Joe Desposito's Blog

Is It “Unreasonable” to Support a Young Entrepreneur?

About a year and a half ago, I was invited to participate in a media tour of the electronics industry in South Africa, specifically in the cities of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. It was an eye-opener for me, especially since I had never visited that country nor been to that part of the world.

Of particular interest to me were a couple of visits to innovation centers where young people with good ideas were encouraged to pursue these ideas in a structured and collaborative environment. If an idea was accepted by the center, a young entrepreneur could get a free workspace for about a year—essentially a desk in a large room with access to the Internet. If the venture was successful, the next step would be renting office space in the same building—essentially a large room. One of the centers was called SmartXchange and the other the Innovation Hub.

While at the Innovation Hub, I met an unusually well spoken young man who had invented a new kind of toilet, of all things. In his own words, “I have invented a very hygienic water saving toilet that can save at least 288 billion liters of water yearly, if installed in a million houses, with hygiene features adequate to prolong the lifespan of an HIV/AIDS infected individual.”

His name is Paseka Lesolang and his company is called WHC. He recently contacted me to let me know that his venture had been selected as one of 46 finalists from a total of 306 entrepreneurs from 55 countries. The next step for him is to make it into the Final 25 and to represent South Africa in the U.S.A.

Now here’s the hard part for him. To make it into the Top 25, Paseka has to raise $10,000. He says, “We need a sponsor(s) or donor(s), because we are not allowed to pay for ourselves. This is our final test—can we sell our vision to multiple people and or entity(s) in a short space of time. This phase is called the Marketplace. It’s complex and monitored on the web, because we have to drive traffic to our profile.”

The web site is called the Unreasonable Institute. If you visit the site and click on Support a Finalist (or click on this link), you’ll come to the Marketplace page. If you scroll down, you’ll find Paseka’s company and an explanation of what he is doing. You'll also find descriptions for the other finalists and will be able to see how much each venture has raised thus far. So far 11 have made it to the $10,000 threshold, so there are only 14 spots left.

If you think you would like to support Paseka’s effort, you can do so at the Unreasonable Institute web site, but please do so before (or on) March 7th, which is just 12 days away.

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