After our pitch at the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) Global Finals, Jim Collins, the VP of Innovation at IDE and one of the GSVC judges concluded by saying, “You [Watsi] brought a great poker hand to a blackjack tournament.” His statement couldn’t have been more true.
Watsi was the only non-profit in the GSVC Global Finals and our save lives now figure out how we make money tomorrow approach didn’t go over very well.
We knew we were going to have to convince the judges that we would be financially sustainable. So, instead of having the financial section of our plan state “TBD” (we always thought it made more sense to get proof of concept before deciding on a financial sustainability plan), we basically chose three of our dozen or so potential revenue models and tried to sell the hell out of them.
The judges saw right through our facade.
We learned a lot from GSVC, received some amazing feedback from the judges, and got some new ideas for possible revenue models to add to our growing list.
But the best lesson we learned is to stay true to what we believe. Instead of trying to fit ourselves into a particular mold, depending on what we think judges or investors want to hear, we aren’t going to be afraid to say, “We don’t know."
We don’t know if our pilot project will be a success. We don’t know how we are going to make money. We don’t know where Watsi will be in a year. But there are a few things we do know…
We know saving lives comes first. We know we will guarantee donors that 100% of their donations go towards funding life-changing medical treatments. We know running a non-profit isn’t free and we will need to make money to cover our overhead (and we have dozens of ideas for how to do so). And most importantly, we know that if we are solving a real problem, and people believe in what we are doing, we will find a way to pay the bills.
Out of 600 teams from 50 countries, Watsi won the People’s Choice Award at the GSVC Global Finals in Berkeley this past weekend. It seems that people really do believe in what we are doing, and if that belief translates into action, together, we will prove to the world that saving lives can in fact come before making money.
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