Who is your favourite unreasonable innovator?

Stubbornness is a big driver of innovation - just ask George Bernard Shaw.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 10 Feb 2017

Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years of relentless thought and effort to drive an idea to its pinnacle. George Bernard Shaw said that progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman) – the person who persists in shaping the world rather than letting it shape them.

The Real Innovation Awards, brought to you by MT and London Business School, wants to recognise those stubborn innovators. The George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person Award will go to an individual who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea, despite the difficulties encountered along the way.

The four shortlisted nominees appear below. 

Danae Ringelmann - Indiegogo

Danae Ringelmann was inspired to reinvent start-up funding having seen her parents struggle to get capital to scale their business. And working in finance, she saw how hard it was to help individuals fund their dreams.

She co-founded the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo in 2007, initially to fund independent filmmakers in exchange for products or perks. At first she met with huge scepticism and resistance. She heard people saying that the business would never work.

Danae and her partners were rejected by 90 investors but finally won their first $1.5m round of financing in 2011. Now Indiegogo has hosted more than 680,000 campaigns in 224 countries and territories.

David Helgason – Unity Technologies

Icelandic entrepreneur David Helgason is the pioneering visionary who founded Unity Technologies, the company that created the game engine Unity that’s now used to build over a third of mobile games and almost all of all virtual-reality games.

Helgason taught himself to program, dropped out of university, and founded Unity in 2003 with two other programmers. Their vision, posted on the wall in their basement-office was to ‘democratize game development,’ and despite many people telling him he was crazy, he persevered. Six years later he secured VC funding to scale the business, moved to San Francisco, and scaled the company to over 500 employees and beyond.

Fernando Fischmann – Crystal Lagoons

Fernando Fischmann is a renowned scientist and entrepreneur. He has developed an environmentally-friendly technology that can create unlimited-size crystal-clear lagoons, surrounded by beaches, anywhere in the world. Nowadays, he boasts over 400 projects worldwide. His innovations have generated a portfolio of over 1,000 patents, positively impacting the world, changing people’s lifestyles.

Fischmann’s innovation sprang up from one of his dreams: to build a tropical-like turquoise lagoon in front of the freezing cold and dangerous Chilean coast. Everybody told him it was impossible. He kept persevering and after years of research he achieved his goal: an 8-hectare crystal-clear lagoon at San Alfonso del Mar, the size of 6,000 swimming pools. These lagoons use just 2% of the energy and 100 times less chemicals required by conventional pool technologies.

His technological breakthrough is being applied to a wide variety of industrial applications and being used to solve some of the greatest challenges of human kind: water and energy scarcity, as well as pollution.

Jane Chen – Embrace Innovations

Embrace Innovations makes low cost infant incubators for developing countries at 1% of the cost of traditional incubators. CEO & co-founder Jane Chen and her team conceptualised the idea at Stanford University. They ploughed through design iterations and user testing for years before launching in 2011.

The technology consists of a sleeping bag design incorporating a wax like substance with a melting point of 37 Celsius. One melted, the wax maintains its temperature for up to eight hours, regulating the newborn's temperature. Bankruptcy loomed when at the last minute an investor pulled out of a fundraising round in 2015. Employees deferred their salaries while Chen embarked on a frenzy of meetings, finally convincing Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff to invest. Embrace then launched a new Little Lotus collection for healthy babies in US and Europe. They have a 1:1 model; for every 'Little Lotus' purchased, another is donated.

Embrace works with governments, NGOs and private clinics to distribute their products. These have helped over 200,000 babies across 20 countries. Their target is 1 million.

Entries now closed. Sign up for 2017

Image source: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil


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