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