Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unreasonable: Week 1

As some may know, I was selected (by you) to attend the 2012 Unreasonable Institute as a fellow. We just finished our first full week and I wanted to share an update. I hope to do one every week (so expect six)!

I flew in last Tuesday night - Teju (the new CEO) picked me up from the airport and he was holding a two-foot stuffed penguin on his head (we hadn't met before).

It was a sign of things to come.

The Unreasonable Institute is a six-week incubator program for entrepreneurs looking to improve the lives of at least a million people. There are 22 fellows from 16 countries including the Congo, India, Kenya, China, and Liberia.

My roommate, for example, employs 50 former child soldiers on his farms. When he was just starting out he convinced someone to let him clean up their land. He started with one bag of rice, and no help from foreign aid organizations.

Makes me think twice when I complain about how hard it is to start a business. We don't know hard and the first week has hopefully cemented this into my head. It's good to get that over with so we can focus on what's important.

Here's a brief rundown of the week:

Breakfast. Scavenger hunt exploring the necessary spots we need to know about in Boulder. Overview of principles of the Institute. Dinner. And at night, something really cool. Thanks to HP, each fellow received a new HP Folio Laptop, including a solid state hard drive, 9.5 hours of battery life and just darn good-looking.

Breakfast (I've eaten a lot of granola - the stereotype about Boulder is 100% true). The morning session with Scott Sherman from the Transformative Action Institute, and it was a real treat. He lead a session on improv, which did two things: got uptight people like me to chill out and prepared us for our two-minute speeches at the opening reception on Friday. Talk about a small world, I later learned that Scott is a guest lecturer at the LBJ School's RGK Center (that's in my backyard). For you Austinites - if he's speaking in town, you need to go.

Each night, before dinner, 2 - 5 mentors from the program answer questions in a camp-fire style discussion. It's a great forum to see that others have made it through the hard parts on their way to seeing their vision through.

Friday morning's session was on, of all things, the Lean Startup and the Lean Canvas. I say 'of all things' because the Lean Canvas is based on the work of Austinite Ash Maurya. My good buddy from Tech Ranch, Emiliano Villareal now works with the Lean Canvas team and fortunately he's been pounding these principles into my head for the last year and a half (most of the time I listened). Check that - when I started listening to Emiliano more - we started doing better.

The big event of the day was the opening reception. Each of the 2012 Fellows gave a two-minute talk to 300 people in Boulder. Public Speaking = Sheer terror (especially when you're presenting with a bunch of people who have done so much). But with some practice (and having the luxury of having a poet on the team to help you with the editing) I somehow relaxed enough to not mess up the delivery too badly.

I was so relieved and it was nice to relax and get to know everyone over a beer afterwards.

Saturday & Sunday
Hiked a mountain with two incredibly fit people (hint: I was the one hunched over saying "go ahead").

And believe it or not, I've run (or did a 3-hour hike) every day since I've been here. 21 days to form a habit (any bookmen out there?) - and it's starting to feel better. Note to Gazelles, I'm coming for you.

Once again, I can't thank you guys enough for rallying and sending me here. The next few weeks will be focused on meeting mentors that can help get us ready for the next stage of growth. Outside of activities, I've been working hard making Aunt Bertha better - we released a new version last night that is about 10X faster. I'd love your feedback. Check it out: www.auntbertha.com.

The first week was busy, but I'm definitely inspired. The staff is solid, the mentors are brilliant, but knowing that there are 21 other entrepreneurs here that are going through similar things has been the best part.

Erine Gray is the founder of Aunt Bertha.

Read about: Week 2 | Week 3

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