Open call: Growth Stage Impact Venture for the SDGs

UNDP teams up with EPFL, Orange and SAP to pick top 12 entrepreneurs to change the landscape of health, energy and waste in developing countries

May 26, 2020

Geneva, 16 March 2020 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Orange and SAP launch the second edition of the Growth Stage Impact Ventures (GSIV) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative; aimed at identifying and showcasing mature impact ventures in emerging countries with the catalytic potential to drive both large impact and yield sustainable profit.

The top 12 nominated entrepreneurs will be invited to pitch their products and solutions at the SDG Finance Geneva Summit, scheduled to take place in the first quarter of 2021 during the Building Bridges Week and will get support to access strategic partners to scale up their venture.

The 2020 the Call for Nominations will only accept Post Series A impact ventures providing products and services which reduce inequalities (with particular attention to gender inequalities) by providing solutions that empower people at the bottom of the pyramid to access to quality health, affordable and clean energy, and by reducing and recovering waste.

Only ventures with headquarters, primary workforce and service provision or product market in developing countries will be eligible for the selection.


“We are delighted to support UNDP in its focus  on impact ventures that address the SDGs. Contrary to the multitude of awards and competitions targeting early stage start-ups, companies invited to GSIV have the potential to bring about rapid and positive change at scale, targeting in particular the bottom of the pyramid,” said Julia Binder, Project Leader of EPFL Tech4Impact.

UNDP calls for third parties (accelerators, impact funds, family offices, international organizations, etc.) to nominate from their own pipelines, up to 3 entrepreneurs which meet the eligibility criteria. Self nomination will not be accepted. The call will remain open till 15 July.

“The GSIV is a fantastic vehicle to identify top entrepreneurs with solid business models and impact track records from across the developing world. Finalists demonstrate the business case for the SDGs, even in the most difficult contexts and in sectors that are traditionally publicly funded. In a post Covid19 world in which investments decrease, supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries is a priority”, noted Sarah Bel, Manager of UNDP SDG Finance Geneva Summit.

A first screening of nominees will be carried out by EPFL  to shortlist  the top 20 enterprises. Finalists will then be reviewed by technical experts, investors and UN officials to select the top 12 finalists, who will attend the SDG Finance Geneva Summit, in 2021.

In 2019, 76 third-parties submitted 119 proposals from 40 developing countries. Eighty-five percent of the nominated ventures had raised at least half a million dollars at the time of nomination, and closed their Series A. All 12 finalists were mid-sized, with an average of up to 50 employees, annual revenue of over US$3 million, and with a cumulative impact on more than 15 million lives through their products and services. Full profiles are available here.

“As a corporate venture capital investor, it has been very exciting to be part of this selection process that puts the spotlight on active ventures which deliver social and environmental impact across their countries. The quality of the applications in 2019 is a great sign of hope with regard to this new generation of entrepreneurs”, added Gregoire de Padirac, Investment Manager, Orange Digital Ventures.

Each venture will be invited to attend a a preparatory workshop and to participate in the SDG Finance Geneva Summit, where they will have the opportunity to pitch to potential partners including investors, large corporates and international organizations.

The GSIV selection takes place within the framework of the SDG Finance Geneva Summit. The broader objective of the summit is to promote SDG compatible finance, showcasing emerging market examples of businesses that do well by doing good. By bringing together the unique ecosystem of development professionals, investors, development finance institutions, academia and entrepreneurs, UNDP aims to catalyze a shift of capital from mainstream finance to impact investing with a focus on addressing the SDGs.

The original press release is also available in French and Spanish at

For additional information, please contact:

Ms. Sarah Bel, Communications Specialist


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UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

EPFL is one of Europe's most vibrant and cosmopolitan science and technology institutions, located in Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva. Tech4Impact is EPFL’s sustainable impact initiative and the key instrument for enhancing the University’s social and environmental impact in research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

SAP is the world’s largest provider of  enterprise application software, serving more than 437,000 customers in more than 180 countries. SAP’s purpose it to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. With courage, perseverance, and breakthrough technology, SAP customers are tackling some of the world's biggest challenges.

The SAP Next-Gen program is a purpose driven innovation university and community for the SAP ecosystem enabling companies, partners and universities to connect and innovate with purpose linked to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Orange is one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 41 billion euros in 2018 and 149,000 employees worldwide at 31 March 2019, including 90,000 employees in France. The Group has a total customer base of 264 million customers worldwide at 31 March 2019, including 204 million mobile customers and 20 million fixed broadband customers. The Group is present in 27 countries. Orange is also a leading provider of global IT and telecommunication services to multinational companies, under the brand Orange Business Services. In March 2015, the Group presented its new strategic plan “Essentials2020” which places customer experience at the heart of its strategy with the aim of allowing them to benefit fully from the digital universe and the power of its new generation networks.

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