FLORENCE, South Carolina — At the number three spot on Apple’s App Store, Yo is a trending app that currently has over one million users. Or Arbel, Yo co-founder and CEO, was able to raise $1.2 million in funding for an app that sends and receives the message “Yo” from user to user.
To show how Yo can grow in the future, Yo held a hackathon last Friday night in San Francisco. Young programmers were invited to compete for two $2500 prizes – a judges’ prize and the Yo Award. The judges’ prize was awarded at the event. An app called Yo Radio won the prize. The Yo Award will be presented this Friday to the Yo service that builds the largest subscriber base.
A team called YOTHEWORLD is using this opportunity to show the world the impact that online donors can have on the global health access crisis.
YOTHEWORLD calls itself “the simplest charity campaign in the world that uses the power of Yo to help an impoverished little girl get life-saving surgery”. Its four team members—Sebastian Merz, Sophia Chung, Jaja Liao and Kyle Ong—are undergraduates from UC Berkeley and Yale. YOTHEWORLD’s goal is to collect the most “Yo’s” from people, win the $2500 from Yo and then donate the prize money to a child named Malaika —a four year-old from Haiti who suffers from atrioventricular canal defect (a condition that prevents blood from flowing properly in the heart). If surgery is not performed soon, Malaika’s condition may turn fatal.
YOTHEWORLD found Malaika through Watsi, an online platform that offers people the opportunity to fund “low-cost, high impact treatment” for those around the globe who cannot afford it. Watsi, the first nonprofit backed by Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley seed accelerator, is a website that crowd funds quality medical care in developing nations by making global healthcare more personal.
Watsi publishes a profile on each person. These profiles include a photo and summary describing the person and his or her medical condition. Donors are able to contribute monetary gifts above five dollars to help any listed person. Watsi represents a new wave of charities that rely on the power of online donors. This model was started by Kiva, an organization which allows donors to give micro- lends to small businesses in developing nations. Watsi applies this same idea to healthcare.
YOTHEWORLD team members see part of their campaign as a way to use social media for a great cause. “The real power of social media is the ability to get people to act quickly and contribute small things to a greater goal,” said Merz. Ultimately, the YOTHEWORLD team members want to do more than just raise awareness. “We want to demonstrate the power of new online donor charities on global healthcare access by actually letting everyone participate and donate the $2500 together to Malaika,” said Liao.
YOTHEWORLD has until July 4 at 11:59 p.m. PST to obtain the most Yo subscribers. What happens if Malaika’s surgery already meets the funding goal by then? “If that happens, we’ll donate to other people on Watsi. Simple as that,” answered Chung.
– Kristy Liao