Post-UNLEASH Reflections: Thinking bigger than ever before

I turned to my teammate and friend, Bukky, right before our pitch and whispered while the group ahead of us answered the same question, “how much money are we asking?” We had started the UNLEASH Innovation Lab just five days before with nothing but a few half-formed problem ideas and not an inkling that the whole experience would culminate in a very business-like Shark Tank presentation. We agree on $30,000. My team, originators of the idea Vital Vans, received the 3rd place award for the Health theme later in the day. When we asked how we could have improved to be on the stage as one of the final two, one of our mentors said that they felt we did not have a strong enough conception of the business model for them to fully endorse us.

Bukky has a startup in Nigeria, Haima Health, that is working to address the blood supply shortage.

The subtext that I read in her comments was that we did not think big…enough.

During the Dragon’s Den pitches at the end of the day, teams were asking in the ballpark of $500,000. I shrieked a bit and covered my mouth. The “dragons” did not bat an eye. As one dragon said, they were looking for bold, audacious ideas that would make an impact.

The “dragons” judged the final two presentations in front of the 1,000 talents and many guests.

Vital Vans, our proposed fleet of mobile blood donation vehicles, would fit that bill. In Nigeria, where less than half of blood supply need is met every year yet 95% of eligible donors do not donate, our solution easily fits our problem statement. In considering the business operations and potential to scale both within Nigeria and in nearby countries, my team admittedly limited ourselves despite the huge potential of our project.

Looking at our backgrounds, we can see how we ended in that predicament. Bukky comes from a nonprofit and lean startup background. Laz is busy in the medical trenches working as a doctor in Abuja. I have mostly gravitated towards nonprofits and volunteer opportunities. All of our experiences culminated in the pitch that day in Aarhus and led us to think that we shouldn’t ask for “too much.” We couldn’t have been more wrong. However, the best part is now that we are in Implementation phase, we have the opportunity to set it right and make our vision a reality.

Working with Laz and Bukky on Vital Van made UNLEASH an unforgettable experience.

After 10 days at UNLEASH, I came to the simplistic realization that the big, audacious Sustainable Development Goals require big, audacious solutions, enterprises, and programs to address them. We all just need to allow ourselves the freedom to think that big in order to arrive at the world we would all like to live in by 2030.