Wonder Kid

December 1, 2011

Co-founder, The Unreasonable Institute
Daniel Epstein
Co-founder, The Unreasonable Institute

When most people consider starting a business, they mull over things like long-term strategy, building a business plan, and how to beat the competition. When Daniel Epstein, co-founder of the Unreasonable Institute, decided to start one, he thought about how it could positively affect the community.

And so the Unreasonable Institute was born. Epstein calls the group a "mentorship-driven acceleration program for entrepreneurs tackling social and environmental problems" that brings 25 entrepreneurs together to live under one roof—like a fraternity house for intellectuals. The third Institute will be held in 2012.

Having started two companies and one nonprofit as a University of Colorado Boulder freshman, Epstein, now 25, was looking to put into practice his idea that a business focused on influence above profit could succeed. "Those initial companies were designed to attack a social issue directly, to turn it into an opportunity and leverage business to have an impact," Epstein says. "I was looking for a community of fellow misfits."

Some of those "misfits" come to the Institute today because they need help forming a specific business model. Others apply because they need assistance finding capital, or tips on how to grow the company, or a new business strategy to reach an international scale. "Our mission is that they launch companies that affect at least a million people," Epstein says. "Today's issues are no longer just regional or national. They transcend borders, and they demand a global audience. That's the future of business, and the future of progress as well."

In true entrepreneurial fashion, the fellows are required to raise the $10,000 it costs to attend the Institute. After whittling down the applicants (last year there were 304) to 50 finalists, each must raise the money through donations, proving their "entrepreneurial mettle." The first 25 to do so get a spot at the Institute.

Soon, there will be more opportunity: Epstein's goal is to set up 100 Institutes by 2020. The first Institute on how to run an Institute (how's that for meta?) will take place in 2013, from which a select number of entrepreneurs will be picked to run their own versions in their home countries. "Unreasonable is a little bit ahead of its time," Epstein says, "but I think we can catalyze a global movement."