Unreasonable Institute's goal is to maximize the reach of new businesses whose projects aim to alleviate poverty, improve education, provide access to clean water and slow global warming.
Teju Ravilochan wants to solve the world’s biggest problems, one entrepreneur at a time, and he has helped create a global enterprise to advance that mission.
The University of Colorado Boulder graduate is CEO and co-founder of the Unreasonable Institute, a non-profit international training center that provides business programs for early stage entrepreneurs focused on creating positive social and environmental change.
The Institute’s bottom-up approach empowers entrepreneurs by providing skills training, access to capital investments and connections to a network of mentors and peers. The goal is to maximize the reach of new businesses whose projects aim to alleviate poverty, improve education, provide access to clean water and slow global warming. Since its inception in 2009, the institute has helped more than 300 businesses in 50 countries succeed through education, mentorship and fundraising totaling more than $100 million, benefiting more than 8 million people.
Ravilochan, who graduated from CU-Boulder in 2008 with a degree in international affairs, had always been drawn to social justice issues. Several experiences at CU inspired him to adopt a grassroots approach to improve the world.
As a freshman, Ravilochan was accepted into the President’s Leadership Class, a four-year experiential-learning program that accepts only about 50 students each year. He says it was his “best academic experience” at CU. He describes the curriculum as focused on “ethics and morality in the world, and also societal issues like sexism, racism and classism.”
As a CU undergraduate, Ravilochan was also deeply influenced by traveling to India. With a grant from CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) , Ravilochan visited NGOs, villages, government agencies and corporations in India that were trying to alleviate poverty. He found many organizations fighting poverty actually created a dependency among the people they were trying to help by simply giving them short-term aid without empowering them to better their lives in the long term.
“I found that the most effective NGOs were treating poor people not as victims who needed to be saved, but as people who could solve their own problems, with a little bit of support, a few connections and a little bit of mentorship,” Ravilochan recalls.
When Ravilcohan got to meet author Paul Polak, who gave a talk on campus in 2008, it helped solidify his ideas about the best ways to catalyze social change. In his book, “Out of Poverty,” Polak describes a grassroots approach to poverty eradication that is more effective than traditional top-down programs. Ravilochan obtained an internship with Polak, who has since become one of the Unreasonable Institute’s most valued mentors.
Ravilochan’s advice to current CU students is to engage in as many activities as they can. “It was the platform of opportunities and experimentation that CU provided for me to travel, to experience people who were different that I was, to meet extraordinary peers that really facilitated me getting to where I am now.”