336 impact startups who want to change the world with tech

With 336 applications across 30 countries, the number of eligible applications for the SEIF Awards Tech for Impact increased with 19 percent compared to 2020. 

Switzerland is in the lead accounting for over a third of all applications. Germany represents the second largest country with 13% of the applicants, followed by the Nordics (12%), France (10%) and the UK (7%). As SEIF is based in Zurich, the high share of Swiss applicants does not come as a surprise. In addition to the geographic location, Switzerland holds a strong position in technology innovation.

Looking at the number of applicants from outside Europe (2%), we also witnessed a decrease in comparison to 2020 (7%) and 2019 when almost 20% of the applicants were based outside Europe. The application process was open to impact tech entrepreneurs based in Europe, but operations can be worldwide.

Switzerland [ 36% ]
Germany [ 13% ] 
Nordics [ 12% ]
France [ 10% ]

Impact and tech verticals

Most applicants address SDG 12: Responsible consumption & production, shortly followed by Climate action, Sustainable cities & communities, Industry, innovation & infrastructure and Good health & well-being.

Tech for Impact solutions are relevant on all levels of our society and relate to areas as various as Food / Climate / Sustainability and HealthTech, representing the main tech verticals. But solutions also range from EdTech to Mobility Software, Consumer Applications and the Future of Work.

The high number of impact tech solutions from all over Europe range across both various impact areas and tech verticals. This underline both the relevance and potential of impact tech entrepreneurship in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

Financing and impact management

Funding 

Access to funding is a challenge for all entrepreneurs. However, in comparison to regular startups, impact entrepreneurs need to find a suitable business model that both enables them to become profitable and stay true to their social and/or environmental mission. This can offer both challenges and opportunities.

When it comes to financing, the majority of the applicants largely rely on non-dilutive funding and own capital / sales as their main source of finance, reflecting the current stage of development. More than 50 percent of the applicants already report initial revenue. It is a challenging phase, but own investments also reassure potential investors that the idea is worthwhile.

More than 50 percent of the applicants already report initial revenue.

Managing impact

Technology can be a great tool for positive change, as innovative technologies often represent highly scalable solutions with potential to make a significant contribution to reach the SDGs. But there are also challenges, and good intentions do not necessarily equal positive outcomes.

In this context, measuring and managing impact becomes crucial. Almost 90% of the applicants already have, or are planning to implement, an impact measurement framework. Of the ones who have not yet considered it, the majority would like to learn more about it.

90% of the applicants already have an impact measurement framework implemented or in planning.

Stage of development

The Awards target impact entrepreneurs in an early stage of development, which is also reflected in the applications. The majority of the applicants are currently in the proof of market or proof of concept stage. 88 percent of the applicants have founded their companies already, and nearly 90 percent of these businesses were founded during the last five years (2021 included).

Employment, diversity and inclusion 

Today, we witness a growing Tech for Impact movement at the universities and in the startup community, both in Switzerland and Europe. The fact that almost 70% of the founders are 31 or older, suggest that not only recent university graduates are active in the Tech for Impact startup field. Founders often bring many years of industry experience and / or build their business models on years of research.

Gender diversity 

When it comes to gender diversity in the teams, it is interesting to note that 37% of the applicant’s co-founding teams are all male, 18% predominantly male. A significant difference to the 9% of fully female co-founding teams, and 8% predominantly female. 26% of the applicants have gender diverse co-founding teams.

37% fully male co-founding teams
9% fully female co-founding teams

The diversity in the rest of the team is higher, with 38% being equally female/male, followed by predominantly male (32%) and predominantly female (15%). Overall, this not only shows a gap between the number of female and male founders, but also indicates the lack of women in leadership roles.

Gender inequality is not only a social issue but also an economic challenge, and the still notable gender gap points both to the relevance of the SDGs and women in tech initiatives. In this context, the Tech for Impact startup community could play an important part in reaching gender parity.

Next steps 

At SEIF, we believe it is crucial to foster the positive potential of technology. This not only means integrating the impact dimension in the newest technological developments, but also to conduct and communicate the impact management and measurement transparently. We are pleased to see that a growing community starts to think in this direction and want to thank all applicants for their invaluable contributions to the SEIF Awards 2021.

We want to thank all applicants for their invaluable contributions to the SEIF Awards 2020! 

Did you apply for the SEIF Awards 2021? You will hear from us soon! In the meantime, you will find the latest information here.