Y Combinator's first nonprofit aims to crowdfund health care

Watsi is hoping to use a Kickstarter model to help fund crucial medical cases around the world. Thirteen health care institutions are using Watsi already.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Though it is the undisputed king of incubators, many Y Combinator alumns have failed to make a profit over the years. But now, Watsi, which is hoping to bring a Kickstarter crowdfunding model to health care, is aiming to be its first (intentional) not-for-profit venture.

At Y Combinator's 16th Demo Day here today, Watsi showed off its platform, which is trying to be the first global crowdfunding platform for health care.

Rather than graduating from the Y Combinator program and seeking investment from tech-savvy venture capitalists, Watsi is soliciting donations from the tech community.

The idea, Watsi representatives explained, is to put the word out about worthy medical cases -- such as Watsi's first-ever case: a young Nepalese girl who urgently needed heart surgery. Thanks to the Watsi community, in just eight days the girl received the money she needed to travel to Kathmandu to get her procedure. From that humble start, Watsi's service is being used now at 13 large medical institutions, the nonprofit reported.

While some people might be skeptical about how much money goes to overhead costs within a nonprofit organization, Watsi reported it commits 100 percent of funds to medical care. It does so by raising additional funds through private donations, foundations, and corporations.

Including a nonprofit at Y Combinator, among dozens of companies looking to strike it rich, is a new idea. At least one prominent investor thinks it's the start of something important.

"I love it, and I donated $25,000 after spending just half an hour with them," said influential angel investor Ron Conway, who until recently was part of the Y Combinator investor group. He said he hopes Y Combinator will include more nonprofits in the future.

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