Unreasonable Institute prepares future entrepreneurs to change the world

November 8, 2011 •

Improve the lives of a million people. Is that too ambitious? Create a way for people around the world to EACH improve the lives of a million people. Now that’s just unreasonable, right? That’s exactly how these social entrepreneurs from CU-Boulder like it.

The Unreasonable Institute is an accelerator for early-stage social ventures founded in 2009 by CU-Boulder alumni Tyler Hartung (finance ’06), Vladimir Dubovskiy (math ’10), Teju Ravilochan (international relations ’09) and Daniel Epstein (philosophy ’09). Each summer for two years now, they have selected 25 young entrepreneurs (dubbed “Unreasonable Fellows”) from all over the world to come to Boulder for six weeks of training and support in Boulder.

These Fellows are trained by a group of 50 mentors—ranging from the CTO of HP, to the co-founder of Google.org, to an entrepreneur credited with taking 19 million farmers out of poverty—who help them find capital, generate revenue, build their brands, assemble their teams and effectively address some of the world’s greatest social and environmental problems in a way that is financially viable and that can scale to at least one million beneficiaries. These “Unreasonable Fellows” include:

  • A former MIT researcher now developing an anemia detection device hailed by the World Health Organization as “one of seven most innovative healthcare technologies of our time”
  • A former child soldier from Liberia now working to rehabilitate and re-educate other former child soldiers
  • An engineer with a patented water purification bag for use in disaster relief that is being piloted in Haiti and in Thailand with the U.S. Navy

Since the beginning, CU-Boulder has played a major role in the success of the Unreasonable Institute. CU opened our eyes to the world’s largest problems,” said Hartung, “and gave us basic skills to launch companies.”

CU-Boulder’s support is ongoing. The Deming School for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business sponsors the group. The ATLAS Institute supplies classroom and event space. In addition, several of the mentors are from CU-Boulder.

As the Unreasonable Institute continues to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs to tackle the world’s largest problems, its founders are happy to call CU-Boulder both alma mater and home.