Chase Adam — Founder, Watsi
Watsi is a nonprofit crowdfunding platform: Kickstarter for healthcare around the world.
Every good presentation falls into one of two categories: informational presentations (smart people saying A + B + C = success); motivational presentations (successful people telling funny stories about their mistakes, highlights of their road to success). Airbnb talked about how they spent their first 1000 days in huge debt, searching high and low for product-market fit.
Chase spent 6 years traveling around the world working with nonprofits — realized near the end that it seemed unbearably slow, bureaucratic, underfunded compared to the pace of things in Silicon Valley. However, came up with idea for Watsi while on a bus, thought about it nonstop for his last 5 months in the Peace Corps.
Nonprofits need to be a bit more skeptical, more introspective, than for-profits because it's harder to see whether you're succeeding or failing. Have to get money from one group of people, give it to a second group — and it's usually difficult to measure success with the second group. Hard to get feedback b/c of language barriers, the fear that you'll stop giving, potential unforeseen long term consequences (e.g. rice aid in Haiti put local farmers out of business).
Advantage to have no users, no revenue, no funding: you can do whatever you want, take risks, do what big nonprofits can never do. Made five decisions in the first year and a half: (1) be radically transparent — can see exactly what's being done with the money; (2) 100% donation model, (3) minimal fundraising, (4) circular structure — no bosses, no founders, no hierarchy, everyone responsible to everyone, (5) golden rule.
Launch day: went crazy on HN, TechCrunch, etc. However, tried to fundraise, no one gave them money — the worst part of being a nonprofit: no one will tell you no. People will pat you on the back, say you're great, never write you a check.
What they got out of YC:
- Focus — only focused on one metric for three months: to get more people to donate.
- Stamp of approval
Second attempt at fundraising also started off a disaster: as a nonprofit you don't know what you are selling. Selling emotion feels fraudulent; selling impact (them vs. other nonprofits) just felt like inventing numbers. Finally realized that they were selling a vision: if they make the world smaller, they'll make the world better. 138 meetings, 5 states, 3 months —> 36 checks >$1000; 13 checks >$25000; raised $1.2mm.
Find something to work on that you care about more than yourself. Watsi can never fail: all they have to do is to fund one more patient.