London-based blockchain startup Provenance is one of the first two companies to be included in Working Capital, a $23m early-stage venture fund aimed at creating ethical supply chain innovations.
Provenance, which has been described as "Fair Trade on a blockchain", has spent the last few years running pilots involving things like sustainable fishing and tea production, in conjunction with major UK supermarkets.
Provenance is the only UK startup included in the portfolio currently. Working Capital, launched today by Humanity United, includes $19.5 million contributed by investment partners, with the UK's Department for International Development adding £2.5 million in "sidecar" grant funding.
The Humanity United foundation is part of The Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of organisations united by a common desire to catalyse social impact.
In addition to Humanity United, partners and supporters in the fund include: Walmart Foundation, C&A Foundation, Stardust Equity, Open Society Foundations (Soros Economic Development Fund), The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, and The Walt Disney Company. The unique structure of aligning with leading companies as funders helps leverage innovative solutions for sustainable impact in a way that is good for all – consumers, business, and society.
"There is a growing market demand for more transparent and responsible corporate supply chains," said Ed Marcum, Managing Director at Working Capital. "We see an opportunity to invest in emerging solutions that will meet the demands of large multinational corporations while also benefiting millions of vulnerable workers at the bottom of the economic pyramid."
The only other startup selected at present is Ulula, a software and data analytics platform that allows organisations to engage with workers in real time to measure and monitor labour-related risks.
"Our aim is to use our strengths in collaboration with others to transform the supply chain systems we rely on, and we are proud to be part of the Working Capital group of partners," said Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation. "We believe in solutions that benefit everyone – from the workers who make the products to the consumers who purchase them, creating a shared value for business and society."
To make complex supply chains more transparent and ethically responsible, the fund is exploring emerging technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital identity and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.