When they said it was boot camp for startups.
In January, Jesse, Grace, and I quit our jobs to bring Watsi to Y Combinator, a three-month startup accelerator program in Silicon Valley.
We’ve been living, working, and stealing wifi from coffee shops together, all in preparation for “Demo Day” next week, when we’ll have 2.5 minutes to convince an audience of the world’s top investors that Watsi is the next big thing.
Because of your support, Watsi is one of the fastest growing non-profits in history. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to pitch our tiny startup to the titans of Silicon Valley.
All eyes are on us, and if there’s ever been a time to tell a friend about Watsi or donate a few dollars of your own, it’s right now.
I’m emptying my piggybank as I type ;)
When they said it was boot camp for startups.
Vuthai, the 18-year-old monk in Cambodia whose medical treatment was funded by donors on Watsi, received surgery to remove a lump from his neck so he can continue school.
On her 5th birthday, she handed out donations to Pemphero, a 2-year-old girl in Malawi, as party favors.
“I never forgot what it was like to live with impossible decisions like whether to buy food or medicine”
I’m Charlotte. I’m 35 years old, a teacher and a mother of four, living in North Carolina. I discovered Watsi from my team message board on Kiva, where micro-lenders were discussing an amazing new nonprofit that directly funds medical treatment for needy people around the world. And you know what? I couldn’t wait to get involved.
I grew up in America, but it wasn’t the shining metropolis or the idyllic rural setting that often characterizes this country. It was a poor urban community where kids regularly went to the community center for free lunch and medical care was often delayed so that groceries could be put on the table. From this difficult setting many hands lifted me from poverty, but I never forgot what it was like to live with impossible decisions like whether to buy food or medicine or invest in education.
Now I support Watsi so that others do not have to make these heart-breaking choices. Everyone deserves a hand up, so that they can feel whole in body and spirit and begin to help themselves. Will you join me in lending a hand, helping a person with a life-altering medical condition? You can literally change a life by investing only a few dollars. If I can do it, you can too!
This is a guest post by Charlotte, a Watsi donor, teacher, and mother of four. We’d love to share your story - email it to email@example.com and we’ll post it here!
As global citizens of the 21st century, we’re part of a community that’s been remarkably catalyzed by women.
And yet, of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, 70% are women.
Today is International Women’s Day, and we’re excited to announce our first ever maternal health program to crowdfund safe deliveries for expectant mothers in partnership with Lwala Community Alliance in Kenya.
Meet the new women of Watsi.org!
If you’re into tech, design, people, and photography, you’re going to love Offscreen Magazine. We loved it the first time we laid eyes on it, and that was before they told us they wanted their readers to fund medical care on Watsi!
Starting today, Offscreen is donating 50% of their profits for the rest of the month to Watsi.
Offscreen’s founder writes on their blog, “I’ve been giving to Watsi several times in the past and have never felt more confident that my dollars are having a real impact on people’s lives. Though the concept of crowdfunding for charities isn’t new, Watsi does it in a very simple, effective, and most of all, extremely transparent way. Watsi’s story isn’t unlike others we feature in our magazine: it comes down to a person with a passion for tech trying to solve a (serious) real world problem.”
Thanks for spreading the health with us, Offscreen!
When Watsi surpassed 2,000 donations processed on our site, I decided to look into the data we’d collected on donations through PayPal.
I hope to continue digging into this and share more insight as I uncover it, but in the meantime, one specific metric caught my eye.
It looks like, in Watsi’s case, generosity could be geographic.
If you take a look at average donations broken down by geographic location, you will see that donors from the United States gave an average of $40.10 per donation, compared to $29.12 per donation by non-Americans. After I noticed this, I started to ask myself a few questions:
Do the majority of our donors come from the US?
Yes, but surprisingly only 2 out of every 3, or 66%.
Do donors from Australia, Canada, or the UK average as much per donation as those from the US?
Given the lingual and cultural similarities these countries share with the US, I expected their donors might donate at levels comparable to those of American donors. I was wrong. Australia, Canada, and the UK respectively averaged $27.68, $30.34 and $29.56 per donation compared to the US average of $40.10.
Do donors from any other country give as much as those from the US?
No, donors from other countries gave an average of $30.
Do friends and family of Watsi team members give proportionately more on average?
No. In fact, besides a few generous one-time gifts, friends and family actually give less than the US average, but more often.
Within the US, does one region give at a higher level than another?
Yes, people on the West Coast and middle of the country tend to give the most per donation.
Will this continue?
Who knows? But, let’s continue to spread the health so we can find out.
Two months before Watsi.org launched, our first patient died. Laxman was a 17-year-old boy from Nepal with rheumatic heart disease, a potentially fatal condition that results from an untreated strep throat infection.
Laxman’s condition was treatable, and Nyaya Health (our Medical Partner in Nepal that submitted the profile) hoped we would be able to crowdfund the cost of his surgery on Watsi.org. However, it took us longer than expected to finish building Watsi, and in a heartbreaking turn of events, Laxman died before we launched.
When Watsi finally launched, Bageshwori was the first patient Nyaya Health submitted for funding. She was a 12-year-old girl from Nepal with rheumatic heart disease, the exact same condition that had just recently taken Laxman’s life.
Bageshwori wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, but her condition threatened that dream. Rheumatic heart disease prevents blood from effectively moving through the heart, causing constant fatigue, shortness of breath, congestive heart failure, and even death.
Rheumatic heart disease is usually easy to treat, and in Bageshwori’s case, the total cost of providing medical care amounted to $1,125. However, because she was born into a community where the average family lives on less than $1 per day, it was impossible for her parents to afford the treatment she needed.
On June 21, 2012, Bageshwori was the first patient to be posted on Watsi.org. We were terrified, since we had no idea if our site would work, and that fear was compounded by the fact that we had a human life on the line. But much to our team’s surprise, in just eight days, 24 donors from around the world fully funded her heart surgery.
It took nearly eight months for Bageshwori’s surgery to be scheduled. During that time, she had to visit Nyaya Health every three weeks for an injection to stabilize her condition. In total, she and her mother walked for 144 hours through the mountains of Far Western Nepal in anticipation of her life-saving heart surgery.
Last month, Bageshwori’s mother left her four other children behind with their father, and embarked with Bageshwori on a 72-hour roundtrip bus ride to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, where she was scheduled to receive the heart surgery funded by Watsi donors.
A few days ago, we were ecstatic to receive an update from Nyaya Health informing us that Bageshwori’s surgery was successful, and that she is on her way to a full recovery!
Bageshwori was the very first patient funded on Watsi, and despite never having met her, we feel a connection with her that defies words. Everyone on our team has been holding their breath for the past eight months out of fear that she would suffer the same fate as Laxman. But thanks to 24 donors and the power of the internet, now we, and she, can breathe freely again.
At Watsi, we’re just starting to get our feet wet with email marketing. And unlike other organizations, we don’t have any strategy to speak of.
Instead of debating internally about our content and approach (e.g. a weekly digest vs. a monthly newsletter), we’re going to assume nothing, fearlessly test everything, and see what works. Whenever we discover something that we think is interesting, we’ll post about it here.
This week, we A/B tested our call to action. Here are examples of the two emails:
A - “View Patients” Button
B - “View Patients” Button + Patient Profiles
Email B, which included the patient profiles, saw a 35% increase in clickthroughs and a jaw-dropping 126% increase in conversions (i.e. donations made on Watsi).
Apparently, people *really* like faces and stories, and as a result, you’ll see a lot more of them in our future emails.
What made you donate on Watsi versus another donation platform/charity?
The chance to go through a patient’s profile and choosing who needs my donation the most. Also, 100% of the donation going to the patient makes me come back again and donate. Most importantly, it has the backing of Y Combinator and people like Paul Graham which will add to Watsi’s credibility.
What was your favorite thing about donating to a patient on Watsi?
I like the user experience from choosing the patient to donating. It makes the workflow very simple, making me focus more on the patient.
Do you have a reason to care especially about health issues?
I believe health is THE fundamental right to any living being. Without good health, it becomes really hard to achieve one’s dreams. We all have dreams, dont we?
Where do you hope to see Watsi in 5 years?
I would like to see Watsi expanded into more developing and under-developed countries in Asia, South America and Africa. Also, I would like it to maintain the same level of transparency and credibility, while serving at larger scales in the future.
If you could tell one thing to a Watsi patient you’ve supported, what would it be?
All the best for your future and do help your fellows when you have a chance.
Where do you live?
I live in New York City.
What do you do for work?
I am a Software Engineer, writing trading engines and trading algorithms.
What are your top 5 passions, hobbies, or interests outside of work?
Travelling, reading on my kindle, movies, yoga, trying out new consumer software and electronics.
What inspires you?
Collecting as much good karma as possible while we are here. :)
Words to live by?
Empathy should precede all social interaction.