As the traditional job market makes way for entrepreneurship around the globe, Barclays Bank and Unreasonable Group come together for an innovative partnership to launch the world's first international network of accelerators.
What is common between an Indonesian entrepreneur who is implementing smart feeding technology for the aquaculture sector and an Indian entrepreneur developing affordable electric scooters? Or, for that matter, what connects the dots between a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur utilizing solar power and renewable energy to harvest safe drinking water and a Malaysian entrepreneur converting waste oil into renewable bio-fuels?
All of these are examples of new-age entrepreneurs who are leveraging cutting-edge technology to innovate commercially viable business models that also have a sustainable social impact. With such people in mind, Barclays Bank PLC and US-based Unreasonable Group have developed an innovative, multi-year partnership to launch the world’s first international network of accelerators–Unreasonable Impact. In its second year now, the programme is focused on scaling up entrepreneurial solutions that will help employ thousands worldwide, while solving some of the most pressing societal challenges.
Jaideep Khanna, Head of Barclays, Asia Pacific, says: “Asia Pacific is the growth engine of the world; it is home to the some of the fastest growing economies. As one of the world’s most forward-thinking banks with over 325 years of experience in navigating change, Barclays is uniquely positioned to guide and help today’s fastest growing entrepreneurs. That is why we are thrilled to partner with the Unreasonable Group, to pave the way for innovative growth."
Daniel Epstein, Founder and CEO, Unreasonable Group, adds: “These really are the entrepreneurs who are manufacturing the new economy, and they’re giving us a front row glimpse – before the show actually starts for the rest of the world – of where everything is moving. What is so evident from both the profitability and the traction of their companies is that everything is moving toward sustainability; they’re showing us how."
Kick-starting a strategic partnership
The inaugural year of the partnership included three intensive two-week accelerators in the UK, the US and Asia Pacific. The second year commenced with a programme in the US in October 2017, followed by one in the UK in November 2017. Says Epstein: “If you look at the Unreasonable Impact partnership, the individual companies are noticeably exciting. But the real impact is in the collective. Since we started the partnership just over two years ago, we have 71 companies in the portfolio. Across those companies, they have generated nearly US $1 billion in revenue; they have raised over US $1.5 billion in financing; they are impacting over 260 million lives; and they have created 16,000 jobs. It is the collective impact of this global community that’s going to bend history in the right direction."
After a successful stint in 2017 in Asia, a new cohort of 14 ventures from Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and the Philippines were introduced to the growing global network in Hong Kong recently. During the 10-day immersive programme, the entrepreneurs received mentorship from business experts and serial entrepreneurs, such as the co-founder of Google Glass and Google’s self-driving car, Tom Chi, prominent serial entrepreneur, investor and film producer, Keyur Patel and CEO of Preferred Brands International and Chairman of Tasty Bite Eatables, Ashok Vasudevan. Additionally, several senior colleagues from across Barclays served as mentors.
Inspiring entrepreneurship: Sucess stories from across Asia Pacific
Indonesia-based Gibran Huzaifah, Co-Founder and CEO, eFishery, made his journey out of poverty from the slums of East Jakarta. Today, his company is creating the future with an IoT smart feeding technology that’s helping hundreds of millions of farmers at the bottom of pyramid.
Brandon Ng, Co-Founder and CEO, Ampd Energy, showcased lithium-ion energy storage systems, which provide clean, affordable and dependable electricity while RAD Green Solutions, a Philippines-based company, offers the answer to the threat from burning of infectious medical waste. “Through non-incineration technology known as pyrolysis, we have developed equipment known as Pyroclave, whose patented hydro-burn technology produces more heat with less fuel by using water as a catalyst," says its CEO, Ivan Lim.
While offering a probable solution to the water crisis, Hong Kong-based Dr Johnny Ip, Vice-President and CIO of Heaven Springs Dynasty Harvest Group, shared insight on their company’s first multipurpose atmospheric water generator designed to extract water from humid ambient air and efficiently convert it into safe drinking water.
A business success story that stands out from the crowd is of the fourth-generation Malaysian of Indian descent, Vinesh Sinha, Founder and CEO of FatHopes. “The name of the company was coined as we had great hopes of building a company from fats," he quips. With a strength of 300 employees and a total of 18,000 outlets in Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Singapore, FatHopes essentially treats a variety of waste oils into a bio-fuel which is a diesel replacement. To date, FatHopes has converted over 150 million kg of waste oil into bio-fuel, saving over 45 million kg of carbon. Incidentally, McDonald’s has partnered with FatHopes to install green oil wells in many of their locations globally. “Although we have been a well-established company for the past 10 years, our association with Unreasonable Impact has been an eye-opener and the connections we have made are quite valuable," he says.
Indigenous ideas: Indian entrepreneurs leave a global footprint
Women entrepreneurs in India are making a distinct mark. Hemalatha Annamalai, Founder and CEO of Ampere Vehicles, clearly leads the pack when it comes to addressing the specific needs of a rural market. Her company has developed an affordable electric scooter. With a 4-hour charge on the lithium-ion battery, the scooter can give a mileage of up to 100km/ charge. Similarly, Mausumi Acharyya, Founder and CEO, ChironX, is democratizing healthcare with AI-powered software that rapidly, affordably and reliably diagnoses critical health conditions from medical images.
At the other end of the spectrum is Manoj Sinha, Co-founder and CEO, Husk Power Systems, whose company is making a world of difference in the rural areas of Tanzania and India by powering them with 100% renewable energy, through one of world’s lowest cost hybrid power plant and distribution networks. The 25-250 kW mini-power plants convert agricultural waste and solar energy into affordable electricity. Speaking about his association with Unreasonable Impact, he says: “Since 2010, this is the most cohesive community that takes the relationship for a long-term basis, thus making the progress of entrepreneurs sustainable and effective."
The story of Fourth Partner Energy’s (4PEL) growth is quite inspiring. The company has distributed solar solutions completing over 1,500 grid-connected and off-grid installations across 22 states. “We have managed to attract capital to this sector, so that the overall solar story becomes more palatable to the clients. Also, we have a vertical for solar pumps and have installed close to 1,000 pumps in the state of Rajasthan, which has a direct impact on the lives of farmers and their families. In our journey, we have planted an equivalent of 4 million trees and our near-term objective is to reach 100 million trees," says Saifuddin Dhorajiwala, Co-founder and Executive Director, Fourth Partner Energy.
The D-Day: Unreasonable Impact Demo Day
The outcome of the focused approach was there for all to see when the 14 entrepreneurs faced the international audience, comprising high-level venture capitalists, angel investors, banking and financial experts.
Commenting on what he hopes to achieve from this partnership, Epstein says, “At a minimum, we would hope to be supporting a portfolio of companies that are impacting the lives of at least one billion people, profitably, by 2025."
(The writer was in Hong Kong as part of Unreasonable Impact created with Barclays)