The Grand Signal

A digital magazine covering the intersection of technology, human rights and social change.

Featured company: Watsi – crowdsourced medical care

Photo courtesy of Zoutedrop on Flickr |

Watsi is a startup coming from the Y-combinator program that crowdsources medical treatments for people across the world that are unable to afford it. The idea is simple, you browse through patients on their website, donate a minimum of $5 to fund their treatment, then receive an update on the treatment in the future.

Here’s the story of how Chase Adam, Co-Founder of Watsi, came up with the idea:

I was sitting in the back of a bus in a small village in Costa Rica called Watsi. A woman in tattered clothing was standing in the aisle in front. She was holding a red folder and speaking to the passengers near her. I thought she must be selling stickers or skin creams.

A few minutes later I looked up and found she was making her way down the aisle toward me. She was holding a plastic bag, and although she had only passed a few passengers, the bag was bursting with money. I couldn’t believe it. In my year and a half in the Peace Corps, I had never seen a bus salesperson earn so much.

When she reached me, I still had no idea what she was selling. Then the man next to me asked to see the red folder she was holding.

The instant she opened the folder everything came together. There was a photograph on one side and a document on the other. The photograph showed a young boy with an incision across the width of his stomach. The document described his medical condition. The young boy was her son.

In that moment I had what can only be described as an epiphany. If I could somehow connect this woman with my friends and family back home, she would have the money to pay for her son’s medical treatment within the day.

The company is completely transparent, with information about each patient and the outcome of the treatment available online. For more information about how the company operates, visit their FAQ.

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