Since its inception a few years ago, the Unreasonable Institute has diligently encouraged ground-breaking and even disruptive business models as a means of finding solutions to poverty around the globe.
With its ‘class of 2013,’ UI has learned from its own experience to assemble its most ‘unreasonable’ group of business talent yet. From over 200 applications, 14 were chosen for a summer’s work of refining business models, strategizing with experts, and seeking investment. Although these are early stage companies with much untapped potential, they have business savvy, genuine revenues, and the ability to scale in addition to compelling social missions.
It’s often difficult and time-consuming for impact investors to source quality deals with social impact. Unreasonable helps to shorten and lessen that process. Each of these companies needs to raise “tuition” money to attend the Unreasonable Institute program this summer. Investors and advocates can help both themselves and these promising entrepreneurs by showing their support at UI Marketplace.
- 17 Triggers (Mike Rios and Lilly Diaz) Cambodia: 17 Triggers does marketing for good causes. They help social enterprises and non-profits market their products and services so their beneficiaries can improve their lives. For example, WaterSHED (an organization that sells toilets in rural areas), previously had sales agents generate 2,000 latrine sales in 5 months. After working with 17 Triggers, WaterSHED generated 17,000 latrine sales in 12 months.
- Chaupal (Aloka Singh) India: Chaupal is building a network of hospitals to serve lower-income populations in India. They combine these hospitals with a mobile health clinic and temporary health camps that set up in villages to extend the reach of healthcare deeper into rural India. They have so far provided healthcare access to 650,000 people in India.
- MANA Nutrition (Mark Moore and Troy Hickerson) Global: MANA Nutrition manufactures and sells Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF) Peanut Butter to UNICEF for distribution around the world. So far, they have generated $6 million in revenue and their peanut butter has been delivered to over 100,000 youths.
- Nisolo Shoes (Patrick Woodyard and Zoe Cleary) Peru: Nisolo connects Peruvian shoe-makers with the US market for their high-quality leather shoes. In their first year of operation, they generated $220,000 in revenue from over 4,000 customers and increased the incomes of 30 Peruvian shoe-makers by 6x.
- Greenway Grameen Infra (Neha Juneja and Umang Maheshwari) India: Greenway Grameen designs and distributes biomass-fueled clean cooking stoves (see above photo) to rural India. They have generated $300,000 in revenue, selling their stoves to 10,000 rural households. They have reduced fuel consumption by 60% and emissions by 80%. Their cooking stove was recently named one of the top 14 design stories for 2012 by Fast CoExist!
- OurSay (Eyal Halamish) Australia: OurSay empowers citizens to hold their leaders accountable and ask the important questions by connecting them virtually, forcing politicians to keep promises beyond sound bites and putting communities back in charge of their own destinies. They have over 50,000 members, have generated over $400,000 in revenue, and are pioneering innovative ways to engage with politicians like Google Hangouts with the Australian Prime Minister. OurSay is planning a pilot in India for 2013.
- Agrilab Technologies (Brian Jerose) United States: Agrilab Technologies makes composting and integrated thermal energy/heat recovery systems for farms, businesses, and communities. They produce a system that captures heat released by agricultural waste and turns it into energy, giving farmers another significant revenue stream. In the past two years, they have generated nearly $70,000 in revenue, working with farms and dairies throughout the northeast, including the University of New Hampshire’s research dairy farms.
- Prospera (Gabriela Enrigue) Mexico: Prospera trains women entrepreneurs in Mexico (predominantly in the food industry) with the designing and branding of their products. Then Prospera connect these micro-enterprises with markets to sell their goods so these women can move out of poverty. So far, they’ve increased sales by 300% for 3,000 micro-enterprises and provided training and mentoring through their 200 volunteer mentors.
- UpEnergy (Nicole Ballin and Edward Lubega) Uganda: UpEnergy distributes $12-15 clean cookstoves throughout Africa, increasing the availability of clean energy home appliances to underserved populations. They have sold over 13,000 cookstoves to 11,000 customers, offset 30,000 tons of CO2 emissions, and generated $170,000 in direct sales and over $400,000 in carbon revenues via selling carbon credits.
- Sudiksha (Naveen Peddalagalla and Nimisha Mittal) India: Sudiksha runs 18 affordable, for-profit, pre-schools for the poorest children in the slums of Hyderabad and the rural areas Andhra Pradesh. They have provided a high-quality pre-school education to 1,500 low-income children, charging each student $8 per month, and generating $75,000 in cumulative revenue.
- Voltzon (Pepijn Steemers and Sjoerd Spaanjaars) Tanzania: Voltzon is undercutting the price of diesel generators in east Africa by providing a solar energy solution to off-the-grid communities. They lease out a mobile solar energy container to hospitals and schools, installing 16 systems so far in schools and healthcare institutions throughout Tanzania. They have generated $662,000 in revenue in the last four years and are exploring new financing models to make solar more affordable.
- Trash to Cash (Madhumita Puri) India: Trash to Cash trains adults with a variety of disabilities in India to collect trash and turn it into beautiful products that can be sold in India and elsewhere. Since 2008, they have generated $220,000 and employed 87 women with disabilities who would otherwise be without employment.
- MPrep (Toni Mariviglia and Chris Asego) Kenya: MPrep uses mobile phones to prepare underserved Kenyan students for their primary-school exit exams. So far, they have over 4,500 students at 90 schools using their SMS-based study tools, which have led to students who previously underperformed on test-scores to exceed class averages after using MPrep.
- The Good Life Organization (Roberto Rivera) United States has created curricula that equip educators and mentors across the United States to engage effectively with youths for the purpose of transforming communities. Their impact spans from leadership training to increases in student GPA to higher graduation rates at high schools. After GLO’s involvement in one mid-western high school, the school reported its first ever 100% graduation rate.