Often we talk about the tech start-ups that are working on commercial products like video, social networking, e-commerce, mobile etc. and who raised the most money or got acquired. But we neglect the start-ups and innovation that truly helps society. Social innovation is about helping the poor, the sick the marginalized. Now one start-up, called Embrace has proved it pays to use entrepreneurial talent for a good cause and has just won the McKinsey Social Innovation Award.

Embrace is a social enterprise that aims to help millions of vulnerable babies through a low cost infant warmer. Unlike traditional incubators that cost up to $20,000, the Embrace Infant Warmer costs less than 1% of this price. The device can work with or without electricity, has no moving parts, is portable and is safe and intuitive to use.

Embrace claims that 20 million low-birth weight and premature babies are born each year, primarily in developing countries like India.  One of the biggest causes is hypothermia, where babies without access to medicine or simply a warm home, have difficulty keeping warm. The results are startling with 4 million babies dying in the first month and the rest developing life-long health problems such as heart disease or a low IQ. Embrace’s infant baby warmer is a disruptive in the sense of combating a cycle of preventative baby deaths. It aims to save the lives of 100,000 babies by 2013.

San Francisco based, Embrace was founded by Jane Chen, Dr. Rahul Panicker, Linus Liang and Naganand Murty, all from Stanford. It is made up of 10 full time staff, 11 US volunteers and interns from top schools like Stanford, Berkely and Harvard. The non-profit organization and is seeking US$3 million investment over 3 years to fulfil their goal of saving more lives.

I heard about this from Raghu Dharmaraju, VP of Sales and a Fellow of the Start-up Leadership Program Fellow in Bangalore, India.

Jia You from China!

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

Join the Conversation


  1. I love reading about companies like Embrace.  Any profiles of Chinese start-ups with similar social innovation plans?

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.