Anna Popova of Globant’s Be Kind Tech Fund says, “My eyes lighten up when I discuss it.” Popova, who is vice president of delivery at the digital tech company, co-leads the fund. It has a mandate to support businesses that have a different approach to innovation and digital transformation. Popova says, “We hear a lot about the positive effect of technology on society. That is very real.” Popova says that not enough is being said about the flip side of the coin.
She is referring to growing concerns about technological change’s impact on society. These issues include online harassment, bias in artificial intelligence systems and perpetuating prejudice and discrimination. These potentially harmful effects are not something that innovators seek to achieve; they happen as side effects of technology development. The harm only stops at a certain point.
Globant calls the Be Kind Tech Fund the best venture fund because it focuses on supporting start-ups that are creating solutions to the misuse and abuse technology. Popova says the fund will be focused on companies that make positive progress in five areas. These include online harassment, data privacy, security, screen abuse, artificial intelligence bias and information bubbles.
Popova says, “We are seeking businesses that can have a positive and measurable effect.” Popova says, “We want to create a technology environment that can deliver a greater sustainable impact.”
Popova said that although the fund has yet not announced its first investments but it is drawing significant interest from potential investors. Popova estimates that more than 500 start ups have already made inquiries. Popova says, “This fund can be more than a fund. It can be a movement.”
The fund’s focus is on real issues. The Center for Humane Technology has identified a number of invisible social harms that technology platforms have caused. The research includes the following alarming findings:
Cyberbullied children are three times more likely to consider suicide than their peers. One in four children has had sexual encounters online with adults via social networking.
The top 10 Facebook Covid-19 misinformation websites generated four times more views than content from international health institutions.
Three months after they first started using a smartphone, users notice a decrease in mental arithmetic scores. This indicates a decrease in attention capacity and a significant increase of social conformity.
In a study that involved 3,000 voters, fake stories were presented to them. Many of these voters did not just “remember” the fake stories as real events but also added rich details about how and when they occurred.
This list could go on. Popova believes that Globant, which was created to assist clients in technological innovation and transformation, has a special responsibility to address these issues. She says, “We reached a place where we just felt we couldn’t do anything.” Popova says that start-ups who are able to tackle these issues successfully will have a bright future. Many of the fund’s portfolio members are expected to return returns of at least 10 times their original investment.
Globant’s vision for the fund is to invest between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in companies it backs. It will also take minority stakes in firms that develop new products or services.
The technology company sees itself as a catalyst for change and will collaborate with many partners to manage the fund. These include the George Washington University and the Center for Humane Technology. Investors also include Riverwood Capital and IDB Lab. Popova states, “Hopefully we’ll make an impact.”
Popova joined Globant in 2012 after a 20-year career in investment and consultancy. Popova believes that companies in the sector are responsible for leading by example on key issues. Indeed, the Be Kind Tech Fund is a key component of Globant’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG), strategy.
Popova’s ESG program is notable for its public commitment to have 50% of the management positions in 2025 occupied by women. She points out that the technology sector has a poor record in promoting women to high-ranking positions. Leaders must focus on all levels of the company to address this issue. She argues that this is a talent-flood crisis for many technology companies. It all starts with your intake. Too few women are entering technology companies. Then it goes on to what happens after that.
Popova says that while resolving such problems will be difficult, leaders must be ready to confront the problem. She also believes it is crucial to support start-ups with innovative solutions to technological challenges.