[Editor’s Note: This is a weekly series. If your company is doing something amazing to help a charitable cause or doing some good in your community, please reach out.]
Disruption comes in all shapes and sizes, and benefits people of all shapes and sizes. When you think about global entrepreneurs solving hard problems, you might not think about creating hardware products that aim to save the lives of premature babies.
A company called Embrace, based in India, is doing just that. It sounds lofty, altruistic and extremely difficult. That’s mostly because it is, and Embrace is making a difference in the face of uphill battles that they see as completely solvable and surmountable. According to WHO, 15M babies are born premature throughout the world, with 1M of them never getting the chance to live a long life. This is a very real problem.
Breaking down the walls of personal healthcare sounds like something that goes on in an MIT lab, but it’s actually something happening in the city of Bangalore, and Embrace is doing it in extremely unique ways. Its product is an infant warmer that can protect a premature infants during their most vulnerable time after birth. Most of the time, these babies have to stay in hospitals, which can be extremely expensive, away from the parents.
The infant warmer that Embrace has developed allows families to take their precious newborns home and care for them in a safe and affordable way. Since premature babies cannot properly regulate their own temperatures, these devices help keep them warm while mom and dad introduce the new member of the family in the privacy of their own home. This is no small problem and this team is making it happen.
Embrace has developed an innovative, low cost infant warmer for vulnerable babies in developing countries. Over 20 million low-birth-weight and premature babies are born every year around the world, and over 4 million die within their first month of life. Temperature regulation is a key problem among many of these infants. Embrace has developed an infant warmer that costs a fraction of the price of existing solutions, and that functions without a continuous supply of electricity.
For reference, Embrace has taken this device built by GE, and made it cheaper, mobile and more personal:
The result? These items completely conceived of, designed and manufactured by Embrace:
This product requires no in-depth training to use, no electricity and no maintenance. It just works, as field tests have proved before launching its latest version.
The most interesting thing that I gleamed from talking to one of its co-founders, Rahul Panicker, is that its number on competitor, in theory, is GE. It happens that GE is a global partner for Embrace when it comes to distributing their product. For the for-profit arm of Embrace, this is a fantastic position to be in, business wise. After two years, grabbing funding from Khosla Impact and Capricorn Investment Group doesn’t hurt either.
Embrace started as a team project at Stanford and has evolved into its current iteration in Bangalore, drawing employees and volunteers from all over the world who are focused on creating change and disrupting emerging markets. I spoke to some marketing interns that had come from Palo Alto and Mountain View specifically to work on this problem. As the team walked through some of its design concepts, it felt like this would be the product that Apple would create if it were in the healthcare space…there’s that much attention to detail here.
Even though there is no medical device standard in India, the team has adopted the European standards, which is a forward thinking move to make its products available everywhere they are needed. The team sees huge opportunities for Embrace products in Africa, Ghana and Latin America with at least pockets from 30 countries total requesting the product to be launched in their back yard.
Until that expansion comes, which it most certainly sounds like it will, Embrace is focused on making a big difference where it is. The feedback that they’ve received and business they’ve gotten, mostly from word of mouth between families, is important lessons and feedback learned as a tiny group of people try to tackle huge markets like healthcare.
Since I’m on the Geeks On A Plane trip with Dave McClure, I’ve been bouncing some ideas off of him as far as what stories would be interesting for you, as readers, to read and learn something from. On Embrace, McClure says that their story is a perfect example of “India lifting India up and not relying on anyone else.” That’s pretty powerful.
You can participate by donating money to Embrace’s non-profit arm, or just sharing their story with friends. This company has made a product for hospitals that cost $250 and products for home that cost $80. When you stop and think about how impactful that is, it’s quite mind blowing. I walked away impressed and inspired, and I of course asked McClure if he’s invested in the company yet. His answer was “not yet,” which certainly doesn’t sound like a “not interested.”