On 15 November 2016, the UNICEF Innovation Fund announces its first portfolio of investments in open source technology solutions – SayCel and Open Source Cellular Solutions is among the first five companies to receive investment.
The UNICEF Innovation Fund invests in technology start-ups from developing markets that are working on open source solutions to improve children’s lives. The Innovation Fund applies a venture capital approach to source solutions in emergency and epidemic response, transport & delivery, identity, finance, learning, personal data and related fields.
Check out www.unicefinnovationfund.org for more information – including real-time data – on each investment.
SayCel and Open Source Cellular Solutions
By Edwin Reed-Sanchez, founder of SayCel
How would you describe your solution to a child?
There are 700 million people in the world who don’t have cell phone coverage – most of these people live in rural communities. This means that if they are in trouble they can’t instantly call anyone for help. . SayCel is an open source cellular system that makes it easier and cheaper for these small towns to have their own communication network. We work with local governments to provide these communities with a low cost, solar powered turnkey system allowing families to communicate with each other, locally and internationally.
What is unique about your solution?
SayCel’s Cellular System is much cheaper, and more energy efficient than what most traditional telecoms typically provide. Additionally, through working with a global community of open source developers with a wide array of skill sets and expertise, we are able to quickly address various issues experienced at a local level, and to work rapidly and efficiently within the small communities we serve.
What inspired you to start your company?
The inspiration to tackle this problem came from the high cost of cellular calls in I observed in Nicaragua. Legally, telecoms can charge up to U$0.48 a minute which can be very expensive for people making $200 dollars a month.
SayCel initially started as a masters thesis project at NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program. Through this research, I found that up to 25% of people’s income was spent on communication. This money could be better used for food, medicine, or other needs of families in rural communities. When I realized that building a cellular network is possible, I decided to dedicate my time to developing a solution for communities living on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua – an area that lacks a lot of basic infrastructure.
Tell us about your company culture and the story about how your team came together?
At Saycel, we create our solutions with and for the people in developing regions. We also believe that in order to address existing issues within these communities, we must work locally to solve them. Additionally, we value developing open source community mobile networks as this will help families save money by offering a cheaper service.
How will the investment from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund help you?
The investment provided by the UNICEF Innovation Fund will allow SayCel to develop and improve our existing mobile networks in two ways. We can start implementing the much- needed upgrades in our internet back-haul to improve coverage on those isolated regions where our networks function. Secondly, we can start integrating programming innovations on our open source code which will hopefully lead to expanding our mobile network to nearby cities and internationally.
We are excited to take the next step to improve the lives of families by creating affordable communications infrastructure at a local level.
Looking for seed funding for your open source tech startup? Check out www.unicefinnovationfund.org to find out more about the process and to make a submission by 1 Jan 2017.