Ten years ago, I was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica when a woman boarded a bus I was on and asked for donations to pay for her son’s healthcare. The experience led to the idea for Watsi, a crowdfunding platform that would enable people to raise money for healthcare. Grace heard about the idea while working at Kiva and joined me to help bring Watsi to life. Alongside Jesse and our growing team, we worked as volunteers during nights and weekends to build the first version of the platform.
Jesse, Grace, and Chase working on Watsi in 2013.
When we launched Watsi, our goal was to help ten patients raise money for healthcare. The idea that Watsi would one day help 20,000 patients in 25 countries raise over $12M to fund life-changing healthcare was beyond our imaginations. And the idea that our experience crowdfunding surgeries would one day lead to building technology to help run national health insurance systems was even more distant.
But today, thanks to our donors’ generosity, medical partners' dedication, and patients’ openness to sharing their stories, Watsi has enabled everything from life-saving heart surgeries to sight-restoring cataract surgeries to mobility-restoring orthopedic surgeries. And Meso, the software platform we introduced in 2017, is being used to provide health insurance to people across multiple countries.
Lynn from Kenya raised $1,125 to help her regain the use of her hand after a venomous snake bite.
While Watsi has come a long way since I first met that woman on the bus, there is still a long way to go to achieve our vision of a world where everyone has access to healthcare. To set Watsi up for success in the next ten years, we decided to make two changes heading into 2020:
First, we’re excited to welcome Mackinnon Engen as Watsi’s new Executive Director. She has already taken over day-to-day management of the organization and Grace and I have spent the last few months transitioning out of our executive roles. We’re looking forward to supporting Watsi as board members moving forward. Mackinnon has experience working with the World Health Organization and the United Nations, and previously managed a $60M+ annual health budget at a leading surgical nonprofit. We’re grateful to have found such an incredible leader to deepen Watsi’s impact in the years to come.
Second, we're spinning out Meso, our software platform for health insurance administration, and releasing it as an independent open source project. While Watsi was the best place to build Meso, we believe it will thrive under the more collaborative open source approach, enabling organizations around the world to come together to further its development and implementation. The Meso team will be led by Pete Kutrumbos, Watsi’s former Director of Engineering and Product, and include other former Watsi team members. As countries around the world digitize their health systems and work toward universal health coverage by 2030, we know Meso can help make this goal possible. You can follow Meso's progress at meso.health.
It’s hard to express how grateful Grace and I are to have spent the last ten years building Watsi. We’ve had the privilege to do work we love, with people we care about, for a mission we believe in. We’re thrilled to pass the baton to Mackinnon and Pete and we can’t wait to support them as they work to help even more people access healthcare in the decade to come.
Chase and Grace
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The Watsi Team
Everyone deserves healthcare.