Unreasonable Institute Equipping High-Impact Entrepreneurs

Unreasonable Institute Equipping High-Impact Entrepreneurs

Events aim to create relationships between entrepreneurs and impact investors

Twenty-six entrepreneurs from around the world are sharing their social venture visions with impact investors today in San Francisco as part of this year’s Unreasonable Institute.

This marks the second year of the Unreasonable Institute, a mentor-accelerator for start-up high-impact entrepreneurs driven to tackle the world’s greatest social and environmental problems.

Unreasonable Institute co-founder and VP of partnerships and communication Teju Ravilochan says the institute is finding entrepreneurs from around the world who believe in entrepreneurship as a mechanism for addressing problems such as poverty, lack of education and lack of energy access.

“Our job is to give every resource and every skill and every relationship that they need to go out and take that solution and scale it up, make it financially viable and improve at least a million people’s lives,” he tells Axiom News.

Three hundred entrepreneurs from 60 countries applied this year, and 45 finalists showcased their ventures online where people voted through contributing funds for the $8,000 cost of the mentorship program.

The 26 winners live and work for six weeks in Boulder, Colo., learning from 60 world-class mentors such as former Google.org managing director Gregory Miller, Wild Oats co-founder Libby Cook, and co-founder of SoCap Kevin Jones.

Ravilochan says what is most inspiring is the willingness of the entrepreneurs to never let obstacles stop them.

He points to one of this year’s winners, Moses Sanga, founder and CEO of Eco-fuel Africa Limited that aims to stop over-dependence on wood-fuel in Sub-Saharan Africa through making organic charcoal from agricultural waste. The company’s proceeds go towards planting trees, with a target to plant a quarter of a billion trees by 2020.

Sanga is from Uganda and was 13 when he first put on a pair of shoes. His family didn’t know what a credit card was, and he lived 17-kilometres from the nearest Internet source, where he would walk to find a way to raise funds to attend the Unreasonable Institute.

The July 18 Unreasonable Investor Day (and night — the event includes a sleepover) is an opportunity for the 2011 Unreasonable Institute fellows to form relationships with people who can put capital into their ventures and connect them to other people who may become partners.

Ravilochan says the people in the audience “are going to be some of the most resourced, connected people in the Bay Area.”

“The value of these ventures, whether it’s through capital or whether it’s through partnership opportunities, is going to be huge,” he says.

The entrepreneurs have six minutes each to pitch their ideas to the 50-100 impact investors.

“Investment doesn’t happen because of a pitch, it happens because of a relationship,” says Ravilochan.

“We’re trying to facilitate that by having the entrepreneurs and investors have a lot of white space in the day to spend discussing with each other,” he says, noting the sleepover aspect is another way to humanize the space and bring everyone to the same level.

With this year’s Unreasonable Institute wrapping up July 27, Ravilochan says while the entrepreneurs already have companies and many have revenue, teammates, prototypes, and pilots, it is the relationships with customers, investors, partners and others that will define their success into the future.

“Those relationships will enable them to do everything they need to make their ventures a success,” he says.

“My biggest hope is that these entrepreneurs return to their ventures armed with the torches of partnerships but more than anything the ability to form the kind of relationships they need and that actually make their ventures scale and grow and reach a million people,” he says.

Click here to learn more about the Unreasonable Institute and this year’s fellows.

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Writer Bio

Jennifer Neutel's picture
Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer: jennifer@axiomnews.ca, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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