Wanted: East Africa’s Most Unreasonable Entrepreneurs


Kampala, Uganda – On September 23, Unreasonable East Africa begins its first ever annual search for startup ventures tackling East Africa’s greatest social and environmental challenges. Each year, the Institute unites two-dozen entrepreneurs from every corner of East Africa to live under the same roof for five weeks in Kampala, Uganda. There, they receive training from 50 mentors and form relationships with dozens of potential investors. For the first year, Unreasonable East Africa will be accepting applications from only Kenya and Uganda.

Unreasonable East Africa is replicating a successful model called the Unreasonable Institute. This model is based in Boulder, Colorado and has had tremendous success. 82 companies have attended the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder the past four years. In total, these 82 companies have raised more than $30 million in funding, and 74% of them have secured funding within 6 months of attending the Unreasonable Institute.

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East Africa boasts hundreds of startups that open shop each year. Many of them, however, fail due to a lack of experience, resources, tools and connections before they reach profitability. “We exist to help startup entrepreneurs to get over these hurdles,” says Joachim Ewechu, CEO Unreasonable East Africa.

Unreasonable East Africa is also part Unreasonable Institute Boulder’s scale strategy to open 100 institutes in 100 countries. This year, Institute is piloting the strategy in their first two locations: Unreasonable East Africa in Kampala, Uganda (open to applicants from Kenya and Uganda) and Unreasonable Mexico in Aguascalientes, Mexico (open to applicants from Mexico). The Unreasonable Institute in Boulder will accept later-stage startups that operate anywhere in the world.

Each of the three programs will carefully select 10-15 startup ventures for a five-week accelerator course in the summer of 2014.


Why Entrepreneurs Should Care

In each of the 3 locations, Unreasonable Institute entrepreneurs live together under one roof for five weeks, where they have the chance to:

  • Learn from and live with 50 mentors, ranging from a founder of 3 companies with billion-dollar exits; to the director of strategy at BRAC, which has brought 100 million people out of poverty; to an entrepreneur who has managed to lift 740,000 people out of poverty and create up to 140,000 new businesses.

  • Live with portfolio managers from over a dozen different funds. We work with the ventures we select to help find and build relationships with funders that are right for their venture.  We have personal relationships with 9 so far (and growing) angels, foundations and institutional investors. The Unreasonable Institute in Boulder also has relationships with 250+funders, investors and angels like Khosla Ventures, Calvert Fund, and Acumen.

  • Get deeply customized support: mentors, investors, and training workshops are carefully curated based on each startup’s needs.

  • Join a global network of 100+ early-stage entrepreneurs from 37 countries, 100+ mentors, and the Unreasonable Institute’s 180 partner organizations, including HP, Teach For America, and TED Fellows.

What Past Entrepreneurs from the Unreasonable Institute Say: Eneza Education

“The 2013 Unreasonable Institute was the best thing my co-founder and I could have done for Eneza,” says Toni Maraviglia of Eneza Education. “We’re now able to get 6 months of work done in one month due to all the amazing coaching, mentoring, workshops, and support we got from Unreasonable staff during the Institute and after. Most importantly, we joined a community of globe-changing fellows that we can learn from and support in making a huge impact.”

Toni is the CEO of Eneza Education, which uses simple mobile technology to make educational tools for remote students and schools in Kenya. 66% of eighth-grade school children in Kenya fail the high stakes test to get into secondary school. Meanwhile, 90% of families have a cell phone, making it a nearly ubiquitous technology and learning tool. Eneza created an SMS-based learning system to help students improve their scores.

Before the 2013 Unreasonable Institute, Eneza Education needed three things: an expanded funding network, a plan to grow their team, and better management skills for their technical development.

After the Institute, Eneza Education had investors committed to funding them now and in a future round of fundraising, a dedicated team of mentors, a refined business model, and a plan to make strategic hires in the next few months. This year, Eneza’s user base has grown dramatically — from 4,500 when they applied to the Institute to 75,000 users as of September.  “My vision in terms of technology has doubled after my time at the Institute and with Boulder-based tech companies,” says Kago Kagichiri, Chief Technology Officer of the company.

Editor’s note: To learn more about Unreasonable East Africa as well as to submit an application, visit www.unreasonableeastafrica.org. To learn more about Unreasonable Global as well as submit an application, visit www.unreasonableinstitute.org. The deadline for both is November 7, 2013. Reasonable entrepreneurs need not apply.