Boulder, Colorado (PRESS RELEASE – January 26, 2011) – Starting Jan. 20, 45 social entrepreneurs will showcase their ventures in an online platform called the Unreasonable Finalist Marketplace. For 50 days, people from around the world are invited to vote with their wallets on the most viable ventures. The first 25 of the 45 finalists to raise $8,000 in the Marketplace will earn access to the highly acclaimed six-week mentorship program at the Unreasonable Institute. At the Institute, these social entrepreneurs undergo rigorous training sessions, including personal and entrepreneurial skill development, intensive workshops and hands-on guidance from leading thought leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors.
The 45 finalists were selected from more than 300 applicants in 60 countries. Each applicant had to present a financially self-sustaining venture that has the ability to scale to serve the needs of at least 1 million people and demonstrates customer validation through sales or pilots. The finalists this year include a Chinese engineer with a prototype for waterless composting toilets; a 2010 CNN Hero from Kenya who has distributed over 10,000 solar lanterns; and an American inventor with a water purification system that can roll up to the size of a ruler.
“A huge part of being a truly exceptional entrepreneur is to be able to rally excitement and support for your idea,” said Daniel Epstein, founding president of the Unreasonable Institute. “The Marketplace tests these entrepreneurs’ ability to do just that and, in the form of public support garnered, offers a real-time measure of success.”
In order to enhance the challenge, the Unreasonable Institute has imposed contribution caps, starting with $10 in week one and increasing incrementally. In addition to preventing single underwriters from providing full funding, the caps force finalists to mobilize the support of hundreds of people from around the world, mandating creative marketing, effective storytelling and the power of social media to garner support for their ideas. In 2010, the inaugural year of the Unreasonable Institute, entrepreneurs raised over $160,000 in the Marketplace from nearly 3,000 supporters across 130 countries.
“We believe that absolutely everyone can make an impact, and the Marketplace is a manifestation of that belief,” continued Epstein. “We encourage people to visit the Marketplace and leave their mark on the world, whether it is through a Facebook post, watching a video or donating $10 to an entrepreneur whose idea struck a chord.”
Donors have an opportunity to test out their own social marketing savvy through a gaming element: a donor receives one point for every dollar contributed and two points for every dollar that is contributed as a result of sharing their vote via social media. Top point earners receive prize bundles from HP, which has come on board this year as the Unreasonable Institute’s first corporate partner and as part of the company’s longstanding support of entrepreneurship. In addition to the prizes, HP is contributing a scholarship fund for the entrepreneurs and providing technology through which the entrepreneurs can tell their stories and ideas.
“HP believes in the transformative power of technology and entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s largest social issues,” said Wayne Surdam, vice president of Media and Influencer Relations, Personal Systems Group, HP. “The Unreasonable Marketplace is an incredible platform for high-impact social entrepreneurs to scale their ideas and connect with the world.”
The 25 winning entrepreneurs become Unreasonable Fellows and, during the mentor program, will learn from, work alongside, and live with 60 mentors from a range of industries including venture capital, international development, social enterprise and marketing. Among the exceptional mentors and partners are Greg Miller, co-founder of Google.org; David Bornstein, author of “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas”; Libby Cook, co-founder of Wild Oats; Tom Reilly, head of TED Fellows; and Bob Pattillo, founder of Gray Ghost Capital and First Light Ventures. In addition, the entrepreneurs will have a chance to build relationships with 30 globally recognized impact investment funds, such as Acumen Fund, Good Capital and Echoing Green, and pitch prospective investors. Last year, 60 percent of the Unreasonable Fellows seeking funding received capital for their ventures shortly after the end of the Institute.
How can you take part and make a change?
– Visit the Marketplace at http://marketplace.unreasonableinstitute.org/
– Read the stories of the entrepreneurs and learn about their ventures
– Donate to the ventures that get you most excited
– Share your vote via the email, Twitter (use #givewings) and Facebook links from the entrepreneur’s profile page