Mark Mutaahi from UpEnergy presents about his venture at Unreasonable Climax at the Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus Wednesday night.
Mark Mutaahi from UpEnergy presents about his venture at Unreasonable Climax at the Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus Wednesday night. UpEnergy distributes affordable, efficient cook stoves and other clean energy and clean water products to rural villages in East Africa. (Andrew Ackerman/Unreasonable Institute )

The goals of the Boulder-based Unreasonable Institute are lofty and ambitious: to enable entrepreneurs to tackle the world's greatest challenges.

The fourth annual Unreasonable Climax took the stage on Wednesday evening, packing an audience of nearly 1,000 into Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus -- an increase from the 600 who attended last year. The event showcased 12 startup ventures seeking to confront social and environmental issues.

The Unreasonable Climax is the apex to the six-week intensive summer Unreasonable Institute program that serves as a liaison for entrepreneurs, 50 mentors and 25 investment funds. The aim of the program is to provide the entrepreneurs resources and training to overcome early hurdles commonly faced by startups and give them expedited access to millions of people across the globe. In the past, the event has served a finale to the six-week program, but this year it falls at the four-week mark.

In 12 Ted Talk-style presentations representatives from each venture spoke for six-minutes about their background, successes already achieved by their startups and future initiatives.

Toni Maraviglia presented on behalf of her startup, Eneza Education -- a venture based in Nairobi, Kenya, that uses cell phones to prepare underprivileged students for their primary school exit exams. Maraviglia said this is a test nearly 68 percent of kids fail.

"This is devastating for the rural kids in Kenya," Maraviglia told the crowd.

Maraviglia said a beneficial tool to achieve success is through cell phones, a tool many in the Nairobi community have access to, she said. Eneza Education uses the cell phones to help engage students and give them an interactive format to utilize while studying for the exam. To date, Eneza Education assists 4,500 students in 90 schools, and test scores have risen 15 percent, Maraviglia said.


Other ventures included MANA Nutrition, a North Carolina-based startup that sells therapeutic ready-to-eat peanut butter to UNICEF; Trash to Cash, a venture located in Dehli, India, that trains and employs the disabled to create and sell artistic products from collected trash; and Prospera, a Mexican enterprise that helps poverty-stricken woman thrive in the food industry.

The Unreasonable Climax was an opportunity for startups to present themselves before a broad audience at Macky.

"It's a chance for them to share their visions for changing the world," said Unreasonable Institute CEO and co-founder Teju Ravilochan. "It's also a chance for them to share their stories and messages to investors and an incredibly supportive community in Boulder."

Sean Calhoun, 30, who attended the event, said he was pleased to see the impact the Unreasonable Institute has created in Boulder.

"It's first and foremost really exciting to see social enterprise create an impressive space here in Boulder," said Calhoun. "I attended one of the events two years ago and I'm just incredibly impressed by how this organization has grown since."

Calhoun said he was also impressed with the diversity of the audience.

"I think from the standpoint of the Boulder community itself, I recall attending the event and seeing it mostly comprised of graduate school students and local businesses and investors," he said. "What I have seen today is a great variety of people from the community."