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.

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Jason Lim

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.