University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota


Students from the Acara Global Venture Design course have the opportunity to travel to India to participate in the annual Acara Summer Institute, to meet passionate social entrepreneurs and impact investors, and to pilot their impact venture solutions. 

What is Global Venture Design – What Impact Will You Make?

The course is interdisciplinary, global, entrepreneurial, experiential, project-based and team-oriented. In the course you will:

  • identify a wicked grand challenge
  • design a social venture solution
  • collaborate on an interdisciplinary project team
  • be mentored by business professionals
  • pitch your venture for funding.

In Global Venture Design – What Impact Will You Make? (GCC 5005), upper level undergrads and grad students work on multidisciplinary teams of 4-5 students to develop scalable venture solutions to address a global environmental or social challenge. The Fall 2015 course will focus on developing venture solutions to address water, energy, food/agriculture, health and livelihoods challenges in India. It is up to each team to identify the specific problem and develop a venture solution to that problem. Each team will have a professional mentor to guide their business development. In the course teams will create a financially-sustainable business to address an identified social-environmental problem and market opportunity.

Note that this course was formerly listed under CE 5571, and is now listed as GCC 5005 as part of the University of Minnesota’s new Grand Challenge Curriculum designator. While the designator is changing for Fall 2015, the course content is the same.

When does the course meet?

The Fall 2015 class will meet Fridays 9am-noon. There will also be an optional evening impact studio session once per week with Acara staff and professional mentors to work on your venture.

What should I expect from the course?

Each interdisciplinary team will gain experience with business model generation and venture plan creation. The outcome of the course will be a well-designed business plan and presentation delivered to a panel of potential investors. The best teams will have the opportunity to pursue incubation support and seed funding through the Acara Challenge venture plan competition to pilot and launch their business ideas. The most passionate, committed teams from the course are likely to receive seed funding.

You can learn more about this course by watching this 2012 video by Acara Co-Director, Fred Rose, and reviewing the 2013 course syllabus and the 2014 Acara Challenge Handbook.

How can I register?

This class is now open for registration to graduate, professional and upper level undergraduate students. Seats are limited to 40. Register soon while space remains!

Who teaches the course?

The Acara Challenge course is taught by diverse set of passionate faculty and staff from the Institute on the Environment, College of Science and Engineering, and Carlson School of Management. The instructors include:

Fred     Brian     Julian-Marshall10     John     Toby-Nord   Fred Rose                    Brian Bell                    Julian Marshall           John Gulliver               Toby Nord

What is Acara?

Acara is a series of courses and incubation actions to educate future leaders and develop impactful venture solutions focused on societal and environmental change in the U.S. and globally. For additional information contact Fred Rose at or see

What did past students get from GCC 5005?

“The Acara challenge stretched me to work on global problems with real world implications.  The class gives you the support and education to start to address some of the toughest challenges facing the world today.” – Steele Lorenz, Co-Founder MyRain, Acara ’10, Carlson BS ’10

“The Acara Challenge is a great way to learn about communicating across functions of a business. Most of the time at Carlson, we just speak with other business students, which really isn’t very healthy. Building communication skills with engineers can be very valuable.” – Connor McIntire, Co-Founder HSD Sanitation, Acara ‘12, Carlson BS ‘13

“The most important skill I learned from the Acara challenge was how to work well in a team of diverse people . . . . Another really important aspect of the Acara program is that it gives you a global outlook on the world. As an Acara participant you really begin to understand how people from different cultures . . . of the world think, feel and live their lives.” – Katheryn Klarich, Co-Founder Blue Food, Acara ‘11, CSE BS ’14

“Acara taught me how to develop and refine a framework to begin realistically addressing global challenges related to basic human needs.” – Adam Witt, Co-Founder TextRA, Acara ’10, CSE PhD ‘14

“More than any other class I’ve taken in my grad school career, the Acara Challenge course allowed me the chance to employ my creativity, work with smart students from across other disciplines, and employ thinking skills in design, ideation, and project management that I know will be useful in the future. It was both the most frustrating and most rewarding course I’ve been a part of.” – Georgia Rubenstein, Co-Founder Nutricycle, Acara ’12, Humphrey MS ‘13

“The Acara Challenge course enabled me to work with an interdisciplinary team on a common vision for PurePots, which taught me the importance of bringing together perspectives from different fields to create a more comprehensive idea.” – Makenzie Dixon, Co-Founder PurePots, Acara ‘12, CSE MS ‘14

What are successful Acara entrepreneurs doing now?

Below are some of the ventures past Acara course participants have launched including business ideas initiated through the course and after.


MyRain works with local farmers and retailers to identify challenges with small plot farming. We then search the world for great products and work to distribute in underserved markets through our dealer network in southern India. With the mission of enabling sustainable economic development for small plot farmers, MyRain continues to expand its dealer network and product offerings every day!


NutriCycle will seize the opportunity presented by India’s growing composting and urban agriculture movements, bringing these efforts and their associated benefits to Bhubaneswar. Partnering with the Aradhana apartments during their pilot phase, Nutricycle will demonstrate the ability of community composting to improve the existing waste management system, while empowering their clients to become more self-reliant, helping them grow their own fresh, healthy vegetables. Team from University of Minnesota and Xavier Institute of Management (XIMB), Bhubaneswar, India.

Perk Health

Perk Health is a MN company that provides services for employee wellness for mid-sized companies, to help them manage burgeoning health care costs. Their service include a personalized virtual personal trainer.

Pragati Palms

Pragati Palms works with artisans in rural India to bring you sustainable, ethically sourced products such as palm leaf business cards, biodegradable palm kitchenware and other palm leaf products.

Turtleking Workshop

TurtleKing Workshop designs, builds and sells Minnesota-made longboards. In addition to providing an envrionmentally friendly means of local transportation, TurtleKing will be based in the neighborhood adjoining the University of Minnesota and incorporate a work-training program for local youths into their business structure.

TwinFin Aquaponics

TwinFin produces year-round, premium fish and greens for the local foods market in the Twin Cities. Selling primarily to high-end restaurants TwinFin uses proven aquaponics technology to grow mercury-free fish indoors right in our customer’s backyard.





Acara is the impact entrepreneurship program of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.