Big Impact Sometimes Requires ‘Unreasonable’ Goals
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
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Unreasonable Impact, a collaboration between Unreasonable Group and Barclays, has its sites set on advancing social entrepreneurship at massive—even unreasonable—scale.
Unreasonable Group founder and CEO, Daniel Epstein, 32, says the world needs to create 212 million new jobs over the next four years to bring idle, mostly young people into the work force and to absorb lost employment from automation and other economic shifts.
At the same time, he notes that the world faces a variety of other societal and environmental challenges.
Be sure to watch the full interview with Epstein in the video player at the top of this article.
Daniel Epstein, Unreasonable Group CREDIT: UNREASONABLE GROUP
Epstein says he’s always believed that entrepreneurs could solve whatever problem we throw at them. The premise of the collaboration, therefore, is that by supporting and driving investment in startups that address social problems, the program can quickly create thousands of jobs to address at least in part the huge gap in employment while addressing social and environmental problems.
Simply put, Unreasonable Impact is a global accelerator for social entrepreneurs.
“Unreasonable Impact runs a series of programs in the UK, US and Asia Pacific that support the scale of growth-stage impact-driven ventures by providing entrepreneurs with the resources, mentorship, and global network they need to rapidly create jobs and address key global issues,” Epstein says.
He reports that its ventures have raised $1.3 billion in funding, have generated $1.1 billion in revenue and have already created 7,000 new jobs.
Some of the enterprises that have raised funds with the Unreasonable Impact effort include Plant Prefab, Lanza Tech and BreezeoMeter.
Epstein is no doomsayer. Ever the optimist, he says, “The future is bright. Forward-thinking businesses are creating new roles and, in some cases, new industries that will sustain the working population for decades to come with jobs we don’t even know exist yet.”
As an example, he points to Vancouver-based Inventys, which he says has the technology required to sequester 2 gigatons of carbon each year. He notes that the world needs to sequester about 7 gigatons so this single solution can play a significant role.
“Barclays and the Unreasonable Group share a belief that today’s high-growth entrepreneurs represent the job creators of tomorrow,” says Deborah Goldfarb, Global Head of Citizenship at Barclays International. “In co-founding Unreasonable Impact, we aim to support a community of inspiring entrepreneurs who are harnessing new technologies that have the potential to employ thousands of people around the world, while also delivering scalable environmental impact – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to ensuring millions of people now have access to reliable, clean and affordable electricity.”
She notes that thousands of Barclays people are sharing their networks and talents to support the Unreasonable Impact companies. By contrast, Unreasonable Group has just 21 full-time employees plus seven part-time employees and contractors.
For Barclays, Unreasonable Impact is just a part of the broader effort to address global problems. “In 2018, we also launched a dedicated Social Impact Banking Group inside our Investment Bank. This group is advising growth stage positive-impact companies on their businesses while building relationships with sustainability-focused investors across asset classes in order to better understand their needs and connect them with potential investments,” Goldfarb says.
Optimistic and passionate about entrepreneurship, Epstein acknowledges his views on the role of governments around the world has evolved. “Five years ago, I would have been naive and said that the private sector can do it.”
Now, he says, public policy has the potential to help bring the Unreasonable Impact technologies to market more quickly—or to stifle them. He notes, too, that some of the companies have received investment from governments while others sell to governments. Finally, he points out that some of the companies do business in some countries and avoid others because of tax policies and other incentives structures. All this, he says, underscores the important role of government in scaling entrepreneurs’ solutions.
The Unreasonable Impact collaboration is nothing if not ambitious. It will be exciting to see what comes of the partnership over the next few years as companies quickly scale and global problems are addressed.
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