About eight years ago, while working in isolated rural communities in India, Rebecca Hui became increasingly aware of the powerful array of indigenous art produced by local artisans.
Over the next few years, she devoted more time to addressing a problem: finding mechanisms that would allow artisans to share their rich art work with the rest of the world in a way that would represent their creativity and heritage authentically—while also receiving payment. “I looked at how could we push this work into the world in a way that got people paid and celebrated their work,” she says.
Eventually, she developed a solution: digitize designs on everything from tattoos to wood carvings, training local communities in how to do that job, and then license the images to fashion companies and retailers for use on clothing, say, or home décor. In 2017, she launched Roots Studio to make that happen.
Since then, she’s been working with artisans in India, Southwestern China, Panama and Indonesia, to name a few places. But Hui has her eyes set on scaling more. So she recently joined the first cohort of the accelerator Unreasonable Group’s latest collaborative program, called Unreasonable CHANGE, to learn how.
Sustainability in Three Areas
Presented together with Accenture, the seven-week program aims to support high-growth startups focused on sustainability, zeroing in on three categories: slashing supply chain emissions, shifting consumer behavior to increase purchases of purpose-driven products and navigating complicated energy transitions.
Like many Unreasonable programs, CHANGE started off in June with an immersive, in-person week at Unreasonable’s facilities outside London. The rest of the time will be virtual, during which entrepreneurs will work with mentors, industry specialists and each other. When the program is over, they join the Unreasonable Fellowship, a network of investors, mentors and others providing support in perpetuity. Unreasonable plans to run CHANGE for three years although, according to Daniel Epstein, Unreasonable Group’s founder and CEO, 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 platform for measuring, managing and forecasting water quality and efficiency; and Brink, which has technology that helps EU financial institutions and other corporations navigate the complex regulatory framework and accelerate the allocation of capital to green projects.
Linking Startups to Clients
Accenture, which helped to select the current cohort, is working with Unreasonable through its initiative Accenture Ventures. That effort typically focuses on earlier-stage companies than is usual at Unreasonable, which targets ventures that are further along in their development, with products and services already in use.
With that in mind, Accenture will introduce Unreasonable CHANGE program participants to its many large corporate and government clients, many of which have set sustainability targets and are looking for ways to reach those objectives. “Clients may sometimes be skittish about startups, but we are able to apply some rigor to evaluating them,” says Saideep Raj, global lead of innovation at Accenture. The firm may also invest in a subset of Unreasonable cohort ventures.
According to Epstein, Unreasonable sees such collaboration as central to innovation. “Businesses to date have focused on how to have a competitive advantage,” he says. “But we focus on the collaborative advantage. That’s going to be the hallmark of the most successful companies in the modern era.”