“There is a book called ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,’” Mick Ebeling says to a group of people inside the Zappos headquarters. “It’s the story of a Malawi teenager who builds a windmill from bicycle parts.”
In the book, the invention brings technology to the townspeople, Ebeling says. “It changed his life and the life of his family and village,” he adds. “When asked why or how he did it, the boy said, ‘I tried and I made it.’ ”
That story perfectly captures the mission of Ebeling and his company, Not Impossible Labs, which has worked to empower and cultivate innovators throughout the various stages of their creation processes. The company ensures that those who want to take the leap to invent seemingly impossible technology have the backing to do so.
“It’s not just about technology, but technology for the sake of humanity,” Ebeling says. “It’s about harnessing something for the purpose of advancing our species.”
A lot of the technology we depend on today was seen as impossible at some point in time.
“That’s until someone came along with an idea to make the impossible possible,” he says. “These are the geniuses, the mad scientists, the crazy ones. These are geeks with a cause.”
In the decade it’s been in existence, Not Impossible Labs has helped innovators produce items such as the eyewriter, a device that assisted an L.A. graffiti artist who has the neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis make art using just his eyes, and technology that helps deaf people experience music through vibrations.
In the week that thousands of people from across the globe gathered at CES to explore technological advancements across various industries, Ebeling spoke to a group of people about Not Impossible Labs and the future of creating world-changing innovations.
But the night had a higher purpose. Ebeling says for years he dreamt of having an awards ceremony.
On January 11, he hosted the inaugural Not Impossible awards to highlight some of the best projects of 2017. “What these guys did was scary, but they made the leap anyway,” he adds. “They tried and they made it.”
Some of the technology came from professionals working in the field, such as in the case of ANDE. The creation of this DNA technology, which identifies DNA within minutes, could help law enforcement with testing rape kits in a more timely fashion.
Some of the projects came out of this desire to help one person but ended up helping a community or larger group. That was the story of an interactive children’s toy that teaches braille, BecDot, which received the Not Impossible Labs Limitless Award.
A few days after Jacob and Beth Lacourse’s daughter Rebecca was born, they discovered she was deaf. The family adapted only to find out months later that she had Usher syndrome, which meant that eventually, she would also become blind.
Seeing no toys to help their daughter learn braille, her father created one.
“The world is not going to adapt to meet our daughter’s needs,” Jacob Lacourse says. “So we were going to do whatever we could to adapt the world to her needs. At the same time, we are going to use that to help other people as well along the way.”
Ebeling hoped the stories of the night will inspire people to go beyond limits.
“Anyone can do this,” he says.
Though it can be scary, though the world might tell people their ideas are impossible, Ebeling says it’s all about taking a leap.
“Are you going to wait for someone else to do it or are you going to be the first person to jump over the edge?” he adds. “Geronimo!”