In the summer of 2009, an enthusiastic student from the University of Colorado – Boulder came into Acumen Fund’s New York office for a meeting. We sat down over coffee, and he told me he was launching a business accelerator to give social entrepreneurs wings. To be honest, I thought he was talking about Red Bull. His idea struck me as a bit crazy – perhaps even doomed to fail. Boy, was I wrong.
That college student was Daniel Epstein, and his crazy idea was – and is – the Unreasonable Institute. The Unreasonable Institute is a mentorship and training program for entrepreneurs tackling the world’s biggest social and environmental problems. Each year, a select group of 25 entrepreneurs live under one roof in Colorado for six weeks; they receive mentorship, refine their business plans, and build relationships with prominent partners in the sector (full disclosure: Acumen is one such partner) who have the potential to bring capital to their businesses. Against all odds, Daniel and his team created what is now one of the most interesting and innovative social enterprise incubators I’ve seen.
Over the past couple of years, I have recommended multiple startup social enterprises to Unreasonable and seen them emerge stronger, sharper, and more ready for the world. Unreasonable is now taking applications for its next program that begins on September 26, 2012. Applications close November 10th so don’t hesitate, apply now.
Now in its third year of existence, Unreasonable consistently outdoes itself and has shown me that the idea is so crazy, it just might work. I tip my skeptic cap to the Unreasonable team, and don a much more optimistic one – they helping improbably ideas become possible, and filling a gap that our sector desperately needs in getting early stage social enterprises off the ground.
Rob Katz is a Portfolio Manager in Acumen Fund’s India Office.