running out of food just as winter sets in.
Unlike the annual meeting last year, conducted almost entirely virtually because of pandemic restrictions, the United Nations is expecting leaders from at least 83 countries to speak in person.
Governments of the two countries have been toppled by pariah regimes. Will they get seats at the world’s biggest diplomatic table anyway?
The activities at the sprawling nuclear complex in Yongbyon suggest that the country is once again ramping up its nuclear weapons program.
The Taliban will be under pressure to keep a fragile economy afloat.
Millions will be funneled to impoverished families under an agreement reached by the United Nations and Qatar, a step forward in firming up a cease-fire with Israel.
While the militants appear firmly in control, some prominent figures vowed to continue resistance as protests erupted in two cities and millions of Afghans parsed clues about the Taliban’s intentions.
Some devastating impacts of global warming are now unavoidable, a major new scientific report finds. But there is still a short window to stop things from getting even worse.
The future of technology is determined by a handful of venture capitalists. The world’s 10 leading venture capital firms have, together, invested over $150 billion in technology startups. The venture capitalists who run these firms decide which startups today will develop the new platforms and technologies that will shape our lives tomorrow.
There is a startling lack of diversity within the venture capital sector. This means that a small group of men — mostly white men — make decisions that affect all of us. Unsurprisingly, they all too often ignore the broader societal and human rights implications of these investment decisions.
We all live in a world shaped by venture capital. As of 2019, 81% of all venture capital funds worldwide are clustered in just a handful of countries, primarily in the U.S., Europe and China, which in turn are shaping the future of technology. If you spend time on Facebook or Twitter, use Google, travel in an Uber or stay in an Airbnb, then you’ve experienced firsthand the impact of venture capital funding.
Venture capital firms, which provide equity financing for early- and growth-stage startups, play a critical gatekeeper role, deciding which new technologies and technology companies will receive funding.
Venture capital firms need to institute human rights due diligence processes that meet the standards set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
All businesses — including venture capital — have a responsibility to respect human rights. In order to ensure that their investments are not undermining our human rights, it is therefore critical for venture capital firms to conduct due diligence processes before making investments.
Amnesty International recently surveyed the world’s largest venture capital firms and startup accelerators. Of the world’s 10 largest venture capital firms, not a single one had an adequate human rights due diligence process that met the standards set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Unfortunately, this is true of the broader venture capital sector as well. Overall, of the 50 VC firms and three startup accelerators analyzed by Amnesty International, we found that almost all of them lacked adequate human rights due diligence policies and processes.
This failure to carry out adequate due diligence means that a vast majority of VC firms are failing in their responsibility to respect human rights.
This almost complete lack of respect for human rights among the world’s largest venture capital firms has three key impacts. First, and most immediately, it means that venture capital firms invest in companies whose products and services have been implicated in ongoing human rights abuses, such as companies that provide support to the Chinese government’s repression of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang and across China.
Second, it means that venture capital firms continue to fund companies whose business models have a significant negative impact on human rights, including our privacy and labor rights. For instance, leading venture capital firms continue to support companies that rely on app-based or “gig” workers, who often face exploitative or otherwise abusive work conditions, as well as companies whose “surveillance capitalism” business model undermines our right to privacy.
Third, the lack of human rights due diligence by venture capital firms dramatically increases the risk that they fund new and “frontier” technologies without ensuring that adequate human rights safeguards are in place.
For instance, the application of increasingly powerful artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) tools across a wide variety of sectors risks amplifying existing societal biases and discrimination. Seemingly objective algorithms can be biased by reliance on incomplete or unrepresentative training data, and/or by replicating the unconscious bias of those who developed the algorithms.
This is a critical blind spot, especially as VC-funded startups seek to disrupt such fundamental parts of our lives as education, finance and health.
The negative impacts of the VC firms’ lack of human rights due diligence — especially regarding issues like algorithmic bias — are magnified by these firms’ own lack of gender and racial diversity. For instance, women comprise only 23% of venture capital investment professionals (i.e., those involved in deciding which startups to fund).
The numbers are even worse when it comes to racial diversity — just 4% of investment professionals at VC firms in the U.S. are Latinx, and only 4% are Black. Groups like Blck VC, Diversity VC and digitalundivided have been calling attention to this issue for years, but venture capitalists have been slow to respond so far.
This lack of diversity is mirrored in the gender and racial composition of founders who receive VC funding. In 2018, all-female founding teams received just 2.2% of all U.S.-based venture funding. At the same time, Black and Latinx founders received less than 2.3% of all U.S.-based venture capital funding in 2019.
With power comes responsibility. Venture capital firms need to institute human rights due diligence processes that meet the standards set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Further, they should provide support to their portfolio companies to ensure that they comply with human rights standards. Venture capital firms should also publicly commit to hiring more diverse teams, especially in investment-related positions. Finally, they should publicly commit to funding more diverse startup founders as part of their flagship funds.
VC firms have a responsibility to ensure that their investments are not causing harm. A responsibility that they have, to date, largely ignored.
It’s not too late to enjoy an epic pitch-off of global proportion. The Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Global Finals start today, July 22 at 9:00 am (PT). Register here for free, get instant access and tune in to see seven phenomenal startups — each one tackling some of the world’s most daunting social and environmental challenges.
The day also includes a keynote address from Beth Bechdol, the deputy director-general, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and five panel discussions ranging from powering clean energy startups to going green. Here are just two examples, and be sure to check out the event agenda so you don’t miss a minute.
Powering the Future Through Transformative Tech: XTC’s co-founders Young Sohn, Chairman of the Board at HARMAN International, and founding Managing Partner at Walden Catalyst, and Bill Tai, Partner Emeritus at Charles River Ventures jump into the breakthrough tech innovations that are transforming industries to build a radically better world. How can business, government, philanthropy, and the startup community come together to create a better tomorrow? Hear from these industry veterans and thought leaders about how technology can not only shape the future, but also where the biggest opportunities lie, including some exciting news about XTC and the FAO of the United Nations.
Cutting Out Carbon Emitters with Bioengineering: Bioengineering may soon provide compelling, low-carbon alternatives in industries where even the best methods produce significant emissions. By utilizing natural and engineered biological processes, we may soon have low-carbon textiles from Algiknit, lab-grown premium meats from Orbillion and fuels captured from waste emissions via LanzaTech. Leaders from these companies will join our panel to talk about how bioengineering can do its part in the fight against climate change.
The main event is, of course, the pitch competition. More than 3,700 startups applied, and these are the seven finalists who will compete one last time for the title of XTC 2021 champion.
- AgTech & FoodTech: Wasteless
- CleanTech & Energy: Mining and Process Solutions
- EdTech: Testmaster
- Enabling Tech: Dot Inc.
- FinTech: Hillridge Technology
- HealthTech: Genetika+
- Mobility & Smart Cities: Fotokite
In addition to choosing the winner of XTC 2021, the esteemed judges will announce the winners of the COVID-19 Innovation award, the Female Founder award, the Ethical AI award and the People’s Choice award.
Get ready for a startup throwdown of global proportions (literally). We’re the proud hosts of the Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) Global Finals, and the pitch competition action starts tomorrow, July 22 at 9:00 am (PT).
Pro housekeeping tip: Attending this virtual pitch fest is 100 percent free, but you need to register here first.
Not familiar with XTC? It’s the world’s largest pitch competition focused on solving humanity’s most vexing challenges. You gotta love a competition that serves the greater good — and a startup ecosystem for purpose-driven companies determined to build a more sustainable, equitable, healthy, inclusive and prosperous world.
The road to the XTC finals was crowded to say the least. More than 3,700 startups from 92 countries applied to compete in one of these categories: Agtech, Food & Water, Cleantech & Energy, Edtech, Enabling Tech, Fintech, Healthtech and Mobility & Smart Cities.
Talk about a daunting endeavor. Team XTC, which consisted of deeply experienced investors, entrepreneurs and executives, winnowed down that field to these seven competing finalists: Wasteless, Mining and Process Solutions, Testmaster, Dot Inc., Hillridge Technology, Genetika+ and Fotokite.
Tomorrow’s competition takes place in two rounds, and each startup team will have to bring its best if they hope to impress this panel of judges — all leaders in sustainability and social-impact.
Young Sohn, co-founder, XTC and chairman at Harmann International; Bill Tai, co-founder, XTC and Partner Emeritus, Charles River Ventures; Regina Dugan, president and CEO of Wellcome Leap; Jerry Yang, founder/partner of AME Cloud Ventures and co-founder of Yahoo!; Lars Reger, CTO and EVP at NXP Semiconductors; and Michael Zeisser, managing partner at FMZ Ventures.
In a classic, “but wait, there’s more” moment, the day also features several presentations from some of the leading voices in sustainability. Take a look at the two examples below, and check out the complete XTC finals agenda and the roster of speakers.
The Keynote Address: Tune in as Beth Bechdol, the deputy director-general at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, provides an update on the latest from her agency.
Waste Matters: According to the EPA, the U.S. alone produces 292.4 million tons of waste a year. Can technology help this massive – and growing – issue? Leon Farrant (Green Li-Ion), Matanya Horowitz (AMP Robotics), and Elizabeth Gilligan (Material Evolution) will discuss their companies’ unique approaches to dealing with the problem.
Many in the island had come to believe that the dictatorship would be eternal, that our only options were to flee or to remain silent. But the silence has been broken.
Carbon tracking is very much the new hot thing in tech, and we’ve previously covered more generalist startups doing this at scale for companies, such as Plan A Earth out of Berlin.
But there’s clearly an opportunity to get deep into a vertical sector and tailor solutions to it.
That’s the plan of Vaayu, a carbon tracking platform aimed specifically at retailers. It has now raised $1.57 million in pre-seed funding in a funding round led by CapitalT. Several Angels also took part, including Atomico’s Angel Program, Planet Positive LP, Saarbrücker 21, Expedite Ventures, and NP-Hard Ventures.
Carbon tracking for the retail fashion industry, in particular, is urgently needed. Unfortunately, the fashion industry remains responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, which ads up to more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Vaayu says it integrates with various point-of-sale systems, such as Shopify and Webflow. It then pulls in data on logistics, operations, and packaging to monitor, measure, and reduce their carbon emissions. Normally, retailers calculate emissions once a year, which is obviously far less accurate.
Vaayu was founded in 2020 by Namrata Sandhu (CEO) former Head of Sustainability at fashion retailer Zalando, as well as Anita Daminov (CPO) and Luca Schmid (CTO). Vaayu currently has 25 global brand customers, including Missoma, Armed Angels, and Organic Basics.
Commenting on the fundraise, Namrata Sandhu, CEO, Vaayu, said: “We have only nine short years left to achieve the UN’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and as the third-largest contributor to global emissions, retailers need to take action – and fast. Vaayu is here to help retailers measure, monitor, and reduce their carbon footprint at scale across the entire supply chain – something that I know from my own experience can be complex and expensive.
Speaking to me over a call, Sandhu told me: “Putting the focus on retail basically allows us to automate the calculation, which means in three clicks you can get your carbon footprint right away. That then allows us to really accurate data, and with that, we can basically do reductions specific to the business but using software, rather than any kind of manual intervention or a kind of ‘intermediate’ state where you need to put together an Excel sheet. Because we focus on retail we can automate the entire process and also automate the reductions.”
“We are delighted to be backed by female-led CapitalT who understood us and our vision right from the start. We look forward to developing Vaayu further in the coming months so we can reach as many retailers as possible and help put the brakes on the impending climate crisis,” she added.
Janneke Niessen, founding partner, CapitalT commented: “We are very excited to join Vaayu on their mission to reduce carbon emission for retailers worldwide. The Vaayu product is very scalable and its quick and easy implementation allows for fast adoption. We are confident that with this experienced team, Vaayu will soon be one of the fastest-growing climate tech companies in Europe and the world.”
Other countries have faced similar challenges, often with poor results, from protracted limbo to, in the worst cases, civil war.
Pentagon officials noted that the request was broad and did not specify the number or types of forces needed.
Intellectuals, activists and others say the country needs to find a solution on its own, and that international intervention has damaged their country.
Despite the interim prime minister’s claim that he is in charge after the president’s assassination, a volatile political situation poses yet another challenge to democracies in the Western Hemisphere.
This year, TechCrunch is proudly hosting the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22. The event is among the world’s largest purpose-driven startup competitions that are aiming to solve global challenges based on the United Nations’ 17 sustainability goals.
If you want to catch an array of innovative startups across a range of categories, all of them showcasing what they’re building, you won’t want to miss our must-see pitch-off competition.
You can also catch feature panels hosted by TechCrunch editors, including one of the most highly anticipated discussions of the event, a talk on “going green” with guest speakers Shilpi Kumar, Jenny Rooke, and Albert Wenger, all of whom are actively investing in climate startups that are targeting big opportunities
Shilpi Kumar is a partner with Urban Us, an investment platform focused on urban tech and climate solutions. She previously led go-to-market and early sales efforts at Filament, a startup focused on deploying secure wireless networks for connected physical assets. As an investor, Shilpi has also focused on hardware, mobility, energy, IoT, and robotics, having worked previously for VTF Capital, First Round Capital, and Village Global.
Jenny Rooke is the founder and managing director of Genoa Ventures, but Rooke has been deploying capital into innovative life sciences opportunities for years, including at Fidelity Biosciences and later the Gates Foundation, where she helped managed more than $250 million in funding, funneling some of that capital into genetic engineering, diagnostics, and synthetic biology startups. Rooke began independently investing under the brand 5 Prime Ventures, ultimately establishing among the largest life sciences syndicates on AngelList before launching Genoa.
Last but not least, Albert Wenger, has been a managing partner at Union Square Ventures for more than 13 years. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor, including writing early checks to Etsy and Tumblr. He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Among his investments today is goTenna, a company trying to advance universal access to connectivity by building a scalable mobile mesh network.
Sustainability is the key to our planet’s future and our survival, but it’s also going to be incredibly lucrative and a major piece of our world economy. Hear from these seasoned investors about how VCs and startups alike are thinking about Greentech and how that will evolve in the coming years.
Join us on July 22 to find out how the most innovative startups are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And best of all, tickets are free — book yours today!
It was the first time in the three decades of the tribunal’s history that officials in the wartime Serbian government were found guilty of playing a role in atrocities in neighboring countries.
The report draws on evidence from 60 countries and urges nations to take action to root out systemic racism against people of African descent.
The restoration is seen as essential to the idea that the Iraqi city has moved on from ISIS. But some critics say the plan betrays Iraq’s heritage.
The generals who seized power five months ago have shown no inclination to heed international pleas to reverse themselves, even as Myanmar slides into a failed state.
Islands like the Bahamas are paying the price for wealthier nations’ emissions — an injustice crying out for a global remedy.
The country turned down an American offer to resume negotiations “without preconditions,” as President Biden’s envoy visited the region.
A resolution adopted Friday by the General Assembly is the most widespread condemnation yet of the Feb. 1 coup, a sharp diplomatic slap that contradicted the junta’s claim it has not been isolated.
The exchanges on Thursday and into Friday stopped short of a full-scale escalation, but they underscored the fragile nature of the cease-fire that ended last month’s war.
Foreign diplomats worked to calm tensions on Wednesday after the first armed exchange between Hamas and Israel since an 11-day air war in May.
Chesley B. Sullenberger III, who gained fame as the pilot who safely landed a plane in the Hudson River, was among President Biden’s long-awaited first slate of ambassadors.
A photographic journey shows how ‘Bibi’ put his stamp on Israel — through his toughness and the search for security in an unstable region.
Since the February coup, many physicians have refused to work at state-run hospitals. “I will never blame the doctors,” said a patient whose treatment stopped.
The $16.2 million was drawn from Iranian money in a Korean bank that had been frozen by U.S. sanctions but was freed to pay the dues — apparently a conciliatory signal by the Biden administration.
United Nations agencies said the crisis in Ethiopia’s conflict-ravaged Tigray region had plunged it into famine. “This is going to get a lot worse,” a top aid official said.
Even with U.N.’s previous goals unmet, delegates tried to water down provisions regarding protections for vulnerable populations and patents for essential drugs.
In a memoir, the former secretary general said the United Nations should have done far more to combat a cholera scourge traced to peacekeepers. But he also criticized Haitian leaders.
The law is the latest in a series of hard-line measures that have been introduced in recent years to discourage migration.
Mount Nyiragongo exploded on May 22, leaving hundreds of thousands of displaced people amid threats of new disasters.
Days after a deadly eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Democratic Republic of Congo, the threat of another eruption forced the evacuation of much of the city of Goma.
The top humanitarian official at the United Nations warned that parts of Tigray are one step from famine, as the government hinders relief shipments.
Interactio, a remote interpretation platform whose customers include massive institutions like the United Nations, European Commission and Parliament along with corporates like BMW, JP Morgan and Microsoft, has closed a whopping $30 million Series A after usage of its tools grew 12x between 2019 and 2020 as demand for online meeting platforms surged during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Series A funding is led by Eight Roads Ventures and Silicon Valley-based Storm Ventures, along with participation from Practica Capital, Notion Capital, as well as notable angels such as Jaan Tallinn, the co-founder of Skype, and Young Sohn, ex-chief strategy officer of Samsung.
The Vilnius, Lithuania-based startup offers digital tools to connect meetings with certified interpreters who carry out real-time interpretation to bridge language divides between participants. It does also offer a video conferencing platform which its customers can use to run remote meetings but will happily integrate with thirty party software like Zoom, Webex etc. (Last year it says its digital tools were used alongside 43 different video streaming platforms.)
Interactio’s interpreters can be in the room where the meeting is taking place or doing the real-time interpretation entirely remotely by watching and listening to a stream of the meeting. (Or, indeed, it can support a mix of remote and on-site interpretation, if a client wishes.)
It can also supply all the interpreters for a meeting — and it touts a strict vetting procedure for onboarding certified interpreters to its platform — or else it will provide training to a customer’s interpreters on the use of its tools to ensure things run smoothly on the day.
At present, Interactio says it works with 1,000+ freelance interpreters, as well as touting “strong relations with interpretation agencies” — claiming it can easily quadruple the pool of available interpreters to step up to meet rising demand.
It offers its customers interpretation in any language — and in an unlimited number of languages per event. And last year it says it hosted 18,000+ meetings with 390,000 listeners spread across more than 70 countries.
Now, flush with a huge Series A, Interactio is gearing up for a future filled with increasing numbers of multi-lingual online meetings — as the coronavirus continues to inject friction into business travel.
“When we started, our biggest competition was simultaneous interpretation hardware for on-site interpretation. At that time, we were on the mission to fully replace it with our software that required zero additional hardware for attendees besides their phone and headphones. However, for institutions, which became our primary focus, hybrid meetings are the key, so we started partnering with simultaneous interpretation hardware manufacturers and integrators by working together on hybrid events, where participants use hardware on-site, and online participants use us,” a spokeswoman told us.
“This is how we differentiate ourselves from other platforms — by offering a fully hybrid solution, that can be integrated with hardware on-site basically via one cable.”
“Moreover, when we look at the market trends, we still see Zoom as the most used solution, so we compliment it by offering professional interpretation solutions,” she added.
A focus on customer support is another tactic that Interactio says it relies upon to stand out — and its iOS and Android apps do have high ratings on aggregate. (Albeit, there are bunch of historical complaints mixed in suggesting it’s had issues scaling its service to large audiences in the past, as well as sporadic problems with things like audio quality over the years.)
While already profitable, the 2014-founded startup says the Series A will be used to step on the gas to continue to meet the accelerated demand and exponential growth it’s seen during the remote work boom.
Specifically, the funds will go on enhancing its tech and UX/UI — with a focus on ensuring ease of access/simplicity for those needing to access interpretation, and also on upgrading the tools it provides to interpreters (so they have “the best working conditions from their chosen place of work”).
It will also be spending to expand its client base — and is especially seeking to onboard more corporates and other types of customers. (“Last year’s focus was and still is institutions (e.g. European Commission, European Parliament, United Nations), where there is no place for an error and they need the most professional solution. The next step will be to expand our client base to corporate clients and a larger public that needs interpretation,” it told us.)
The new funding will also be used to expand the size of its team to support those goals, including growing the number of qualified interpreters it works with so it can keep pace with rising demand.
While major institutions like the UN are never going to be tempted to skimp on the quality of translation provided to diplomats and politicians by not using human interpreters (either on premise or working remotely), there may be a limit on how far professional real-time translation can scale given the availability of real-time machine translation technology — which offers a cheap alternative to support more basic meeting scenarios, such as between two professionals having an informal meeting.
Google, for example, offers a real-time translator mode that’s accessible to users of its smartphone platform via the Google voice assistant AI. Hardware startups are also trying to target real-time translation. The dream of a real-life AI-powered ‘Babel Fish’ remains strong.
Nonetheless, such efforts aren’t well suited to supporting meetings and conferences at scale — where having a centralized delivery service that’s also responsible for troubleshooting any audio quality or other issues which may arise looks essential.
And while machine translation has undoubtedly got a lot better over the years (albeit performance can vary, depending on the languages involved) there is still a risk that key details could be lost in translation if/when the machine gets it wrong. So offering highly scalable human translation via a digital platform looks like a safe bet as the world gets accustomed to more remote work (and less globetrotting) being the new normal.
“AI-driven translation is a great tool when you need a quick solution and are willing to sacrifice the quality,” says Interactio when we ask about this. “Our clients are large corporations and institutions, therefore, any kind of misunderstanding can be crucial. Here, the translation is not about saying a word in a different language, it’s about giving the meaning and communicating a context via interpretation.
“We strongly believe that only humans can understand the true context and meaning of conversations, where sometimes a tone of voice, an emotion and a figure speech can make a huge difference, that is unnoticed by a machine.”
The town of Lydda posed an early test of how the Israeli state would treat Palestinians. It is a legacy playing out today in violence between Jews and Arabs in Lod, as it’s now known.
President Biden’s top diplomat said the United States would uphold international rules and “push back forcefully” against those who don’t, a sharp contrast to the Trump years.
Significant hurdles remain. But it was an optimistic signal by the Biden administration that an American return to the accord between Iran and world powers could be within reach.
Police are now stopping random people on the streets. A group of secret informers has reappeared. The killings continue, but so does the resistance.
Donors around the world are giving money for meals, medical expenses, P.P.E. and oxygen tanks, among other essential supplies. Here’s how you can help.
Positive Ventures, a Sao Paulo-based venture firm, has secured $10 million for its latest fund.
Positive Ventures has raised the capital from an impressive list of LPs including investor Luis Stuhlberger, founding partner of Verde Asset Management and Cândido Bracher, former chairman and CEO of Itaú-Unibanco, Brazil’s largest bank.
The Brazilian venture firm’s self-described mission is to “invest in startups where every dollar of revenue is also delivering environmental or social impact.”
I spoke with co-founder and co-CEO Fabio Kestenbaum who emphasized the importance of such an investment strategy in a country like Brazil that has had its share of corruption over the years. (Kestenbaum co-founded the firm with Andrea Oliveira and Bruna Constantino.
Positive Ventures prides itself on being guided by the United Nations as part of its Global Compact initiative. It also has a top tier B Impact Score, meaning as a B Corp. that makes impact part of its core strategy, it’s doing pretty darn good.
The firm’s sweet spot is early-stage — Seed and Series A — ventures “that can deliver outsized impact and financial return,” according to Kestenbaum. Its average investment size is $500,000, but the firm can go up to $1.5 million in follow-on rounds.
Positive Ventures seeks to back impact-oriented early-stage companies “building breakthrough solutions to tackle massive challenges related to inequality and climate change.”
Partner and CIO Murilo Johas Menezes is based out of the Bay Area and leads the firm’s offshore strategy and investments in companies.
Positive Ventures is sector agnostic but keeps three impact megatrends in mind when sourcing deals:
- Planetary Boundaries, such as recycling, carbon, sustainable systems
- Social Resilience, such as financial services, credit, workforce upskilling and
- Institutional Voids, focused on emerging economies’ most pressing challenges such as education, health and rising technologies.
“If you want to bring private capital to the game to help address social and environmental challenges, we have to reward this capital,” Kestenbaum told me in a previous interview. “As such, we recognize that we have to invest in good businesses that can provide financial returns as well.”So far, Positive Ventures has backed five companies from its new fund.
One of its first investments, Labi Exames, went on to become a “yardstick for fighting Covid in Brazil,” Kestenbaum said, by delivering a fair-priced and quality alternative to test millions of uninsured low-income families in vulnerable communities.
Another portfolio company, Labi, helped support companies in reopening safely by continually testing their workforce.
“This hybrid value proposition made Labi the most admired health tech in Brazil and resulted in MRR growth beyond 600%, accelerating their Series B, which will happen in the upcoming months,” Kestenbuam noted.
Another cornerstone investment for Positive Ventures was Slang, an AI-driven app to challenge the English illiteracy in Latin America backed by Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital and Mexico’s AllVP.
“Less than 3% of Brazilians speak English with proficiency, and such a void hammers their chances to get a decent job and improve income,” Kestenbau said. “The same happens in all LATAM’s countries.”
Positive Ventures recently went on to close its largest investment thus far — in Provi, a B-Certified fintech providing education-driven loans to enable upskilling and employability for LATAM’s workforce, starting in Brazil. The company’s mission is to revolutionize education by delivering hassle-free and impact-oriented credit.
Provi has pioneered income-share agreements (ISAs) in the region and already generated over $30 million in credit, most of which will go toward technology and healthcare courses.
Next up for Positive Ventures is a $30 million growth fund.