17 Founder Institute Portfolio Companies Helping Meet the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals
These 17 Founder Institute portfolio companies are building solutions that support achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The world around us is changing, and not necessarily for the better. Challenges like climate change, poverty, and inequality continue to impact the planet and harm communities. In 2022, humanity was still recovering from COVID-19, and on top of that, the war in Ukraine started, which created new problems.
Fortunately, there are hardworking and passionate people around the globe tackling obstacles head-on. The United Nations, working alongside private companies, startups, NGOs, and governments, has set a framework for reaching 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
To better illustrate the importance of the UN SDG initiative, we highlight 17 companies, each building solutions that get us closer to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are especially proud to note that all these companies rising to the occasion are from Founder Institute’s portfolio.
Goal 1: No Poverty
According to UN data, one in ten people in developing nations still live with their families on less than $1.90 per day. Millions of people worldwide fall in or around this income amount, and it is estimated that the ongoing crises have led to an additional 75–95 million people living in extreme poverty in 2022, compared with pre-pandemic projections.
In just over ten years, the Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty in its entirety, which is defined by persons living on less than $1.25 per day. In addition, the No Poverty Goal encompasses loftier components such as equal rights to economic resources for the poor.
San Diego Founder Institute graduates Renee Zau and Darryl Rettig co-founded DonationMatch. The startup is a cause-based platform that connects companies with nonprofits seeking item donations for silent auctions, raffles, and giveaways. To date, the company has facilitated $127.7 million in donations, helping to fuel nonprofit missions around the world, while at the same time assisting businesses to reduce waste and achieve donation goals through impactful organizations that match their values.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Currently, one in nine people in the world (~828 million) is considered undernourished, with the majority in developing countries. The Zero Hunger Goal seeks to change this by eradicating all forms of hunger by 2030. This includes bringing more sustainable food production systems and technologies into the fold, doubling the output and income of small-scale food producers, and ensuring sufficient genetic diversity is preserved in staple crop seeds.
Sergio Ballester is the founder and CEO of Indigo Drones, a Costa Rica Founder Institute portfolio company that provides aerial informatics support to farmers. The specialized drones offer mapping and crop monitoring services, which help farmers to improve yields, reduce waste, and minimize the overuse of fertilizers. These efforts are particularly useful in tropical areas where waste and fertilizers can cause damage to farming. For Ballester’s efforts, MIT Technology Review recognized him as an Innovator Under 35.
Goal 3: Good Health & Well-Being
Not every couple who wants to is able to easily conceive a child. After delivery, we also now understand the health factors that most contribute to childhood mortality. Fortunately, the number of childhood deaths is declining; however, more than five million children still die before their fifth birthday each year. The Good Health and Well-Being Goal focuses on reducing these numbers to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030, in addition to putting an end to all preventable deaths due to disease.
Katherine Bicknell and William Sacks are co-founders of the New York Founder Institute portfolio company Kindara, a fertility and digital health startup launched to make a difference in the lives of women and couples trying to conceive. After raising more than $8 million to help provide women with the tools, knowledge, and support to better understand their fertility, the company was acquired in 2018 by Prima-Temp. Kindara offers one of the most popular fertility apps on the market, with over 1.5 million downloads, which pairs with Wink, a Bluetooth-connected thermometer that helps seamlessly track fertility data with greater ease and accuracy, leading to healthier pregnancy outcomes.
Goal 4: Quality Education
The United States is divided by rampant inequality in public education. Around the world, though, there is a much more staggering educational disparity, with 57 million primary-aged children that are not even attending school. Besides, more than half of those children live in conflict-impacted areas, which blocks their school access. The Quality Education Goal is designed to “ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.” This includes providing opportunities to people at a disadvantage and underrepresented groups.
In 2014, Kostas Karolemeas founded FI Athens-based AllCanCode. This startup was designed for both kids and adult learners. Users create adventure games for web and mobile apps that teach them how to code and build professional skills along the way. In today’s world, education doesn’t have to be provided through traditional institutions, and private entities such as AllCanCode are supplying innovative educational models in a focused, mobile-accessible form.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
According to the UN, 650 million women and girls alive today, were married off before the age of 18, and at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have been subjected to female genital mutilation. Among these numbers are 18 countries that allow husbands to legally prevent their wives from working and 49 countries without laws protecting women from domestic violence.
At the start of 2022, the global share of women in lower and single houses of national parliaments reached 26.2%, up from 22.4% in 2015.At this pace, it would take another 40 years for women and men to be represented equally in national parliaments.
The General Equality Goal is intended to end all forms of violence against women and girls in both public and private spheres. This includes preventing all sex trafficking as well as other forms of exploitation, such as forced childhood marriage.
Santiago Founder Institute portfolio company Girltank was formed in 2012 with a similar purpose in mind - to make entrepreneurship more inclusive to women. The founder, Tara Roberts, discovered through her travels a great need to network and support women across international lines, so she developed Girltank as a community hub and a storytelling platform. Today her startup aims at removing inequalities by building more female-owned businesses.
Goal 6: Water & Sanitation
People need access to clean drinking water and acceptable forms of sanitation. Only seven in ten people have safe drinking water, and six in ten lack proper sanitation facilities. Thankfully, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76% to 90%. The Water and Sanitation Goal seeks to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.
Watsan Envirotech, founded by J Chandrasekaran, is a Chennai Founder Institute portfolio company focusing on water sanitation. The startup’s primary goal is to provide water and sanitary solutions to rural communities and urban slums. This is fulfilled by manufacturing, selling, and distributing cheap, effective, and non-electric water filters designed for families and individuals.
Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy
According to the UN, 13% of the world's population cannot access modern electricity. Another 3 billion rely on resources such as wood and coal to cook and heat their homes, which produces harmful airborne pollutants. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are already changing our climate and will have substantially more drastic effects in just a few decades. The Affordable and Clean Energy Goal is designed to create access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy.
Energyly is a portfolio startup of the Bangalore Founder Institute, and was founded by Dayal Nathan. The startup focuses on energy analytics, helping specifically targeted industries, businesses, and homes reduce energy costs. Energyly invented an advanced visualization engine that provides end users with real-time energy monitoring that drives savings by combining engaging imagery and context-rich real-time data.
Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth
The way people work is changing, and AI and other technologies will replace many existing jobs over the next decade. Although the global unemployment rate In 2021 declined slightly to 6.2%, 61% of workers are involved in some form of informal employment. The Decent Work and Economic Growth Goal is meant to foster sustainable and equitable economic growth for all workers. This means achieving “higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading, and innovation, including a focus on high-value added and labor-intensive sectors.”
In 2013, Viola Llewellyn co-founded Ovamba as a Johannesburg Founder Institute graduate. Ovamba’s mission is to support central African economies by improving access to credits for small and medium-sized enterprises. This startup is not just delivering financial access and capital markets to more businesses of that range, but is also giving them the tools to invest in their own futures and grow.
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, Infrastructure
There are many parts of the world that still lack access to mobile broadband networks (14% of the population), and infrastructure places an outsized economic constraint on developing countries. The Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure SDG is about building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation across the globe. The key emphasis is on developing reliable and sustainable infrastructural solutions that support economic development and human well-being while ensuring financial affordability.
Pure electric cars produce no carbon dioxide emissions. However, charging such vehicles is often a challenge. Founded by former Tesla engineers, Founder Institute Silicon Valley graduate company Orange Charger provides an affordable way to scale charging at multi-unit properties while building a sustainable, reliable grid. We are delighted to share that Orange Charger has a big reason to celebrate this year as it just closed its $2.5M pre-seed round.
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
Goal 5 focuses on Gender Inequalities, and Goal 10 broadens the scope to all forms of inequality experienced within and among counties and economic divides. Most of the rich world relies on the labor of developing nations to manufacture clothing and technology consumer products. Still, due to structural income inequalities, underdeveloped countries consistently miss out on many economic benefits. The Reduced Inequalities Goal counteracts all forms of inequalities, especially for those individuals negatively impacted due to their age, sex, disability, ethnicity, or religion.
SevaExchange is a Silicon Valley Founder Institute portfolio company and B-corp founded by Anitha Beberg. The startup offers a platform using AI and blockchain technology to galvanize global volunteerism by reinventing time-banking services for the modern digital economy. Through localized adoption, this technology-enabled time-banking currency can function as a form of proto-UBI (universal basic income), incentivizing the kinds of work that are too often undervalued by other economic measures. As a result, SevaExchange creates greater equity in the process.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities
According to statistics from 2020, more than 1 billion people live in slums or informal settlements, with Central and Southern Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 85% of them. Besides, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people annually, causing environmental damage and climate change.
The Sustainable Cities and Communities goal is to ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, including basic services like water sanitation and transportation.
Founded by Danny Adams, GoFar is a Sydney Founder Institute portfolio company that helps cut vehicle emissions and improve driver safety. Through its unique app and in-car device, GoFar provides drivers with real-time feedback to help reduce fuel consumption and improve safety on the road by teaching them good driving habits. The product can also help organizations operating vehicle fleets train their drivers to drive safely and efficiently.
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production
Current levels of rich-world consumption, are unsustainable from a climate standpoint. The developed world needs to lead the way by reinventing many of its industries, to decrease the carbon impact and the material waste costs associated with many facets now considered normal in modern life - from fossil fuels and packaging to agricultural phosphorous. if available energy, clean air, and clean water are rights that humanity intends to pass onto future generations, the developed world must aggressively support its transitions towards greener energy and increasingly closed-circle product lifecycles.
The Responsible Consumption and Production Goal is an idealistic one, outlining a long-term framework. The plan is to reduce food waste drastically, begin making more environmentally sound decisions, and encourage companies to adopt increasingly sustainable practices in all forms of their business.
Founder Institute Montreal graduate Moduly is an environmentally responsible business that reduces the use of electricity from fossil resources and utilizes that from renewable sources. Moduly’s founders call their business ‘the Lego of intelligent energy’ because it is a compact and cost-efficient solution you can apply to any surroundings - an apartment, house, office, or cabin in the middle of nowhere.
Goal 13: Climate Action
Human activities, primarily associated with fossil fuel consumption, have already created unprecedented changes in atmospheric composition, which is expected to drive increasingly drastic climate change trends and more frequent extreme weather events into the foreseeable future. In the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, the signatories of which include 195 parties, global leaders took an important step towards the mobilazation of the solutions for avoiding the worst possible climate outcomes. The SDG Climate Action Goal is designed to educate, mitigate, and change how humans impact the planet we live on.
All For Eco is a Stockholm Founder Institute portfolio company with a mission to inspire individuals and make it fun to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle. Climate change is not likely to be solved through any exclusively top-down approach. Each person plays a role in contributing to a real carbon footprint, but only some are aware of their responsibility. All For Eco offers solutions for teachers to provide key learning details that the next generation of students needs to understand so that everyone can play a part in reducing greenhouse emissions and unrecyclable consumer waste.
Goal 14: Life Below Water
The majority of our planet is covered by water, and over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their economic needs. As welcome as such efforts are, unfortunately, a ban on straws and plastic bags will still not be enough to reverse the human impacts on global oceans. The Life Below Water Goal advocates conserving and only sustainably using oceans, seas, and marine resources.
In 2022, Christina Linke graduated from Founder Institute Berlin, introducing to the world her idea Clean Ocean Coatings. Algae and barnacle growth are significant issues for the commercial shipping sector. The aftermath is a 40% increase in fuel consumption and annual damages of about $150 billion. As a result, antifoulings that are poisonous are applied to ships. Clean Ocean Coatings offers an alternative - antifouling product eco coating - a toxic-free option for shipping companies.
Goal 15: Life on Land
The way humans impact our land is also not sustainable. Deforestation and the destruction of sensitive ecosystems - wetlands and drylands - are contributing to massive and likely irreversible losses of genetic diversity and species biodiversity. The Life on Land Goal plans to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss. Specifically, in the next 10 years, the UN wants to have identified proven strategies to combat desertification, restore degraded land, and reduce drought and flood-stricken areas.
Recycling and reusing materials is an effective way to reduce pollution and deforestation. Founder Institute Lagos portfolio company Scrapays facilitates the recovery of recyclables by building a digital infrastructure that optimizes the recycling value chain. This progressive startup encourages people to start, grow, and scale their mini-recycling businesses, offering them functional online and offline technologies such as mobile apps and pickup services.
Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
According to the UN, “corruption, bribery, theft, and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year; this amount of money could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day above $1.25 for at least six years.” SDG 16 is planned to foster just, peaceful, and inclusive societies. This includes the end of abuse and exploitation in all forms.
Esusu is a Founder Institute San Francisco graduate that promotes financial inclusivity by empowering renters and improving property performance. The Esusu platform unlocks financial access and stability for renters and property owners by providing rent reporting, rich property management analytics, and rental assistance. Thhrough partnering with property managers and equipping them with beneficial reporting tools, this startup contributes to improving renters' credit scores. Esusu is now officially a unicorn after its founders reported raising $144 million in total last year.
Goal 17: Partnerships For the Goals
Perhaps the most ambitious Sustainable Development Goal is that of the Partnerships for the Goals. This final goal is focused on revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development, and bringing the entire world together in a collective effort to accomplish the other 16 Sustainable Development Goals. From financial and social inclusion, through developing cleaner and lower carbon energy technologies, to providing specialized support in vulnerable developing regions, global partnerships collectively representing an unprecedented scale of human cooperation will be needed to achieve truly sustainable development.
Founder Institute Minich graduate company Takatari encourages collaboration via waste collection and recycling. Its software connects informal waste pickers with the global recycled plastic market, ensuring that everyone receives fair compensation. Moreover, Takatari translates data and introduces plastic credits to attract third-party impact-driven companies.
Through efforts like FI for Good campaign, the Founder Institute is dedicated to supporting startup technologies that will help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that world-changing ideas come from innovators and that entrepreneurs will be the ones who bring to bear the kinds of scalable ideas needed for solving humanity’s greatest 21st-century challenges.