Social impact and green enterprises face a common significant challenge: helping new ventures make the transition from start-ups to viable businesses.
After all, ideas are easy, but execution is hard. You might have the greatest business concept in the world, but turning that concept into a reality is tough. Add a social or green dimension and the challenge only grows greater.
A new partnership between investment bank Barclays and the Unreasonable Group, a Colorado-based accelerator that provides support and guidance to social impact entrepreneurs, is aimed at helping emerging growth companies overcome those challenges.
Dubbed Unreasonable Impact, this collaboration will help a selected collection of green businesses to scale up and realize their full potential, both in terms of profits and social mission.
The keywords there are “scaling up”-that is, to shift from a “start-up” orientation to next stage growth marked by greater revenues, market share and hiring. As Barclays Americas CEO Joe McGrath explains, “scale-ups are fundamental in driving economic growth.”
“By supporting ventures that have scalable solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges with our resources and mentorship, we will not only help to address significant societal and environmental issues, but we will also be facilitating in creating the jobs of tomorrow,” McGrath explains in a news release announcing the launch of the Unreasonable Impact initiative.
The Unreasonable Group takes its name from a George Bernard Shaw quote: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man (& woman).” That’s a handy summation of the approach the organization’s leaders plan to bring to the new initiative with Barclays.
Unreasonable Impact is a two-week program in which participating businesses receive mentorship from business leaders, and fellow entrepreneurs in one-on-one meetings, feedback sessions, and less formal settings. Most of the activities were hosted in Cedar Lakes Estates, a remote location 70 miles outside New York City.
The first cohort of U.S. companies participating in Unreasonable Impact launched in November. They include such innovators as:
- Off Grid Electric, which provides distributed solar power as a dependable energy source in off-grid areas of Africa;
- re3d.org, which repurposes waste materials for use in affordable 3D printing;
- Accio Energy, which developed a wind energy system based on turbine-free technology; and more.
A full list of the participating U.S. companies and mentors is available here. Similar Unreasonable Impact programs are also underway in the United Kingdom and Asia Pacific.
The focus is on developing relationships and nurturing constructive feedback loops that will allow for innovation and rapid problem-solving, “creating the conditions for attending CEOs to solve their key challenges in real time among a community of world-renowned leaders.”
Individual entrepreneurs and companies won’t be the program’s sole beneficiaries, Unreasonable Impact’s founders explain-it will also have significant implications for boosting economic growth as a whole. The ambitious goal of Unreasonable Impact is to put the participating companies on a path to create 500 jobs each in the next five years while building enduring businesses and addressing environmental problems.
“Within the next four years, it is estimated that we will need 212 million new jobs to accommodate current unemployment and projected job loss due to new industries,” explains Daniel Epstein, founder and CEO of Unreasonable Group. “By partnering with Barclays to support entrepreneurs who have developed scalable solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, we will not only scale up technologies that address significant societal and environmental issues, but we will in turn be accelerating the creation of millions of new jobs.”
It’s an unfortunate reality that entrepreneurship has declined in the United States in recent decades, owing in part to the demographics of an aging population and other factors. To counteract that trend, targeted solutions like Unreasonable Impact can help to leverage the best that the private sector has to nurture entrepreneurship and build the economy of tomorrow.
We’ll take a deeper dive look at one participating company in the Unreasonable Impact initiative in an upcoming article to illustrate more fully how the program is working to tackle pressing global problems.