Now that the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2020 winners have been officially announced, you’ll want to learn more about each winning team and the story behind each innovation. In its fourth year, this online competition awards cash prizes to early-stage startups to develop a solution that drives economic development or solves a social or environmental problem.
We are excited for you to learn more about the 2020 winning teams addressing some of the biggest challenges we face through technology-based solutions. I recently connected with INFIUSS founder, Melissa Bime, winner of a Second Runner-Up $25,000 USD prize.
What problem is your technology solution trying to solve?
Melissa: Across Africa, people die needlessly because lack of access to life-saving blood. Not all hospitals have blood banks and when a patient needs a transfusion, there is no quick access to blood banks. Very simply, INFIUSS is a blood bank management system that connects hospitals with blood banks to hospitals without blood banks.
What inspired you to develop this solution?
Melissa: I worked in several different healthcare settings while I was a nursing student in Africa and developed a broad knowledge of how healthcare services are delivered across the continent. Wherever I went, one important challenge persisted; safe and efficient access to life-saving blood supplies. The pivotal moment for me came when I lost a five-year-old patient with a very treatable case of anemia simply because the hospital where she was being treated did not have access to blood. In that moment, I decided I needed to find a solution.
Can you explain how the solution works?
Melissa: INFIUSS is a blood sourcing and delivery platform that recruits blood donors and delivers blood directly to patients in their hospital beds, once they send us a request through our App, by SMS, or phone call. We partner with hospitals that have blood banks for donor recruitment, which enables a more continuous supply of blood that is redirected to hospitals in need. We also encourage blood donors to donate blood samples for research purposes.
How will winning a prize in the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge help you advance your business?
Melissa: This prize will help us to scale operations, add more hospitals to the network and bring in much needed human capital. It will also give us greater visibility, which I believe will be beneficial for driving awareness for this important need.
Do you know what you will use the prize money for specifically?
Melissa: Yes, the money will be used to bring in more customers, and it will also help attract and hire a full-time CTO as well as other needed personnel.
How has the global pandemic impacted your work?
Melissa: Apart from the fact that we have seen a decrease in volume of the patients requiring blood transfusions, our business has remained mostly unchanged. We have shifted our focus to getting convalescent blood plasma for critically ill patients. However, we continue delivering blood to pregnant women and trauma patients. COVID has altered the necessary safety precautions we use, but we are still able to do what we need to do.
Why did you decide to start your own social enterprise versus going to work for a company?
Melissa: As someone who had been exposed to working in hospitals with inefficient processes, I knew that if I wanted to see any change, I needed to create it myself. Unfortunately, hospitals and healthcare personnel have become used to poor service and they don’t feel empowered to change anything. I knew I had to create this company so I could do it my way.
What is the best piece of advice you received about starting your own social enterprise?
Melissa: The biggest piece of advice I received was that the hard part is starting. I had no idea how to run this company that I founded when I was 20. It has been a steep learning curve and am grateful I started.
Do you have any advice for next year’s applicants?
Melissa: Be persistent and don’t give up! I applied in 2019 and didn’t make it past the semi-finals, and then this year I won second runner-up. No matter the outcome, don’t give up!
What is your favorite book and why?
Melissa: My favorite book currently is Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I love it because it has given me a lot of clarity in life. I have learned that nothing you do in life is a sprint. You can achieve if you build good, simple, consistent habits.
What is your favorite activity when you are not working?
Melissa: I love dancing. When I am not working you will find me dancing around my apartment!
Stay tuned for more articles in our blog series, featuring interviews with every Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2020 winning team!