This month's entrepreneur is Samora Reid from Barbados, founder of Red Donor and a finalist of the First Edition of the Caribbean Innovation Challenge (CIC) in 2013. Red Donor is a social web application that connects blood donors to those who need it across the Caribbean. By giving essential information about blood and launching awareness campaigns through social media, Samora seeks to increase the amount of blood donations available for health care facilities within the region.
The idea behind Red Donor goes back two years ago, when his friend's father was ill and needed urgently blood transfusions in order to survive. His friend Joshua, co-founder of Red Donor, called up as many people as he could to encourage them to donate their blood for his father. However, only half of the contacted people showed up and a lesser number were actually able to donate. Fortunately, Joshua's father was able to receive enough blood transfusions to overcome his disease.
As Samora and Joshua, both with a background on web development and graphic design, truly believe that technology can help solve some of the health challenges that the Caribbean faces, they decided to set up Red Donor after completing their university studies. According to Samora, the main goal of Red Donor is to increase the capacity of a safe and constant supply of blood for every member of Barbados's community. In an interview with Samora, he was confident that "technology was able to boost blood donation rates as cellphone penetration has reached 100 percent over the past five years. Also, data plans in Barbados are inexpensive. People pay an average of 15 USD for a monthly data plan. Against this backdrop, Red Donor has potential". Moreover, he averted that "by encouraging more people to donate and using technology to connect with blood donors, capture demographic information, and analyze trends, the numbers of people donating blood can easily rise". Knowing the increase of non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean, Samora predicted, "the demand for blood for treatments of these diseases will be higher than the current supply can handle". And according to the Pan American Health Organization's (PAHO) figures, Samora reckoned that as of 2006 the voluntary blood donation in the Caribbean stood at 10 percent. However, Barbados did not figure in the latest PAHO report.
Red Donor participated last year in the Caribbean Innovation Challenge (CIC) and was selected as finalist. Ever since the end of the competition, Samora has been working very hard to make his social initiative thrive. Joshua went back to college while Samora is now establishing new partnerships with the Myeloma Lypmhoma & Leukaemia Foundation of Barbados and Be The Change Barbados to spread out Red Donor's message in the region.
In January 2014, Red Donor launched an awareness campaign to find enough blood transfusions for a teenage that was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. They needed AB+ blood type donor, a very rare blood type. After one day of advertising through social media and other sources, the message was seen by more than 7,000 people and shared 58 times. Amazingly, a woman with the requested blood type showed up on the next day.
Recently, Samora teamed up with other Barbadian entrepreneurs and set up MediRevu, an application aimed at helping doctors manage patients with non-communicable diseases. On March 2, Samora and his teammates won the People Choice's Awards for Digital Jam 3.0 Caribbean Edition – a New App competition based in Jamaica. Besides developing applications aimed at improving the Caribbeans' life quality, Samora will study his MSc in Health Systems at King's University, London next fall.
Finally, when discussing about TIC Americas with Samora, he gave a valuable advice to all young entrepreneurs participating in this edition, "be always surrounded with mentors and people who share your vision and passion (…) Mentors provide priceless insight and experiences into your target market and industry. Your support network can help ease some of the stresses you will undoubtedly encounter and provide encouragement in challenging times".