Frequently Asked Questions
Note that these questions and answers are primarily about Unreasonable East Africa.
General Questions about Unreasonable East Africa
What is Unreasonable East Africa?
Unreasonable East Africa gives an “unreasonable advantage” to entrepreneurs creating solutions to East Africa’s biggest social and environmental problems. These entrepreneurs aim to make an outsized impact, often with a tiny amount of resources. They have bold visions, but they face tough odds — as we know most startups fail within a year or two. To give them an unreasonable advantage to beat these odds, we bring these entrepreneurs together to live under the same roof for 5 weeks, where they connect with 80+ world class mentors, are surrounded by a dense concentration of capital sources and are backed by lasting global network of support.
Our goal: Help each of these ventures grow and scale to meaningfully impact the lives of over 1 million people.
Please read more about this on our About us page
Where is Unreasonable East Africa based?
Unreasonable East Africa is based in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda! Kampala is emerging as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, led by its millennial generation. 78% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, and the energy of the country’s young people is palpable. Check out this great piece about the rising young leadership in Africa and this piece about how Uganda is the most entrepreneurial country in the world.
Why only entrepreneurs from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and not the whole of East Africa?
We have always been so excited to attract entrepreneurs from all over East Africa. A huge part of our value comes from the local network we are able to provide, and we realized we would not be able to offer the same value to all our entrepreneurs if we took in entrepreneurs from all East African countries. We will continue to build our regional network and consider taking in applications from the whole region in the coming years. Nonetheless, we love to be challenged. If you feel UNREASONABLE, maybe you can pull our leg. We do not guarantee though that we will take you in 🙂
Why did you choose the name “Unreasonable East Africa?”
The name Unreasonable was inspired by a quote from George Bernard Shaw, a celebrated Irish playwright (who won both a Nobel Prize in Literature and an Academy Award!) and the co-founder of the London School of Economics:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in adapting the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man(and woman).
We work with entrepreneurs that are working on solving massive social and environmental problems like poverty, inequality, global warming, lack of access to health care and education and many others. These entrepreneurs look at these massive challenges as great opportunities, leveraging the power of business to combat them while meeting the needs of our planet and its people. To do this, they must innovate new technologies, transform systems and pioneer new ways of thinking. They will not settle for the status quo, for acres of forest wasted or for unnecessary lives lost; they are adapting the world to themselves, and in doing so changing the world for the better… this is why we call them unreasonable.
Our job is to match these entrepreneurs with the knowledge, resources and tools they need to maximise and scale their impact. Because we work with unreasonable entrepreneurs in East Africa, we we are called Unreasonable East Africa.
A few examples of Unreasonable entrepreneurs that we have worked with so far:
An entrepreneur providing access to safe, clean drinking water in low-income communities by equipping entrepreneurs to set up water franchises. They currently have three locations in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, each selling an average of over 1,200 litres of water per day.
An entrepreneur that is reducing the rate of deforestation by producing an alternative type of fuel and briquettes made from agricultural waste on a massive scale. In addition, they produce energy efficient stoves that improve fuel efficiency by reducing the amount of fuel needed to make a meal.
An entrepreneur seeking to improve the reading culture among Kenyans by setting up a chain of libraries that provide age appropriate books and tutoring to young kids. The grades of the children they work with have improved 25% in comparison to children not utilizing the libraries.
Who’s behind the program and why are you doing this?
We are a group of young and highly unreasonable people. Our founders have faced challenges in starting their own social ventures in the past and hungered to unleash the power of entrepreneurship to tackle East Africa’s greatest problems. As start-up entrepreneurs, they faced an array of obstacles and over time realized that hundreds of early-stage entrepreneurs around East Africa faced the same hurdles. With a belief that we cannot afford to send the next generation of young people into the world unprepared to tackle its greatest challenges, they knew something had to be done. Creating Unreasonable East Africa was the answer.
How does Unreasonable East Africa sustain itself financially?
Currently, our main source of revenue comes from philanthropic funding from foundations, corporations and high net-worth individuals. Our main funders so far include Segal Family Foundation, DOEN Foundation, Halloran Philanthropies & Rockefeller Foundation (both through the Unreasonable Institute), the Unreasonable Institute itself and the Boehm Family. We are committed to being on a pathway to sustainability (just as we want our fellows to be!) so we are not reliant on philanthropic funding. Because of this, we are validating a business model through tuition from our fellows, with a combination of upfront tuition and revenue share agreements. For more on all this, please see our Costs page and/or contact Joachim via firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the time commitment of an Unreasonable Mentor?
- Prospective Mentor: As a Prospective Mentor, you have no time commitment or pressure, other than your interest in exploring the possibility of becoming an Unreasonable Mentor by sharing conversations with entrepreneurs. Dependent on need of their expertise, Prospective Mentors will be invited to mentor at Unreasonable Labs or spend 1-2 days at the Unreasonable East Africa Institute to test their mentoring abilities; this is also a chance for Prospective Mentors to see what mentoring with us entails before fully committing. Those who have effectively demonstrated their ability to mentor will then become Expert Mentors for our next program.
- Expert Mentor: Spend at least 2-3 days at the Unreasonable East Africa Institute, where you will meet one-on-one with entrepreneurs to deep dive into their specific challenge areas. We ask that all Expert Mentors be willing to provide a minimum of six months of mentorship, after the Institute, to at least one venture. The frequency of interaction post-Institute will be determined by the mentor and entrepreneur; we encourage at least meeting for monthly check-ins.
- Investor Mentor: Engage in a 1 hour introductory call or meeting with entrepreneur pre-Institute to get to know each other and seek understanding of the venture. We request that Investor Mentors spend 3-5 days at the Unreasonable East Africa Institute during Investor Week, a week focused on investment & fundraising, and provide a minimum of six months mentorship to the venture you’ve been matched with. The frequency of interaction post-Institute will be determined by the mentor and entrepreneur; we encourage at least meeting for monthly check-ins.
As a Prospective Mentor, what is expected of me?
As a Prospective Mentor, you have no time commitment or pressure, other than your interest in exploring the possibility of becoming an Unreasonable Mentor by sharing a conversation with an entrepreneur – either over the phone or in-person. Our goal, as the Unreasonable team, is simply to create an opportunity for you to interact with an entrepreneurs and explore the potential of becoming an Unreasonable Mentor. As a Prospective Mentor, you can be as involved as you would like to be.
What makes a good Unreasonable Mentor?
- Passion: They love mentoring entrepreneurs. We have found that some of our best mentors are people who are just on-fire about working with early-stage ventures and entrepreneurs. Mentoring is personally rewarding and energizing.
- For example: David Kyle, a mentor with the Unreasonable East Africa can’t get enough mentorship. When he showed up at the Institute in 2014, he made sure to meet with all of our fellows and is still in touch with most of them.
- Experience: They have done what our entrepreneurs are trying to do. For example, they have scaled early-stage companies, lifted thousands of people out of poverty, built supply chains and distribution networks, hired and fired employees, taken on multiple rounds of capital, made major mistakes, and lived to see through it all.
- For example: Nick Moon, a mentor with Unreasonable East Africa is a founding director of a company, Kickstart, that has lifted over 750,000 people out of poverty and created over 127,000 businesses.
- Humility: It’s not about them. They’re not mentoring to pad their resume or feel self-important. They’re mentoring because they love working with entrepreneurs and see a role for them to participate in the success and impact of an Unreasonable entrepreneur.
- For example: Nat Robinson, a mentor with the Unreasonable East Africa Institute is the CEO of Juhudi Kilimo, one of East Africa’s most impressive companies creating impact. They have managed to provide asset financing to over 45,000 farmers in Kenya. But most fellows know him better for his brilliant advice than for what he has accomplished.
- Method: They seek understanding first. They ask good questions before offering advice. They are good listeners. They are good communications and are able to articulate ideas with positivity.
- For example: Alfred Wise, a mentor with Unreasonable East Africa is one of our best mentors because he listens intently before offering well-time advice.
- Impact: They’re excited about helping entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s biggest social and environmental problems.
- Jibu empowers entrepreneurs to launch profitable, decentralized water businesses that make safe water affordable for everyone. They have 4 businesses launched so far.
- KadAfrica works with 356 smallholder farmers (most who are women and girls) training them in effectively growing and selling fruit.
- Village Energy distributes solar systems for off-the-grid households. They recruit and train community-based electricians as well as radio and cell phone repairmen to become solar technicians who distribute, install and repair solar systems. They have reached 4,000 households so far.
- Please find the other ventures here.
- Availability and Engagement: They’re excited about the community that Unreasonable offers and engage actively with it. Unreasonable is more than a network, it is a family, a community of fun and committed individuals who believe we can use the power of entrepreneurship to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.
How does Unreasonable East Africa determine who becomes and Unreasonable Mentor?
Once a potential mentor becomes a Prospective Mentor, our goal is to test their mentoring abilities while having them experiment what mentoring would feel like before committing them to Unreasonable Mentors. Below are the steps we take to confirm them an Unreasonable Mentor:
- Test your mentoring abilities: We match the Prospective Mentors with 1-3 entrepreneurs to engage in a conversation during our Lab or Institute.
- Debrief: At the end of your mentor test, meet again our VP of Mentorship to debrief on your experience mentoring with Unreasonable East Africa. This is also your time to let us know if you are interested in moving forward to becoming an Expert Mentor and to discuss what that commitment means.
- Final assessment: We’ll need 1-2 days to get feedback from the entrepreneurs you met with as well as determine if you meet the qualifications for mentors (outlined in the above question) to make a final decision. Prospective Mentors that are interested in fully committing to mentorship as well as have effectively demonstrated their mentoring abilities will be invited to become Unreasonable Expert Mentors and join us for the next program.
What happens to a mentor if an entrepreneur and a mentor do not commit to working together?
It may happen that there isn’t a perfect match between entrepreneurs and mentors. What’s most important is for the entrepreneur and the mentor to find mutual benefit in the relationship, so we won’t force any one specific match. In this case, we will do our best to match the mentor with another entrepreneur who might be a better fit (sometimes this takes a few months. For any given class of entrepreneurs, only about half of our mentors may be directly relevant). One role of the Unreasonable team is to remain apprised of the needs of all of our entrepreneurs so we can continually match entrepreneurs (past and present) with mentors.
If a mentor-entrepreneur relationship isnt working, how do I as a mentor end it?
The most important thing you can do if you find that you want to end a mentoring relationship with an entrepreneur is to watch this video. It has everything you need to know….Just kidding. This actually may happen and no matter if it’s you or if it’s them – it’s important to know how to gracefully indicate that the relationship is not working. We recommend being as transparent with the entrepreneur as possible about why the relationship is no longer working.
What benefits do Unreasonable Mentors get?
- To help solve East Africa’s most pressing challenges: Mentors have the chance to use their skills and expertise to help scale solutions to East Africa’s biggest social and environmental problems.
- Expand your network: Join forces with other world-changing mentors. Unreasonable East Africa is your common bond to connect and partner with other mentors and build relationships.
- From hosting Unreasonable-only events to making introductions, Unreasonable Mentors gain access to the Unreasonable network of 80+ mentors, 120+ investors, and 50+ partners across East Africa. We expect interesting partnerships between some mentors.
- Low-cost mentorship: For Unreasonable Mentors that live outside of Kampala, we subsidise the cost of flights and cover all accommodation and fooding when mentoring at the Unreasonable Institute in Kampala. Please note: Due to budget constraints Unreasonable East Africa can not cover the cost of the visa to Uganda.
- All Access to the Institute: Unreasonable Mentors receive an All Access Pass to the 5-week Unreasonable Institute in Kampala, Uganda. is entitles all Unreasonable Mentors to meet with entrepreneurs, attend meals at the Unreasonable East Africa Institute and attend workshops from other mentors.
- Events: Unreasonable Mentors gain free access to exclusive paid events throughout the year including but not limited to the Opening Reception, the Investor Days event, the Unreasonable Scrimmage and the Unreasonable Climax.
- Mentor Gatherings: Throughout the rest of the year, we hold intimate dinners for Unreasonable Mentors to convene and get to know each other.
If I know of someone who would be a good Unreasonable Mentor, what should I do?
Great! We need your help to find extraordinary mentors.
- Take a look at the “What Makes a Good Unreasonable Mentor” question above so you have a sense of what we look for when recruiting mentors.
- Share with them this link, encouraging them to join as a Mentor, and/or connect them with Ann-Elise Francis, VP of Mentorship and Strategic Partnerships at email@example.com
What if there is no one in the current class that I think I can mentor?
Not every mentor actively engages in mentoring the current class of Unreasonable entrepreneurs. Because we take only 12-15 ventures every year, it turns out that some mentors’ expertise and experience is less relevant for a given class of entrepreneurs. It might be that they are experts in natural food and we don’t have any natural food ventures this year. If there isn’t a match to the current class, we can either match you with a relevant venture that has already come through the Institute in a previous year, or we can agree to be in touch when we next find a relevant match.
Can I mentor someone who has already come through the Unreasonable East Africa Institute?
Yes! Based on your experience and expertise, we can match you with any of the ventures that go through our program. You don’t need to mentor a current entrepreneur (from the current class) to get engaged.
What if a Mentor Prospect I refer gets rejected? That looks bad on me!
We will take all references from our current pool of Mentors very seriously, giving them special attention because we trust our network of mentors. They know better than anyone else who might be a good Mentor Prospect. However, the decision to join the network of Unreasonable mentors lies with us. If you are a mentor or a Mentor Champion referring mentors to the Institute, you can be confident that your endorsement will go a long way, but that we can’t promise anything. In your conversations with Mentor Prospects, it is important to set expectations with them and notify them that the ultimate decision comes from the Unreasonable team.