An important aspect from our Social Capital perspective, Lisa believes not only in the importance of knowledge but in the democratization of data. Proteus

The for-profit vision Proteus CEO Lisa Marrocchino has for the underwater lab was shaped by her early encounters with Bill Gates, she explains in this exclusive interview for our Social Capital section. Proteus is an underwater habitat, a research laboratory, even potentially a destination for private aquanauts and citizens – "a place that we can live and work, to observe, learn about our ocean, and then engage the public with those stories." And its business model is built on public-private partnerships – an arrangement she credits Gates with encouraging. "He really changed philanthropy 17 or 18 years ago as we knew it back then. So, very wealthy people who are philanthropists would give money to one charity or leave it to their children. And most of the time, it gets a little screwed up that way, right? They didn't know what to do with all that money. But he really applied his business-minded way of thinking, saying, 'You can't leave seven hundred million billion dollars to Africa with no infrastructure.'"

As she shares her excitement at seeing public-private partnerships coming to life, Lisa explains the many opportunities with Proteus, an endeavor she was drawn to initially because of Fabien Cousteau. As she eagerly explains, the inspiration for Proteus came to Fabian Cousteau after a 31-day mission he led living in a habitat submerged off the Florida Keys to study a dying reef. It was a mind-expanding experience that would never have been possible simply coming and going for a few hours at a time. Says Lisa, "That really shows you that when you're living and working in an environment, you get to learn and become part of that environment much more than if you were just dropped down. We like to use the analogy: Imagine if Jane Goodall was only dropped down from a hot-air balloon for a half an hour or hour at a time and then would go back up. Would she have learned as much as she did about the animal species of chimpanzees?"

And Lisa animatedly describes the implications of global collaboration such as we have recently witnessed with the COVID vaccines for issues from climate change to food resources.

She emphasizes this is not a nonprofit that relies on fundraising. Comparing the endeavor to SpaceX, for example, she notes, "They clearly are raising capital, and building a repeatable model. With an ROI, with a return, because that's what's sustainable." There are opportunities for consultancy fees, or allowing astronauts to be trained in the facility like NASA used to do with Aquarius, or simply sponsorships. "We're finding sponsors today – we have one paid sponsor: Vionic Shoes. They're owned by Caleres, and they have paid us a three-year deal because they want to be associated with ocean.leadership." She also sees the potential for a pharma company to sponsor some research. As she describes what's happening, she clearly believes the opportunities are immense. "We're seeing that trend of best practices from a lot for the sponsorships, brand partnerships that we're seeing, coming to us and saying, "Can you help us figure this out?"

An important aspect from our Social Capital perspective, Lisa believes not only in the importance of knowledge but in the democratization of data. "Looking at data from a democratic way, I think, 'I'm going to pull from all my smart experts – which I've hired because they're experts," she says, adding, "That's really how I run the company, and I think it works really beautifully because they also are part of the end results of the decision-making process."

Disrupting the research status quo, realizing the economic value of knowledge and disseminating it in a sustainable way to better the world – Proteus is a perfect capitalistic model of doing good. Lisa's passion for the possibilities is manifest, as you will see when you watch the video below.