How do great tech ideas come to be?
They often stem from an entrepreneur’s personal experience, from something they’ve encountered in the past and thought, “there has to be a better way!”.
The thought process of Mick Ebeling, founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, however, is different. He doesn’t need to come across a certain issue or an “imperfection” to generate an idea. Instead, he draws inspiration from stories of the people who are in situations that seem absurd, absurdly unfair, and creates solutions to help them.
For example, he thought it was absurd that a legendary LA graffiti artist, Tony “TEMPT” Quan, who was immobile for seven years due to ALS, couldn’t continue to create art. Ebeling decided to change that, and together with his team created an EyeWriter, a device that allowed Tony to create graffiti again, through the movement of his eyes.
Ebeling thought that it was completely absurd that Daniel, a boy from Sudan who had both arms blown off, was not be able to take care of himself after that. Thanks to the prosthetic arms that Ebeling and team were able to 3D-print, Daniel was able to feed himself without the help of others for the first time in two years. Ebeling and team then setup the world’s first 3D-printing prosthetic laboratory and taught locals how to use it, despite inconsistent electricity.
Ebeling then turned his attention closer to home to address the following circumstances in America that seemed unfathomable to him:
– 48 million Americans struggle daily to put food on the table
– One in three homeless people in America is a US military veteran
– 1 in 5 American kids live in “food-insecure” homes
“We need to change this,” thought Ebeling, who is tackling this broader issue through the “Hunger Not Impossible” project. It allows homeless people to redeem meals from restaurants in a “dignified manner” via a cell phone. Ebeling shares that homeless people value a cell phone above food, shelter, and clothing, while restaurants are operating at full scale in between regular meal times while having no customers to serve. Addressing these two factors, he created “an Uber for food for hungry people.” The program has started its pilot recently. According to one of the program participants, he can now get a meal nearby instead of doing “nasty things” to get money for food. “No one can start making changes in their life while they are starving.”
Who is this altruistic genius and what is his methodology?
“It is a very simple formula that we use: commit to it; then figure it out,” says Ebeling. He doesn’t always know how to derive solution at the onset, but his commitment always comes first. He then gathers brilliant minds around him and figures out the solution aided by technology.
Not Impossible Labs views the technology as technology for the sake of humanity. This means that “technology is used to solve a fundamental and social need and to make the solution accessible,” explains Ebeling.
When Ebeling stands, tall and slim-ish, in simple sneakers, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt, with a baseball cap on his head, you think that he looks like a skateboarder from California, where he actually is from. It is when he starts speaking, you immediately buy into his spiel as it is full of passion and authenticity.
There were many prominent speakers and doers at Social Good Summit 2016 in New York, including Secretary of State John Kerry and singer Demi Lovato. However, I was most inspired by Mick and his insatiable drive to make things better for the good of humanity.
He and his team lead, what they call, Revolution against the Absurd.