Archive for the ‘semester at sea’ tag
What happens when you throw a bunch of startups, mentors, and wild college students on a boat for roughly four months? It’s never been done before, so nobody knows.
But on January 9, 2013, the first experimental Unreasonable at Sea accelerator class will leave San Diego aboard Semester at Sea‘s MV Explorer (the fastest cruise-liner in the world) for a 14 country jaunt to test, deploy and scale 10 startups in international markets.
“The experiment for us is one in transnational entrepreneurship. How do we take a technology like an affordable nano technology from India, for example, that’s already profitable and help them scale?, “ Daniel Epstein, founder of the Unreasonable Institute, told me. “But more importantly we’re paying close attention to how a startup thinks about its technology and how they’ve gone about developing it.”
This “huge experiment” is a joint effort between the Unreasonable Institute, Semester at Sea and George Kembel, Executive Director and co-founder of Stanford’s d.school. The idea is to take 10 startups with two to three employees from each company on a 25,000 nautical mile journey to empower and educate entrepreneurs with the help of mentors to think about their technology on a scale that is globally empathetic and that actually meets the needs of the people.
“Ideally, this will allow those startups to build relationships at every port to help them navigate into those countries in a much more meaningful way,” says Epstein. “As a Semester at Sea alum, I realize the value in their mission and how it directly relates to entrepreneurship. I was exposed to different issues in different markets and that’s what pushed me to take the Unreasonable Institute much more seriously.”
The inaugural Unreasonable at Sea class will journey west from San Diego with students apart of the Semester at Sea program for Asia stopping every two to four days and spending one to six days at each port to test their products and gather data in order to tweak and refine for the next stop.
The roster of mentors is equally impressive with folks like Desmond Tutu, Google’s Megan Smith and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg jumping on board for days, weeks and in some instances, the full course, to impart their wisdom.
When I asked Mullenweg why he’d chosen Unreasonable at Sea over other mentor programs, he candidly said, “Because it seems crazy, and those are often the endeavors that have the biggest impact.”
He added, “I hope that my experience will be relevant and helpful to the entrepreneurs on board. I know when I was getting started a few words of advice could save me months of going down the wrong path. Also perhaps I can work on my LCD monitor tan.”
But the roster of mentors has a gaping hole and Epstein will be the first to tell you that. “You’ll see a lot of folks with a software background and I’d like to get more hardware folks on board. We’ve frozen the mentor selection for now until the we’ve selected the class before we select the final 10 or twelve mentors to ensure they’re really tailored towards those companies.”
Over 800 companies from over 100 countries have started the simple 10-question application so far, says Epstein. If you think your startup has what it takes, you can sign up here. But do so quickly as the deadline is June 22. I need to come up with an idea
Ahoy there, startups of Silicon Valley and beyond! Unreasonable at Sea wants you to sail around the world on a fancy boat while expanding your business to international shores.
Unreasonable at Sea mixes startups, Semester at Sea students, venture capitalists, and seasoned entrepreneur mentors to create a floating incubator. But instead of floating in one location off the coast of California like Blueseed, this voyage will sail startup entrepreneurs to 14 international ports to help them expand businesses that have previously operated in only one market.
I recently spoke with the mastermind behind this endeavor, Daniel Epstein. During his junior year in college, he enrolled in Semester at Sea (SAS), a study abroad program that sails around the world on a ship. It was during his journey that he began working on the the incubator and investment firm he operates today. The ah-ha moment for Unreasonable at Sea came when he thought of combining his experience as a Semester at Sea alumni with his Unreasonable Institute, an incubator for entrepreneurs focused on social and environmental topics.
“Six months ago, the president at Semester at Sea called me. He thought that Semester at Sea was missing an entrepreneurial energy and presence and told me he would send me on the ship. I was excited, but [I thought] it had to be more interesting than just me on the boat,” said Epstein, in an interview with VentureBeat.
Epstein decided to operate his incubator on board the ship instead of just tagging along for the ride. The goal of the program is for startups to expand into new markets and pitch to new investors. At each of the 14 ports, startups will attend pitch events where they’ll meet investors, politicians, and business people and show off their awesome ideas. All feedback will be used to improve the startup for the next pitch event in another country.
“From the entrepreneur’s perspective, it’s an opportunity to experiment with products and technology internationally. Startups can take their technology to another market to see what works and walk out with a globally relevant product,” Epstein said.
Unreasonable at Sea is accepting applications through June of this year and has already received responses from startups in more than 100 countries. Once all the applications come in, Epstein and his team will select 10 entrepreneurs and one to two of their team members to set sail on the maiden voyage.
From January 6, 2013 to April 25, 2013, Unreasonable at Sea will sail to across the Pacific and India Oceans, starting in San Diego and ending in Barcelona, Spain. In between, the ship will stop in Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and India, to name a few.
While on the ship, each startup will get the chance to interact with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and advisors who will coach them throughout the process. Half of the mentors have been selected and include vice president of business development for Google Megan Smith and retired vice president of HP Phil McKinney. Once the startups are selected for the program, more mentors will be added to fit each company’s unique needs.
In addition to working on their businesses, the startups will be interacting with SAS students to learn about entrepreneurship and business. Epstein and his team also plan to spend time teaching SAS students about business.
If you think your startup has what it takes, check out the requirements of the program and submit your application quickly. You have until June 5 to prove that your company is worthy of sailing around the world.