Since childhood, I was always fascinated by the stories of great explorers like Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong and other extraordinary pioneers of the past. I was particularly appealed by the adventures of Sir Douglas Mawson and his expeditions in the Antarctic. What most attracted me about Mawson was his determination, tenacity, leadership and survival instincts to explore unchartered territories during the heroic age of Antarctic exploration in the early 20th century.
Fast forward 100 years, and I was honored to meet Australian serial entrepreneur and adventurer Julio De Laffitte in an exclusive radio interview. I was keen to explore Julio’s legacy behind his new venture, Unstoppables -- a movement dedicated to "igniting the entrepreneurial spirit and taking entrepreneurs, business owners and investors to the next level through the power of collaboration."
1. Collaboration: a new currency
In an opening statement, Julio focuses on the importance of collaboration. He confidently claims that collaboration is the new currency of the 21st century -- a core ingredient in establishing solid connections and achieving sustainable outcomes amongst business leaders around the world. He goes further to say that "collaboration is worth more than money."
Despite the benefits of collaboration, Julio also warns that this new currency poses a set of new challenges for entrepreneurs -- especially for the business leaders who are reluctant to proactively and genuinely address global issues affecting humanity.
Julio's simple solution to this complex problem was to bring entrepreneurs together in one environment and encourage adventure, foster comradery, and create long lasting relationships in remote and exotic locations like Antarctica and the Amazon.
2. Adventure: the antidote for change
Julio believes that business leaders must foster their wisdom and ingenuity to yield sustainable change. Essentially, disrupting the traditional thought process opens up a channel of new opportunity, as well as a genuine desire and commitment towards solving global issues like climate change, conservation, poverty, etc.
Julio warns however that pioneering and stimulating change always carries a high degree of risk. In a traditional business environment, most business leaders would prefer to remain cautious and adopt the status-quo approach to decision-making to avoid ridicule, criticism and even failure. Julio believes that "fear is the common denominator that limits progress."
However, in a unique and exhilarating environment like Antarctica, traditional business owners transform into "social entrepreneurs," who are prepared to innovate and find sustainable solutions to global challenges. I personally believe that Julio’s recipe to social entrepreneurship is about increasing the drive and passion of business leaders through adventure and team work.
3. A recipe for success
The Unstoppables maiden adventure in Antarctica in 2015 yielded outstanding outcomes. From a statistical perspective, the results were staggering, with over 98 businesses created in a period of 10 days amongst 105 entrepreneurs. 15 million dollars were invested in each of these businesses, $32 million was offered in sponsorship, and many commercially viable outcomes were yielded as a result. The second voyage in the Amazon in February 2016 also yielded similar outcomes.
An example includes the development of high-tech drones by Western Australian firm Airscope Industries, with the aim of conducting inspections of wind turbines, oil rigs, conveyer belts, sewage plants, etc, as well as the monitoring of sharks in open waters. This innovation has encouraged Julio himself to seriously invest in the company and confidently accept the role as one of the directors.
Looking into the future, Julio also believes the success of such new-age ventures goes beyond internal investors and stakeholders. In addition, it will largely pivot on crowdsourcing, value chain and Bitcoin to help external investors and the public take part in these social entrepreneurial initiatives on a global scale.
4. Instincts of social entrepreneurs
"The natural instinct of an animal is to survive within a sustainable ecosystem," says Julio. For the social entrepreneur, the instinct "is about generating social awareness, and do whatever possible to innovate, disrupt traditional work practices and provide sustainable solutions to our fragile planet."
Sharing ideas, disrupting the thought process and developing sustainable solutions in a fragile environment like Antarctica is a formula that works well. This is in contrast to capitalism and traditional work practices whose primary objective or mission is about generating profit and market share simply to benefit the shareholders’ earnings or back pocket.
The movement continues
The Unstoppables movement hinges around ‘amazing people going to amazing places, to produce amazing results’, says Julio. I believe it’s also about people working on the ‘edge’ of discomfort, and experiencing results beyond the ordinary; taking the ultimate leap of faith into the unknown for the benefit of future human civilization.
Plans are currently underway for a third voyage in 2017.