Five CU grads deliver on an ‘unreasonable’ idea incubator


A group of CU grads has launched an unusual — some would say unreasonable — incubator to help brilliant entrepreneurs get their social and environmental ideas funded and off the ground.

The Unreasonable Institute will host an opening reception on Monday evening to introduce the 25 individuals in the inaugural class of “Unreasonable Fellows.” At the event, which will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the CU Wolf Law School’s Wittemeyer Courtroom, the 25 participants will take the stage to answer the question, “Who are you to define progress in our time?”

The organization hosts the Fellows for 10 weeks, where they get mentorship from 50 experienced social entrepreneurs and investors on everything from one-on-one conversation to business development to pitching. The institute is modeled after TechStars, a mentor-driven, seed-stage investment program.

The entrepreneurs hail from six continents and plan to launch ventures in 17 countries. One is a former child soldier from Liberia rehabilitating and reintegrating other former child soldiers. Another is an American engineer scaling a carbon-negative process for converting agricultural waste into energy. A third is a Venezuelan scientist developing a low-cost DNA test for treatable diseases.

Tyler Hartung, one of the founders of The Unreasonable Institute, told Boulder Weekly that while he and his partners were all friends at CU, they graduated in different years and disciplines. President Daniel Epstein has a degree in international affairs, Vice President Teju Ravilochan majored in international affairs and Creativity Expert Vladimir Dubovskiy studied applied math. Founding Advisor Nikhil Dandavati and Hartung (whose title is “community tactician”) were finance majors.

Hartung says that after being unable to find enough support for their own entrepreneurial efforts, the five decided to band together and create an organization that accelerates sound social and environmental projects.

Hartung says First Light Ventures has provided $150,000 for the Fellows to use toward a select number of their projects. The 25 participants will decide how that money is divided up, and which projects will be funded. The theory, he explains, is that 25 brilliant entrepreneurs (chosen from 284 applicants) will make a more sound decision on how to spend those funds than would an investment firm.

The institute has received support from several CU groups, including Silicon Flatirons, ATLAS (Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society) and the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship.

Monday’s reception will feature refreshments, and future events may include the Fellows publicly practicing their pitches to investors, Hartung says. For more information, visit or follow @beunreasonable on Twitter.

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