Jordan Phoenix is a personal development coach and social entrepreneur in New York City. He is the director and founder of Project Free World.
What’s the most unreasonable thing you’ve ever tried to do?
According to best-selling author Tim Ferriss, shooting for unrealistic goals is the best way to go. He believes the competition is much less fierce that way, as only a small handful of souls will actually be brave enough to believe that they are capable of achieving such feats.
For the past 72 hours, I have been racing the clock to complete an “Unreasonable Challenge” of my own.
You see, this very article that you are reading right now is part of my application process for a chance to join the Unreasonable Institute team in Boulder, Colorado. They are an international startup accelerator that essentially provides high-impact entrepreneurs with everything they need to turn good ideas into highly successful, socially conscious enterprises.
Twenty-five lucky entrepreneurs are chosen each year to live together in a mansion for six weeks and go through an intense training program with access to world-class mentors, legal advisors, and big-time investment funds. When I found out about them and their opening on Twitter a few days ago, I thought: “Holy shit, this sounds like an organization that’s just as crazy as I am! I’m finding a way to get this job.”
If you think I may have a reasonable bone in my body, know this: I’m currently working on something called Project Free World, which is going to provide the proper (F) Food, (R) Rights, (E) Education, and (E) Environment to every human on the planet. This seems like a match made in heaven! Unreasonable Institute, where have you been all my life?
“Slow down, Jordan. You don’t even have an interview yet, schmuck. Why don’t you try getting this thing published first before you start googling powder forecasts in the Rockies? And this article isn’t even about you, it’s supposed to be about a successful fellow from the Institute, remember?”
Good thing my rational self-talk comes around to put me back in line once every blue moon. Part of the application requires me to get an article about one of the Institute’s fellows published in a major publication within a one-week timeframe. Time to hit the phones.
No luck from the Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mashable or The Next Web. Wait! A journalist from the New York Observer covered my Meetup group a few months back. I think I still have her email…
I’m in luck; she answers me right away. I can write a post for the Observer’s tech blog Betabeat, she said, with three conditions: the interview must be with someone involved in New York tech or a VC in the Valley who invests here; the narrative has to include an explanation of why I’m writing it and what the Unreasonable Institute is; and it has to be “light, funny and readable.”
With my assignment squared away, I dialed up Unreasonable Institute fellow Matthew Kochman, a Brooklynite who created a company that uses innovative technology and systems to prevent drunk driving. Pretty awesome stuff.
“Sure, I have a few minutes to chat.” The CEO answers his phone right away. That’s five-star customer service if I’ve ever seen it.
In his junior year at Cornell University, Mr. Kochman founded the Moving Every Student Safely Express, which provides students with pre-paid taxi plans to prevent people from driving drunk after a night of partying. It works in the same manner as a college meal plan; paid for in full before the semester even begins.
The brilliance of this plan lies in its reverse engineering of the psychology of a drunken college student. It’s common knowledge that most college students are on a rigorous work schedule and tight budget, so any spare funds typically go directly towards food and alcohol.
“A student with a few dollars left to his or her name, who is under the influence of alcohol, is highly unlikely to spend that money on a safe ride home,” Mr. Kochman says. “This program completely eliminates that dilemma by having the safe ride paid for well in advance.”
When M.E.S.S. Express piloted the program, people loved it. Parents were more than willing to pay for the service for the peace of mind of knowing that their children were not endangering their lives and careers with shortsighted financial decisions.
To Mr. Kochman’s surprise, the service became extremely popular during the week in addition to the weekends. The reason?
“Students felt safer taking a taxi home from late night study sessions at the library rather than walking home alone,” he remarked.
Through his fellowship at the Unreasonable Institute, Mr. Kochman was able to develop a scalable model for his business, receive angel funding, and create a system that allowed students to order pre-paid taxis through a simple text message. The program was essential in taking M.E.S.S. Express to the next level.
Mr. Kochman concluded, “The six-week training was an all-around amazing experience. The Unreasonable network is like a big family; every single person there has their heart in the right place. It’s great to go back every year to reconnect with all of the alumni and see the positive impact they are creating all over the world.”
Currently, M.E.S.S. Express provides more than 25,000 safe rides per year and generates more than $250,000 in annual revenue.
The interview only strengthened my resolve. I’m going. I can visualize it now. Someplace sunny. A place where the air is clean and the beer flows like
I sent my first draft in to my editor. She immediately asked for a rewrite. Crushed, I asked for suggestions.
“Make it kind of meta,” she suggested.
So I did.