As an adventurer, campaigner and investor, Dhruv Boruah straddles the worlds of adventure and impact entrepreneurship. He is passionate about using adventure to support entrepreneurial, impact-focused solutions to environmental issues.
Dhruv Boruah loves spending time outside. Whether it’s ocean racing, rally driving, biking, river biking or training to be an Arctic explorer, he enjoys getting out there - even if his “Zoom legs” did curtail a recent hiking trip on the Jurassic Coast.
This said, Dhruv spends most of his time in the impact-entrepreneurship world, developing entrepreneurial solutions to global problems. In bridging these worlds, and in emphasising the need for more collaboration between them, he’s an important voice in the adventure community’s response to the climate crisis.
Covid-19 has kept Dhruv busy. Through his Boruah Foundation, which offers hackathons and startup support around environmental issues, he has pivoted from focusing mostly on the circular economy to developing solutions addressing the after-effects of Covid-19.
Focused on human-centric design, recent online sessions have connected ordinary people, including a 16-year-old from Damascus (“that blew all of our minds,” Dhruv says), with people from global organisations like NASA, McLaren and Harvard Medical School - all with the aim of working on common problems across race, age, nationality and background. One of Dhruv’s aims - also important in the adventure world - is to help “democratise impact entrepreneurship.”
But Dhruv’s adventures continue to run alongside and support these efforts. The most obvious way - and one reason we wanted to catch up with him (he also gave a talk at Adventure Uncovered Live in 2018) - is that his adventures help raise awareness. But as his projects have garnered millions of views and wide media coverage, awareness alone is a limited aim. “I don’t need more of that!” he says, seeming surprised but appreciative that his work has resonated so widely.
Dhruv’s touchstone is not awareness, but measurable impact - something as an adventure community we must strive towards. But how else does adventure contribute to his entrepreneurial efforts?
One function is to add credibility and insight. Adventures “allow me to see and appreciate what’s going on outside,” Dhruv says, “and then come back and share the stories with people who can take their own calls to action.”
But adventure can also serve to highlight environmental issues to people with the financial power to support solutions to them. He mentions a desert-related project he’s currently working on, and says that taking execs and people from the financial industries into the desert to actively connect with the challenges in that environment can be a valuable step in then connecting those people with entrepreneurs actively developing solutions.
Adventure, in this sense, can help connect stakeholders, fund ideas and demonstrate credibility to investors. Adventure as a sales tool might not be as romantic as adventure as escape, but it’s arguably more important. Often potential investors “don’t know where or how to start, or whether it is the right project for them,” says Dhruv. “It’s super hard: the market is full of scams and lies, so you need to give them confidence.”
The adventure world, in Dhruv’s view, does lack the skills required to meaningfully connect adventure with solutions, beyond raising awareness of those solutions. That said, he does see progress. He points to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as an example. “It is happening,” he says, “but it’s slow progress.”
Connecting these two worlds is not just a matter of making adventure people feel better. Being out in the field can often give entrepreneurs or designers a stronger understanding of the issues they are tackling - something people used to being in the field can help with; or better get inspired by mother nature to develop solutions based on biomimicry. “It is sometimes sad for me,” Dhruv says, “because people in the finance world and entrepreneurship world are trying to solve challenges like plastic pollution, but have never done any litter picking. Sometimes they don’t know where to start.”
This is a key opportunity and challenge for the adventure community: to engage more deeply with people developing solutions to environmental issues. ”We’ve got to merge both these worlds,” he says.
One part of this challenge is to do something that perhaps doesn’t come as easily to a community of people often adventuring alone or in small groups: collaborate. Perspectives like Dhruv’s are helpful here. “We’re trying to build the world’s biggest startup platform for solving the world’s biggest challenges,” he says of his foundation. “We need all of the Elon Musks to work together because we can’t work in silos.”