Start a business. Help the poor.

In 2013, a dozen tech startup founders sailed around the world. Also on board were mentors and investors ready to help their businesses grow, and help them do good for others.

This business accelerator at sea is fueled by a hope that as small businesses grow, they also help address social, health and environmental problems in developing countries.

Girl holding bundle of sticks over her head (Flickr/The Good Life Orphanage)
Instead of gathering wood for fuel, she should be in school. (Flickr/The Good Life Orphanage)

The Unreasonable Group believes that relying on grants and donations is not the best strategy for eradicating poverty or disease.

Unreasonable’s founder, Daniel Epstein, believes that for-profit companies can grow faster than nonprofits, and thus can address many global challenges more effectively. Unreasonable is based in the U.S. but works with for-profit firms throughout the developing world.

Brittany Lane, global editor of Unreasonable’s digital publication, says businesses often can reach greater numbers of poor people more quickly than nonprofits, and do so with the best products and services.

Woman standing in workshop (Courtesy of Soko)
She sells crafts through Soko, an e-commerce platform developed in Kenya and supported by Unreasonable. (Courtesy photo)

Unreasonable’s strategy is to work with partners to connect the developing world’s fast-growing businesses with mentors, investors and each other, encouraging them all to share expertise.

Sometimes, says Lane, the best mentors and ideas are found in unrelated industries. For example, some companies selected for the Girl Effect Accelerator and Project Literacy Lab don’t normally work on girls’ empowerment or literacy.  But companies that sell clean, affordable electricity or lighting can boost literacy in places where girls spend lots of time gathering firewood.

Unreasonable wants to stay an experiment-in-progress. By trying different programs and approaches, it hopes to boost entrepreneurs who can best solve problems — ones who are not deterred by emerging-market challenges and are determined to make money by solving them.

Entrepreneurs who want to change the world have got to be a little crazy, Epstein says.