Banks Benitez, Chief Entreprenuer Office for the Unreasonable Institute has the concrete explanation of a complex business plan down to an art: “We want the Unreasonable Institute to be an unfair advantage for entrepreneurs.”
That is what they do at the Unreasonable Institute. Every year, approximately a dozen budding entrepreneurs apply to come to the Unreasonable Institute as Fellows and to receive instruction, mentoring, and support from successful entrepreneurs and interested investors. Benitez explains it as if the Unreasonable Institute is the support and pit crew of a racecar. “We swarm the Fellows with resources in the form of mentorship from people who have been successful in their field, access to investors, and an ever growing network of reliable support for the Fellows and their various ventures.
Benitez clarifies that: “we want our entrepreneurial Fellows to have an unfair advantage over failure, not an unfair advantage over other entrepreneurs.” The Unreasonable Institute works exclusively with ventures that focus on improving social and environmental conditions around the world. Given that such programs are often at an economic or opportunity deficit compared to other business models that prize profits over social or environmental impact, there is perhaps a greater global need for entrepreneurial guidance in this sphere.
This social enterprise aspect of the Unreasonable Institute is symbiotic with Launcht’s own mission of democratizing access to capital. Freeman White and Spencer Taylor were both enormously impressed with the Unreasonable Institute’s work and approach as they founded Launcht. The two companies have enormous respect and enthusiasm for each other, allowing for a functional and flexible exploration of how crowdfunding can continue growing hand in hand with global entrepreneurship. “Launcht is so supportive and flexible and we’re always learning to how to be partners as we each expand our scale of operations,” said Benitez.
For Launcht, “Having the Unreasonable Institute as a client, when we’ve admired them from the start, is an enormous boost to our belief that we’re doing the right thing well,” said White.
The Unreasonable Institute invites all entrepreneurs who meet their (very reasonable) guidelines are invited to apply each fall. The most appropriate dozen are selected through an interview process by mid-winter and come summer, are welcomed to Boulder for the five week program. Part of the application process can include the potential Fellows crowdfunding as a means to both raise their tuition and to demonstrate that there is a market for their product or service. Crucially, the five-week program has the Fellows living together, with all the learning and challenge and growth and solid community building that a good summer camp hopes to provide. The difference here is that the Fellows and their mentors are building a network that will enable good ideas to bear out in improving life in overlooked corners of the world, so there is much more a sense of purpose and accomplishment than making lanyards. Not only are the Fellows immersed in each other’s and their mentor’s creativity and support, investors are also invited to the Institute to work with the Fellows on ways to be mutually beneficial to each others’ ideals.
The Unreasonable Institute is entering, or rather creating, a brave new world in 2014. The Global Unreasonable Institute will continue to operate out of Boulder, and two new branches will welcome their first classes of Fellows at the Mexico Institute and East Africa Institute. Benitez says that he is most excited to continue learning about what works as the year unfolds, and to continue providing their Fellows with the most unfair advantage possible.