Why investors should support entrepreneurs with meaning

  • UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s open innovation platform, seeks innovative solutions to global problems as outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The challenge “Innovative funds for the future” is aimed at VC investors to scale these solutions beyond the exploratory phase into the growth phase.
  • The challenge’s long-term goal is to catalyze the rise of a new class of venture fund managers capable of creating innovative financing models adapted to the challenges of SDG entrepreneurs.

The world is rapidly running out of time to reach its net zero and sustainability goals. That’s why UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s open innovation platform, is targeting venture capital (VC) investors in its latest challenge to accelerate this transition.

UpLink was launched in 2020 to find innovative solutions to global problems as outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a competitive framework. Working with a variety of partners, UpLink develops and launches innovation competitions to attract high-quality submissions from entrepreneurial startups.

Our latest challenge, however, focuses not so much on the solutions themselves as on how to scale them. Our Innovative Funds for Our Future initiative is aimed at venture capitalists looking to invest against the backdrop of the SDGs, giving them access to a curated pool of global and successful entrepreneurs.

Business as usual will not help us to reach net zero

This is important as the investment community, which takes a business-as-usual approach, will not help us achieve the UN SDGs in the time horizon we hope. The funding and innovation needed to transition to a net-zero and sustainable world will only happen if we can accelerate these entrepreneurial ecosystems and support the most innovative SDG-focused funds.

Although the global SDG investment market more than tripled to $715 billion between 2017 and 2019, it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the more than $100 trillion in total assets under management. There is now only 50% of the technology needed to achieve net zero and other SDGs – making it much harder to meet the UN’s 2030 SDG goals.

When you think about the ecosystem around it, consider what kind of technology you need to support this transition. There may be startups working towards enabling this success, but will they be able to scale beyond the exploration phase into the growth phase?

In the meantime, there could be fund managers who are doing great work in sustainable aviation fuels, trying to do new things that may already have been successful in related industries, or have smaller funds looking to grow to the next level. How can we encourage and support them and lay the foundation for them to be successful in this area?

UpLink is looking for VC funds to invest in SDG focused startups

That’s why, in our latest challenge, UpLink is seeking venture capital funds to invest in portfolio companies focused on one or more of the following SDG areas: Conservation and Restoration, Oceans, Plastic Waste, Climate Action, Circular Economy, Water, Health, and/or Education .

Our goal is to select a diverse selection of VC funds from Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, Southeast Asia and South Asia. The criteria we look for includes funds with an innovative approach to funding and scaling SDG-focused entrepreneurs, ranging in size from $5M to $250M and a track record of delivering market interest rate returns for investors.

We will evaluate submissions based on factors including a fund’s investment history and track record of delivering market interest rate returns, the experience and diversity of its team, and innovative investment strategies in solving major roadblocks facing people and the planet.

The deadline for submissions is June 12, 2022. Up to 30 successful “Top Innovation Funds” will be selected by a selection committee made up of entrepreneurs, investment professionals, philanthropists, fund-of-funds managers and investors.

Top innovation funds receive privileged access

Select funds benefit from privileged access to a curated pool of global entrepreneurs; Recognition and credibility as a “Top Innovation Fund” by the World Economic Forum and UpLink, as well as visibility across Forum and UpLink’s digital channels with more than 30 million combined followers.

You will also have the opportunity to connect with investors, fund of funds managers and investment professionals; Access to select in-person and virtual forum and UpLink events, as well as co-investment opportunities with other top mutual funds.

Opportunity to develop innovative financing models

The Innovative Funds for our Future program is unique in that its long-term goal is to catalyze the rise of a new class of venture fund managers capable of creating innovative funding models adapted to the challenges faced Global SDG entrepreneurs are confronted with the scopes or regions in which they work.

UpLink is a digital platform for crowdsourcing innovation to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

It is an open platform intended to include anyone who wants to contribute to the global common good. The core objective is to connect the best innovators with networks of decision makers who can implement the change needed for the next decade. As a global platform, UpLink serves to collect and guide ideas and high-impact activities, and to make connections to increase impact.


Hosted by the World Economic Forum, UpLink is designed and developed in partnership with Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn.

It will highlight success stories from both the entrepreneurial and investing side to show how we can disrupt current policies and processes to help create a net zero and sustainable world where both people and planet thrive be able.

That’s why at UpLink’s newest challenge, we aim to go beyond just finding innovative funds to the our future, but create innovative funds from the future as we work together to reach net zero.

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