About eight years ago, when Rebecca Hui worked in isolated rural communities in India, she became increasingly aware of the powerful array of indigenous art produced by local artisans.
Over the next few years, she spent more time tackling a problem: finding mechanisms that would allow artisans to share their rich works of art with the rest of the world in a way that would authentically represent their creativity and heritage, while also paying them became. “I looked at how we can push this work out into the world in a way that gets people paid and celebrates their work,” she says.
She eventually developed a solution: digitize designs on everything from tattoos to carvings, train local communities to do that work, and then license the images to fashion companies and retailers for use on things like clothing or home decor. In 2017 she launched Roots Studio to make that happen.
Since then, she has worked with artisans in India, Southwest China, Panama and Indonesia, to name just a few places. But Hui has her sights set on more scales. So she recently joined the accelerator’s first cohort unreasonable group’s latest collaborative program called Unreasonable CHANGEto learn how.
Sustainability in three areas
Presented together with Accentureis the seven-week program aimed at supporting high-growth startups focused on sustainability, focusing on three categories: reducing supply chain emissions, changing consumer behavior to increase purchase of targeted products, and navigating through complicated energy transitions.
Like many Unreasonable programmes, CHANGE kicked off in June with an immersive, in-person week at Unreasonable’s facilities outside of London. The rest of the time is virtual, where entrepreneurs collaborate with mentors, industry specialists, and each other. When the program is over, they will join the Unreasonable Fellowship, a network of investors, mentors and others who provide forever support. Unreasonable plans to run CHANGE for three years, although according to Daniel Epstein, the founder and CEO of Unreasonable Group, it will be extended if all goes well.
Some of the other 12 ventures in the program include: Goodr Co., which has a sustainable food surplus management platform aimed at reducing food waste; ketos, a company with a platform for measuring, managing and forecasting water quality and efficiency; and Edgewhich has technology that helps financial institutions and other companies in the EU navigate the complex regulatory environment and accelerate the allocation of capital to green projects.
Connecting startups to customers
Accenture, which helped select the current cohort, is partnering with Unreasonable through the Accenture Ventures initiative. That effort is generally aimed at companies that are at an earlier stage than usual at Unreasonable, which focuses on companies that are further along in their development, with products and services already in use.
With that in mind, Accenture will introduce participants in the Unreasonable CHANGE program to its many large corporate and government clients, many of whom have set sustainability goals and are looking for ways to achieve those goals. “Customers are sometimes a little shy about startups, but we’re able to apply some rigor in evaluating them,” said Saideep Raj, global lead of innovation at Accenture. The company may also invest in a subset of unreasonable cohort companies.
According to Epstein, Unreasonable sees such collaboration as central to innovation. “So far, companies have focused on how to gain a competitive advantage,” he says. “But we focus on the mutual benefit. That will become the hallmark of the most successful companies in modern times.”