Q&A with Co-Founder of Not Impossible

August 26, 2015


Not Impossible makes DIY, accessible, tech-based solutions for people in need around the world

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Elliot Kotek, the CCO and Co-Founder of Not Impossible and the Executive Director of the Not Impossible Foundation. Not Impossible makes DIY, accessible, tech-based solutions for people in need around the world, and then powerfully tells the stories of how that tech transforms a life. It was exciting to learn more about Not Impossible’s innovative work and how they are changing the world.

Don’t miss your opportunity to learn more from Elliot this October at CCC’s annual Corporate Citizenship Conference. Register today!

Question: Tell us about your work with Not Impossible. What led you to start this organization?

Elliot: Given our differing backgrounds, Mick (a commercial producer with a philanthropic bent) and I (a documentary and magazine content creator with a science background) joined forces to present "commercial" ideas to corporate marketing departments that had the potential to make a real impact in a person's life. Motivated by the objective of using commercial interests to deliver solutions to people who'd never otherwise have access to these opportunities, our first collaboration was to work out a way to source or create a low-cost prosthetic limb for Daniel, who'd lost both his arms in a bomb blast in Sudan. By utilizing the latest consumer technology available (3D printing) we captured the curiosity of how this technology could be used for social good, and then utilized a brand to amplify the availability of that solution for others. What began as a pro-bono initiative, turned into a business of working out how to provide tools, programs, and other innovative elements to those who lack the financial means to use current solutions, those who lack the physical ability to use current tools, or those who are just geographically disadvantaged and don't receive the opportunities afforded to others elsewhere.

I'm the chief creative of the company, the co-founder, and the executive director of our Not Impossible Foundation.

Q. Tell us Not Impossible utilizes crowd sourcing for social good?

Elliot: We like to say we crowdsource issues and then crowd-solve them. People send us stories of their loved ones who are being denied a basic human need because of their physical, financial, or geographical predicament. We then pull a battery of brains together (e.g. engineers, coders, hackers, scientists, designers and project champions) to work toward an accessible and hopefully free or low cost solution.

Q. Have there been any setbacks or challenges you’ve faced with Not Impossible?

Elliot: Many. Unfortunately. The biggest challenge is always people power. We are a small team of well-intentioned individuals, we would love to attack about 30 different projects simultaneously but that takes human and financial resources beyond our current bandwidth. Even the task of responding to all the goodwill that comes our way is a beautiful but difficult dilemma. Also, we are doing something entirely new, so we have to educate potential partners on how we would like to work with them, that is, we are creating both technologies and the high impact media content that delves into how the technology actually delivers a solution to someone in need. For us, there's no development of tech without the inspiration of the person who will first receive it. And there's no real accessibility to the technology unless there's the awareness generated by amplified content.

Q. What’s next for Not Impossible?

Elliot: We're currently working on delivering a disruptively less expensive gait-training device that will help kids with cerebral palsy (and other motor-neurological dysfunction) be able to walk within a year of beginning rehabilitation (rather than five years). We also have initiatives that we're trying to accelerate including to amplify awareness around retinoblastoma, support innovation around the provision of potable water, and to deepen the reach of digital literacy in developing and depressed communities.