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500 Startups, WEF and WHO Call on Global Startups to Solve COVID-19 Challenges

Following our inaugural ImpactAim Indonesia Demo Day last November with the UNDP, the World Economic Forum’s Tanah Sullivan shared with us an ambitious new project at the WEF called UpLink. Its goal: to crowdsource innovations in order to accelerate the delivery of U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Those range from providing affordable clean energy to climate action and gender equality. 

Were we interested in helping? Yes. We don’t label ourselves impact investors, but we are in a sense accidental impact investors. 500 Startups has made investments in more than 2,400 companies in over 75 countries, and many of our portfolio companies are contributing, knowingly or not, to SDGs. We had the expertise and know-how to help an elite institution select the right startups. 

Fast forward to March, when the entire world crossed the threshold of a disastrous pandemic. UpLink took on more urgency and a new focus. A third partner at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19, the World Health Organization, agreed to join, and the UpLink COVID-19 Sprint was born.  

In August, an all-star panel of investors and WEF members will select a cohort of up to 10 tech-driven startups. The first Uplink Innovators Cohort will be announced at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit in September 2020.

Here are the issues COVID-19 Sprint is looking to address: 

1- Prepare, Prevent and Detect:

  • Scenario forecasting and risk analysis
  • Social capital and community trust platforms
  • Early warning, emergency response and resilience tools
  • Supply chain management/ logistics
  • Adherence tracking
  • Digital biomarkers
  • eTriage
  • Personal symptoms/ health tracking
  • Contact-tracing
  • Heat maps

2- Respond and Deliver:

  • Laboratory/diagnostics imaging management
  • Remote prescription and medication management
  • Remote care, telemedicine, physician connectivity
  • R&D treatment and testing options
  • Urgent/ emergency care (non-COVID19-related)
  • Digital imaging support

3- Recover and Rebuild:

  • Urban landscape development (mobility solutions, infrastructure development, IoT solutions)
  • Global supply chain innovation (blockchain solutions, manufacturing and production localization)
  • Protecting nature conservation and ensuring environmental sustainability against future crises 
  • Small business financing and long-term investment strategies
  • Digital support for re-opening of the economy
  • Resilience building (digital coaching/ therapy/mental health support for people most affected by COVID-19)
  • Job creation and re-skilling

500 Startups is mobilizing its network to find top founders for this challenge. WHO will deploy the new technologies through its response efforts. WEF’s network of influencers and decision-makers will take part in the selection process, connect founders with potential corporate partners and help amplify their stories. 

If you’re up to the challenge, we’d like to hear from you by July 19. Learn more here.

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