Entrepreneurs are people who see obstacles as opportunities and refuse to accept that problems cannot be solved. We are natural optimists, and we believe that bringing people together to tackle seemingly intractable challenges can change the world.
We were fortunate to be joined by an entrepreneur whose business embodies these values at a recent Virgin Unite gathering. Mick Ebeling was running a successful creative agency when he met a graffiti artist called TEMPT who had ALS and was unable to create his art. That connection led Mick to create The Eyewriter, a device to allow TEMPT to draw with his eyes. It worked, and the journey of making it led Mick to found Not Impossible Labs.
Now the innovation lab works every day to change the world with technology for the sake of humanity. They operate on the principle that everything that surrounds us today was impossible first. So the inverse must be true: everything that is impossible today is on the trajectory of becoming possible.
He urged us to ‘tackle absurdities with a cast of unruly characters’. If you see something that, as a human being, doesn’t feel right to you, then challenge it. Bring together like-minded people and take on the challenge together – it will be more effective and, crucially, more fun.
Mick also sees the value in making seemingly impossible problems seem manageable in scale. He explained how if you can design an invention as a solution for one person, and give them the opportunity to tell their story to bring it to life, then the solution will reach the masses. If you help one person, you can go on to help many.
Now Impossible Labs have gone on to create 3D printed arms for amputees, navigation technology for the blind, music technology for the deaf and many more. One project, Hunger: Not Impossible, was borne out of a Virgin Unite gathering and is using text messaging to get food to those in need.
Mick’s mantra of ‘commit, then figure it out’ certainly resonates with me. It’s how most businesses start: have a purpose, find great people to help you achieve it, then work out how to do it. So, if you have a challenge that’s bothering you but seems too difficult to solve, remember: everything possible today was impossible first.