I am just a student. I don’t have an impressive list of accomplishments. But I am a student. I am a student hungry for success, and desperate for knowledge. I am a student in an unusual environment, learning from the world’s brightest, greatest entrepreneurs and change-makers.
I was born in Denver, Colorado in an international household; my mother immigrated from France, and my father from Iran. I was sent to an international school at the age of three and by my fifth birthday, I was almost trilingual. Given my international background, I grew up learning about the world’s most urgent problems—and from an early age, I was determined to make a dent in solving some of them.
I met Daniel Epstein, founder of The Unreasonable Institute, during my freshman year at the University of Colorado. By my junior year, I was a college dropout, helping prepare for the most radical experiment in entrepreneurship history. I found myself on a path (or rather, a highway) headed directly towards where I knew I would be able to create the biggest impact on the world. And it was all because of Daniel.
Daniel started the Unreasonable Institute when he was 22-years-old. The Unreasonable Institute is a business accelerator for entrepreneurs who share the common thread of using business to solve some of the world’s most pressing social dilemmas. During its three years of operation, the Institute has helped 73 businesses reach market scale, and as a result, has impacted 3.5 million people globally.
A new concept was starting to take flight, originating from the belief that empathy builds empires—and that the only way to scale businesses globally is to travel, well, globally. It was this idea, along with Daniel’s conviction that entrepreneurship can be leveraged to solve the most challenging problems of our time, that captured so much attention and interest.
So, along with uniting entrepreneurs in Boulder, Colorado, which it will still continue to do in summer of 2013, the Unreasonable Institute and the co-founder of Stanford’s d.school have teamed up with Semester at Sea (a study abroad program). As a result, the Institute is in the midst of sailing 25,000 nautical miles around the globe to 14 international destinations. The goal is to work with technology-based companies that are hell-bent on tackling the toughest problems of our time, and to help them expand their ventures into new international markets. This new program is called Unreasonable at Sea.
I am only a student, but I am a student in the hands of the world’s greatest change-makers. Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress), and Hunter Lovins—who was named Time Magazine’s Hero of the Planet in 2000—are just some of the mentors joining the unreasonable odyssey.
But the teams of entrepreneurs that have been selected from thousands to make up the Unreasonable at Sea Class of 2013 are my greatest source of inspiration and excitement:
- Aquaphytex: Providing clean water to 300,000 people (and rising) without the use of chemicals or energy. How do they do it? With plants.
- Damascus Fortune: Nanotechnology that transforms carbon from the atmosphere into strong materials used to build spaceships.
- Innoz: Mobile-app out of India with more than 120,000,000 users, which is designed to give internet capabilities to those who don’t have internet connectivity (or computers).
- Prakti Design: Feeding more than 250,000 people daily with ultra-affordable and fuel efficient cook stoves (the world’s most efficient, in fact).
- GuruG: Educates and empowers teachers through a “gamified” platform tailored specifically to fit all classroom environments.
- SolarEar: World’s first programmable and rechargeable hearing aids.
- Protei: Wind powered, autonomous, sailing drones that clean oil spills and trash from the oceans.
- EvoTech: a radically affordable medical device for maternal care in emerging markets where access to proper equipment is scarce.
- One Earth Designs: Best solar cooker on earth which harnesses the sun for cooking and energy.
- Artificial Vision for the Blind: Artificial intelligence leveraged as a cheap and non-invasive cure for blindness.
I am just a student. But aren’t we all while in the hands of the world’s most inspiring and unreasonable minds?