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Click Here to Save a Life, for Real

Watsi, the crowd-funding healthcare site, proves that not every change-the-world Silicon Valley start-up is a scam.

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Watsi can come in and offer a way out of that dilemma, says Adam, by focusing specifically on the treatment piece.

“What is so frustrating to me and a lot of people in the nonprofit space is that the problems are oftentimes so clear. Someone is homeless and they don’t have a home. Someone is hungry and they don’t have food. Someone is sick and they don’t have access to healthcare … But the solutions are so complicated. You have these questions, should I be helping this person, should I even be in this country? Am I creating dependencies, am I doing more harm than good? There are all kinds of nasty questions that people have to deal with in the nonprofit space. And sometimes we try to do good and we end up doing more harm than good.”

“What we liked about healthcare, is that to us it seemed like the answer was unequivocally right and unequivocally good, that if you have a 10-year-old in Nepal who is going to die for lack of a treatment that costs $1,000, and there is no other option, then I can’t understand an argument for why it’s wrong to save that 10-year-old’s life.”

I find it hard, almost crass, to push back against Adam. His tiny, six-person team, a gender-diverse group crowded around an island of tables festooned with giant monitors, doesn’t exude the same air of opportunistic charlatanism common to so many other contemporary Valley start-ups. It’s easy to be skeptical of some of Adam’ grander dreams, like his belief that Watsi’s model could lead the way to some kind of cross-border universal medical care system, or that one day Watsi could be working with every medical institution on the planet. But it also certainly doesn’t seem wrong to have figured out a way to redistribute funds from those who have them to save the lives of people with no other options. We’re all on the same bus, right?

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. Follow him on Twitter: @koxinga21