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Blood from the Sky: A Not Impossible Story

Beautiful, Limitless, Naiveté: How the unknown drives success.

Welcome to Not Impossible Stories, a 10-part miniseries that makes the impossible not impossible.

Founder and CEO Mick Ebeling and the team at Not Impossible Labs are dedicated to changing the world through technology and story and have teamed up with Thrive Global to share stories of some of the most amazing examples of technology that seeks to make the impossible… not impossible.

In 2011, Keller Rinaudo designed a robot that brought your iPhone to life in the form of a little companion. Romo, the creature like robot, could follow you around, follow your face, and even interact with you. But after selling millions of them, Keller wanted something more. 

Keenan Wyrobek invented Bam Boomerang, an app that uses real time feedback to help kids learn how to read. Keenan was also wildly successful, yet found himself wanting something more. 

Around this time, both Keenan and Keller were learning about the serious blood shortage problem in Rwanda, Africa. Thousands of women were dying every day due to hemorrhaging after childbirth, however the problem was not a shortage of supply. These women were dying because the blood was simply taking too long to reach them. Keenan and Keller decided this was the “more” they had been looking for and sought out to fix it. Their solution? Flying bags of blood to local hospitals all across Rwanda via drone. 

“Life is short, and if we are going to build something, I don’t want to build something that is going to make money, I want to build something that is going to have a huge impact on people’s lives…so let’s build something that the world thinks is impossible.” Keenan says.

Their company, Zipline, uses autonomous drones to fly blood from a centralized location in Rwanda to local hospitals. The drones then drop off the blood and return back to the central location ready for more flights. 

If Keenan and Keller knew what they were getting into before they started, they probably never would have gone through with it. They faced countless failures and obstacles. Keenan talks about how they had their drones fail in front of investors, took years to develop the tech, and even had problems trying to convince the local governments to allow it to happen,

“Never ask for permission because the answer will always be no. At no point in my life have I ever asked for permission and not have the answer be no. Because whoever you are asking for permission from there’s nothing in it for them to say yes. “

The idea of the unknown driving success is something Mick Ebeling labels “Beautiful Limitless, Naiveté.” Mick describes this idea, 

“Not knowing what you don’t know can seem like a daunting prospect, it can seem cavalier, but if you let it, it can launch you”

Q&A with Mick Ebeling, Founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs:

Q: What about Keller and Keenan do you think drove them to take this risk?

ME: What I learned from my conversations and knowing Keller and Keenan is that they’re constantly curious. They go down paths and learn things from their companies, and then realize, “Wait a second, I’ve gone down this path, and it’s not exactly the way I want it to go. This isn’t exactly where I want to be in the future.” So, they pull the e-brake and try something different. That ability to constantly pursue, constantly check yourself, and not be mesmerized by your own philosophies or visions, is extremely important. I think that allows people like Keller and Keenan to take risks because they don’t see it as a risk per se. They see it as a path to pursue and ask what can I learn from it.

Q: We heard Keller and Keenan overcame failure numerous times. What about failure do you think deters people from pushing on?

ME: It goes back to how people perceive failure. If you can rethink the concept of failure as learning, then all of a sudden it takes a little bit of the drama out of it. But many people see failing as, “I failed. This is it. I did not accomplish the mission. I did not accomplish the goal.” As someone who wants to innovate, and wants to grow, if you think like that, you’re giving yourself a really hard path to follow. It’s a really really hard path. Look at like the historical figures you know. Think about Alexander Graham Bell and da Vinci. These incredible inventors failed their way to a success. They didn’t see it as failure though. They saw it as being able to prove that something didn’t work and they take that learning onto the next one.

Q: We heard about how Keller enjoys and thrives when he is actually out of the comfort zone. Do you think getting out of your own comfort zone pushes you to do incredible things?

ME: Absolutely. I used to keep on my bathroom mirror a sign that said, “Scare yourself daily.” That doesn’t have to be going bungee jumping or skydiving though. It’s taking a risk on saying hi to someone that you typically wouldn’t say hi to. It’s admitting faults in something that you really don’t want to admit. That’s what expands the human potential. When a person starts to grow, you grow by learning. Think about it from a muscle perspective. The only way muscles grow is you break them down, and then they grow bigger. 

So I think the human psyche and how people think, love, or really how we do everything, as we expand, we get better at it. Part of that is just constantly wanting to push into areas that we don’t understand. But you have to do it knowing that in the end you’ll grow as a human being.

Q: Mick, can you talk more about this idea of “beautiful, limitless, naiveté”?

ME: “Beautiful, limitless, naiveté” is, I think, one of our superpowers at Not Impossible. We know going into every single thing that we try to solve, every impossibility that we try to make not impossible, we know that we’re not the experts at it. But, because we have that fresh perspective, we look at it from the standpoint of what is absurd. We must solve that absurdity then figure out how to do it. The solution becomes third in line. It’s not, “OK, we have to have a solution around this and we need to go to school for this. We need to talk to experts around this.” Experts can play into the solution, but the first step is being able to call out what the true problem is. That’s what we see as a powerful naiveté on approaching and solving problems.

To learn more about Keenan, Keller, and Zipline, listen to episode 2 of the Not Impossible podcast.

Visit us again next week for another story that challenges you to do more than just live, but to Thrive!

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