“My eyes light up when I talk about it,” says Anna Popova of Globant’s new Be Kind Tech Fund. Vice President of Supplies at the Digital Technology Company, Popova is co-chair of the fund, which has the authority to support businesses with very different types of attitudes towards innovation and digital transformation. “We hear a lot of talk about the positive impact of technology on society, and that’s very real,” Popova said. “But not enough is said about the other side of the coin.”
She spoke of growing concerns about the harm that technological change is causing, ranging from increasing online harassment to the potential for bias in artificial intelligence systems that perpetuate prejudice and discrimination. Not that innovators are striving for these potentially negative impacts; rather, they appear as side effects with the development of technology. But if someone does not deal with them, the damage continues to grow.
Join the Be Kind Tech Fund, which Globant believes is the only venture capital fund that is specifically focused on supporting start-ups that develop solutions to mitigate and abuse technology. The fund will focus on businesses offering positive progress in five areas, Popova explained. These include online harassment, privacy and security of data, misuse of screen time, bias against artificial intelligence and information bubbles, and polarization.
“We are looking for businesses that can have a positive and measurable impact,” Popova added. “We are trying to create a technological ecosystem that is able to provide a more sustainable impact.
The fund has not yet announced its first investments, but Popova says it is attracting significant interest from potential companies in which it is investing, with more than 500 start-ups already making inquiries. “It can be more than just a fund – it can be a movement,” she said.
Of course, the issues on which the fund is focused are very real. The Center for Human Technologies catalogs a series of invisible harms to society as a result of the growing influence of technology platforms. He points to studies with alarming findings, including:
- Children who have been subjected to cyberbullying are three times more likely to consider suicide than their peers; one in four children has had sexual contact with adults online through social media.
- The 10 most popular Facebook sites with misinformation about Covid-19 generated four times more views than the content of the 10 leading international health institutions.
- Within three months of starting to use a smartphone, users experience a significant reduction in the results of their mental arithmetic, which shows a decrease in their capacity for attention and a significant increase in social compliance.
- A survey showing fake stories to 3,000 voters shows that many of these voters not only “remember” these fake stories as if they were real events, but also supplement their memories with rich new details about how and when they happened. the events.
The list goes on and on. Popova argues that companies like Globant, created to support customers with technological innovation and transformation, have a special responsibility to address these issues. “We got to the point where we just felt like we couldn’t do something,” she said. In any case, Popova added, startups that manage to deal with these problems will have a bright future. The fund expects many of the components of its portfolio to provide a return of 10 times or more.
Globant’s vision is that the fund will invest between $ 100,000 and $ 1 million in the companies it supports, taking minority stakes to support companies as they develop new products and services.
The technology company also sees itself as an organizer of change and will work with several fund management partners. These include George Washington University, the Center for Human Technology and investors, including Riverwood Capital, IDB Lab and Nazca. “We hope to make a difference,” Popova said.
This is a very personal undertaking for Popova, who joined Globant after a two-decade career in consulting and investment. She argues that companies in the sector are obliged to set an example on key issues; indeed, the Be Kind Tech Fund is a key element of Globant’s strategy for the environment, social sphere and governance (ESG), which is also entitled Be Kind.
One particularly important aspect of this ESG program for Popova is the company’s public commitment to have 50% of management positions held by women by 2025. As she points out, the technology sector is not doing well in raising women to senior positions, but this will require leaders to focus on each level of the business. “For many technology companies, this is a talent funnel crisis,” she said. “It starts with your admission – too few women get into the technology business – but then it goes on with what happens after hiring.”
It will take some time to fix such problems, but leaders must be prepared to face the challenge in the first place, Popova said, just as it is important to support these start-ups with promising solutions to the negative aspects of technological change.