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Y Combinator Funds Watsi, a Non-Profit Medical Crowdfunding Startup
© Image: Eric Blattberg / (Logos: Y Combinator, Watsi)

Y Combinator Funds Watsi, a Non-Profit Medical Crowdfunding Startup

On Friday, Y Combinator announced it would fund Watsi, a crowdfunding site that connects patients in need of low-cost, high-impact medical care with donors willing to fund their treatment.

Y Combinator has funded more than 460 startups since its inception eight years ago, but Watsi marks the seed capital firm’s first contribution to a non-profit entity — and Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham has “never been so excited.”

“After about 30 seconds of looking at the site, I realized I was looking at one of the more revolutionary things I'd seen the Internet used for,” wrote Graham in a post announcing the news. “Technology can now put a face on need. The people who need help around the world are individuals, not news photos, and when you see them as individuals it's hard to ignore them.”

The Silicon Valley-based Watsi doesn’t collect a fee for each campaign it runs — it sends 100 percent of contributions through to patients — so the startup relies exclusively on outside donors to cover its operational costs.

Unable (and presumably unwilling) to acquire an equity stake in Watsi, Y Combinator instead offered a charitable contribution to the philanthropic startup, which is currently participating in Y Combinator’s winter 2013 program. Watsi cofounder Chase Adam told AllThingsD that Y Combinator is looking for a “social return on investment” with its contribution to Watsi, not a financial one.

In the past six months, Watsi has collected $55,000 from 1,300 donors to directly fund 70 treatments. According to Adam, donations are growing at a rate of 28 percent a week. That collective generosity means 6 year-old Dorcas will be able to retain function in her right arm, 12 year-old Bageshwori will receive the heart surgery she needs to breathe freely, and dozens more will obtain desperately needed medical care.

Two weeks ago, three of Watsi’s core team members quit their jobs to work on the startup full-time.

“We’re putting every ounce of energy we have into this organization because we believe that every person in the world deserves access to basic medical care,” they wrote in a blog post announcing the decision. “We’ve already funded medical treatments for 60 people around the world, and we won’t stop until we reach a million.”

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