We live in a world where there are more questions than answers, where big problems are prominent and big solutions seem few and far between. It doesn’t make any sense – why are things the way they are?

We don’t know always no why, and we don’t always need to – we just need to know how to change them. And a new generation of entrepreneurs are waking up each and everyday to do just that. For these entrepreneurs, the road to reason requires them to be Unreasonable.

What do we mean by being Unreasonable?

Being Unreasonable is a state of mind that propels people who are crazy enough to think they have what it takes to solve big global issues into action. An Unreasonable entrepreneur takes an innovative approach to solving the types of big-picture problems that affect at least a million people. We are not talking about the cosmetic, there’s-an-app-for-that type of problems – there’s no app for world hunger. These are the problems that affect humanity on a social, environmental and economic level.

One institution has established itself to bring these entrepreneurs from around the world into a collaborative environment to help them scale their ventures. It’s called the Unreasonable Institute.

The Unreasonable Institute is a social-enterprise incubator in Boulder, Colorado (USA) that according to founder Daniel Epstein, exists for people who want to solve ‘big f**king problems.’ Each year, the Institute brings together approximately 20 high-impact individuals from around the world for an intensive six-week program, where they:

“accelerate ventures that will define progress in our time.”

We have written about the Unreasonable Institute for the past few years now, and each year the story gets better. In 2010, the inaugural year of the Institute, the energy was electric and the first round of Fellows graduated (read post Social Entrepreneurship – Boulden Up and Be Unreasonable). In 2011, there were several exciting storylines and a bunch of hard-hitting ventures that emerged with funding (read post Beyond Reason – The Importance of Being Unreasonable), including Solidarium from Brazil, who Joel met during his trip to Curitiba earlier this year on My Crowdfunding Study (read post … My Days with Alianca and Solidarium). 2012 was lights out, as many ventures got funded, while almost all the ventures have investors who are interested. Here’s a quick video that shows who these entrepreneurs were:

Now applications for the 2013 Edition are open. The question, is what happens at the Unreasonable Institute that makes it special – beyond the chance to get funded and meet others with equally crazy ideas, what happens behind the scenes?

The answer is a lot, but first let’s look at the profile of the typical social entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs trying to solve the big-picture problems have a profile that resembles the following:

  • on the front end, they are usually seen as either crazy or rebellious, as their tolerance for the status quo is next to zero and acquiescence is not their strong suit. Their ‘we-need-change’ routine requires a 24/7 bravado and an attitude of perpetual perseverance;
  • on the back end, however, it is a different story. These entrepreneurs often feel misunderstood and face a constant PR battle. They are pressed for resources and often feel overwhelmed from their duties.

This is why the Unreasonable Institute exists. They get it. Entrepreneurs from across the world (see map below) have flown into Boulder each summer for the past three years for this reason.

If you get the chance to walk through those doors, you come to a place where they understand what the entrepreneur needs to take that next big step. Inside the Institute, they have a coordinated method of chaos to help bring you the wisdom and resources you need to take flight, including:

  • Mentorship

Experienced mentors are brought in from around the world to teach different aspects of the venture-creation process and guide the entrepreneurs through rough patches. Their network is extensive and each mentor brings a different perspective to the table. You can see videos from their mentors at the Mentor Library:

+ http://unreasonable.tv/view/library/

  • Unreasonable Scrimmage

A new addition to the Institute in 2012, the Scrimmage was designed to bring skilled members from the local community to the table to help the entrepreneurs scale their ventures. Each Unreasonable Fellow brought a key challenge or problem to the table and presented it to the table of 120 community members. The results were amazing.

As an example, in one day, Sheik Turay (pictured below), an entrepreneur from Liberia who employs former child soldiers to grow and sell cocoa beans, did the following:

• Incorporated his company in the US
• Built an active team
• Rebranded as Liberation Chocolate
• Secured a chocolate supplier in Boulder
• Built a new website
• Started work on writing a full business plan

Imagine that!

  • Investor Days

Impact investors are brought in to help the Unreasonable entrepreneurs obtain the necessary funding to scale their ventures

Teams of 3 or 4 investors sits down with each Unreasonable entrepreneur and try to answer the question, how do we get more money flowing into this venture? Rather than trying to negotiate from separate sides of the table, they approach it from a partnership perspective and try to ensure that the venture gets the fuel it needs to take off.

The result of Investor Days was 12 out of 22 ventures were funded, and 21 out of 22 have investors interested in them, not bad!


The Unreaonable Institute does not take the venture-capital model and apply it to social enterprises. It is a new model where collective interest trumps individual intentions, and open collaboration paves the way for scalable innovation. It’s a place where real impact entrepreneurs with really big ideas come to take flight.

What do you need to apply?

The full criteria can be found below, but the key points include:

+ http://unreasonableinstitute.org/eligibility/

  • Is your venture addressing a massive social or environmental problem
  • Is your venture a for-profit company?
  • Has your venture generated at least $1 in revenue?

If you have answered yes to the following questions, along with a few others, you can apply!

How does the application process work?

+ http://unreasonableinstitute.org/selection-process/

  • Submit your written application by October 25th, 2012
  • Interview process with Unreasonable team
  • 10 to 20 ventures will be selected to attend the 2013 edition

How much does it cost?

+ http://unreasonableinstitute.org/the-costs/

  • $10,000 for an individual or $12,000 for two people from one team
  • teams can use Unreasonable’s crowdfunding platform to raise the money

How do you apply?

Start an application today (click below). The deadline is October 25th!

+ https://www.wizehive.com/appform/login/unreasonable

In this world, the road to reason requires being unreasonable. If the Unreasonable Institute can teach us one thing, it’s that full collaboration is needed from everyone in the community – it’s not the efforts of one or two people that are going to create the necessary changes, but the collective effort of the masses.

If you are interested in more content related to social entrepreneurship, we recommend the following sites:

+ Unreasonable.is
+ Echoing Green
+ Start Some Good

For more #socent content from our blog, check out the articles listed below.

+ SocEnt & the Rise of the Impact Entrepreneur
+ Strategy Sessions: Crowdfunding + the Social Enterprise

PLAN – the Business Model

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