11 Social Entrepreneurs. A Ship. 13 Countries. 100 Days
BY Jeff Hoffman
Serial entrepreneur and mentor Jeff Hoffman writes about his experience aboard the floating accelerator Unreasonable at Sea.
I'm amazed to see an explosion of global interest in entrepreneurship in the last few years. Nations on every continent are turning to entrepreneurs to address unemployment, create jobs, stimulate economies, and innovate new ideas.
A great example of this flurry of activity is Unreasonable at Sea. Created by the Unreasonable Group in Boulder, Colorado, Unreasonable at Sea is an inventive and impressive undertaking in which 11 start-ups travel on a ship to 13 countries to try and launch their ventures in multiple global markets in a condensed period of time. During the days in between ports of call, the entrepreneurs continue working on their start-ups with the help of seasoned mentors (like me) on board.
I wrote this dispatch last month somewhere off the coast of Gambia, between stops in Accra, Ghana, and Casablanca, Morocco. The entrepreneurs and their products on the floating incubator gave me hope for a better world. One team developed a solar powered hearing aid that is allowing thousands of deaf people in underdeveloped nations to hear for the first time. Another team made a low-cost, non-invasive surgical device that is making surgery available to rural villages where surgery was never available before. A third group created a low-cost stove that will allow families in emerging nations to prepare their own food in places where they could never cook their own meals before. And there's eight more.
It's encouraging to see a generation of young people who want to make the world a better place, and are launching companies to achieve that goal. But the uniqueness of the Unreasonable at Sea voyage makes this an incubator like no other. As they build their start-ups, the entrepreneurs visit potential markets and immerse themselves in on-the-ground activities with the real potential buyers of their products. They hold focus groups in India, visit villages in Ghana, test products in Myanmar, and meet with distributors in Vietnam. It's not only a life-changing experience, it's a turbo-charged entry into global markets that few entrepreneurs will ever be exposed to.
This kind of outside-the-box thinking, from the creators of Unreasonable at Sea, mixed with incredible entrepreneurs and mentors on the ship, come together to push the boundaries of entrepreneurship and social responsibility to exciting new levels. I can already tell it will benefit millions of people on every continent long after this journey is over.
JEFF HOFFMAN, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. @SpeakerJeff