What: Unreasonable Institute’s opening reception
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Wittemeyer Courtroom in CU’s Wolf Law Building, Boulder campus
UPDATE: The Unreasonable Institute’s opening reception on Friday is sold out. For information about the institute’s other events visit unreasonableinstitute.org.
Boulder’s Unreasonable Institute is about to kick off its third-annual summer program, and as the entrepreneurs begin moving into the organization’s house on University Hill, one participant didn’t have far to go.
The 6-week fellowship program, started by five University of Colorado graduates, is bringing 25 entrepreneurs from around the world to Boulder — and, for the first time, the group will include a Colorado company.
Denver resident Shane Gring is representing Boulder-based company BOULD, which provides sustainable building experience and education to students and professionals, at the summer workshops.
BOULD was started in October 2010 when Gring said he realized he could help nonprofit, affordable housing organizations such as Habitat For Humanity and those looking to gain LEED environmental accreditation by connecting the two.
“We’re seeking to eliminate substandard housing through green building education,” Gring said. “The challenge is in order to become LEED accredited, you have to first work on a LEED project.”
Green building certifications such as LEED accreditation often are gained through work experience with architecture and construction firms — jobs that are few and far between in the struggling economy. BOULD provides LEED accreditation training as a course for those who are unable or unwilling to go through the typical channels.
Gring and the other entrepreneurs will get their first chance to pitch their concepts to the Boulder community Friday during the Unreasonable Institute’s opening reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Wittemeyer Courtroom in CU’s Wolf Law Building.
Gring said he’s hoping to impress the crowd as the company searches for funding needed to expand its efforts, currently in seven states, to all 50.
Sydney Malawer, communications officer for the institute, said the summer session is changing slightly this year, offering new investor days throughout the program, rather than public pitches, as a way to connect interested investors with participants.
Lorna Rutto, of Kenya, also is hoping to expand her company, EcoPost, which produces environmentally friendly lumber made from recycled plastic as an alternative to timber.
Rutto said EcoPost has produced more than 10,000 posts, which look like real timber, and saved at least 250 acres of forest since starting in 2009.
“I grew up in a slum area and was always bothered by all the plastic and trash lying around everywhere,” Rutto said. “As a kid, I would pick up the plastics and melt them down and make ornaments that I would sell at school for a little money.”
About 20 years later, Rutto’s company has helped employee more than 200 Africans, many of whom were not lucky enough to have the education she received.
“We’re cleaning up the environment, we’re saving the trees and we’re employing people,” Rutto said. “It’s come a long way since melting down plastic in school.”
Other entrepreneurs in this year’s institute include companies that connect farmers with growing information and buyers through mobile platforms, use plants to filter water without using chemicals and create communities of female-owned dairy farms.
Paseka Lesolang, of South Africa, owns WHC (Water Hygiene Convenience), a company that saves water through the use of bacteria-reducing toilets.
Lesolang said he thought of the idea after a dual flush toilet was placed in his home and realized that there was room for improvement. He contacted the company that makes the dual flush toilets and offered his ideas for improvement without any expectations.
“I just wanted them to have the idea,” Lesolang said. “I didn’t want credit or money or anything for it, just a better product but they ignored my calls.”
Lesolang decided to start his own venture and after researching toilets he decided he could not only improve the water consumption but also the hygiene of the existing models.
“We’re not in the business of making toilets, we’re in the business of saving water,” Lesolang said. “Our product also reduces the transmission of HIV and AIDS through eliminating bacteria.”
Like the other entrepreneurs, Lesolang is hoping to connect with investors in hopes of improving his product and expanding to a larger audience.