The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. ~ George Bernard Shaw
Unreasonable East Africa was started in 2013, aiming to develop the East African economy by supporting the growth of early stage impact entrepreneurs. They mainly work with teams building products and services that both provide access to basic human needs and create jobs. Unreasonable have worked with 21 companies from Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, raising over $5.2 million in growth funding, impacting over 850, 000 people in the region. This can be largely attributed to mentors who have freely shared their wealth of knowledge and networks with the entrepreneurs.
This July, a five week program by Unreasonable Institute in Uganda featured entrepreneurs creating solutions to East Africa’s biggest social and environmental issues with the Unreasonable furnishing them with that ‘unreasonable advantage’ that would allow them to reach their full potential.
The role of the mentors in the program is to form a bridge between the problem entrepreneurs would like to fix and how to actually fix it. The guessing and ‘miracle’ that is often in this gap can easily be cleared up by talking to a mentor- an industry expert with years of experience. The mentors were in the same position as these entrepreneurs, they make excellent guides and cheerleaders because after all, they can ‘feel the pain’. They can therefore provide a change of scope, that is, how a problem looks, and helps the entrepreneurs see beyond their current challenge.
Some of the value addition that mentors have is to build lasting relationships, share their networks and seek to understand the entrepreneur and their venture.
Stephen Gugu, the co-founder of Viktoria Ventures was one of the mentors this year, providing advice on financial management and business models. He sums up the experience as the following:
“A world of possibilities! The mansion is a place where as a founder you interact with others and mentors to rethink your business in a way that you scale and touch as many lives as possible! You almost get to think through all possibilities.”
It was his second time as a mentor for the Unreasonable Institute and he quite enjoyed his experience in the Unreasonable mansion.
One of the aspects that captured him that the institute practice is the life map exercise. A life map is a framework within which one gets to explore the many different factors that have shaped who and where one is today. He suggested the exercise for the next InVhestia team building event- it would be the perfect way to better understand what motivates its employees. He stated that what he loved about it was that this exercise help one learn people; see who they really are and what influences people to do what they do.
Some of the companies present for the program were FarmDrive who improve livelihoods of smallholder African farmers through innovative technological tools that increase lenders efficiency and operational capacity, and Inagape Limited, Africa’s first coconut chip manufacturer.
What made him sad however that there weren’t many indigenous African entrepreneurs in the program. However, entrepreneurs selected by the Unreasonable Institute are those who focus on the people at the bottom of the pyramid. Their problems are often simple and their lives can be improved significantly through introducing means to solve the problem. Such entrepreneurs often look to break even and do some good as compared to for profit organizations.
Key takeaway you may ask? That the key driver for a social entrepreneur is how many lives they touch… And often they touch quite a number.