Why This Life-Saving Medical Device Won $100,000 from Steve Case

This year, Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest pitch competition resulted in some pretty interesting start-ups winning $100,000 checks from Revolution, a D.C.-based investment firm cofounded by Case in 2005. The six winning companies came from different industries ranging from biotech to clean energy.

No doubt, these companies are poised to do great things, but one winner in particular is on its way to helping save millions of lives in least developed countries (LDCs) with what Case calls “a kind of a change-the-world idea.”

Related: Steve Case

Sisu Global Health, a medical tech company and for-profit social enterprise, was established by the three-woman team of Carolyn Yarina, Gillian Henker, and Katie Kirsch just a few short years ago. The company is already making quite a splash in the LDC medical community, especially in the matter of the “change-the-world idea,” that convinced Case to invest $100,000 after just a five-minute long pitch.

Sisu Global Health developed an auto-transfusion device for blood called the Hemafuse. The device allows for the recycling and filtering of a patient’s own blood in emergency situations with internal bleeding. Clinical trials for the device have already been conducted at Johns Hopkins. Sisu has preliminary plans to distribute the tool in Ghana as early as next year, should it raise enough seed funding.  

The world is in the midst of a global blood shortage. The situation is far worse in LDCs where the blood donation rate is around 3.9 percent as compared to 36.8 percent in high-income countries. Yarina and her partners witnessed the shortage in Ghana first hand, which was one of the major catalysts of Hemafuse development.

Without enough available donor blood, surgeons and medical staff in developing countries are left to auto-transfuse their patients’ blood by spooning it up with a soup ladle and filtering it with a piece of gauze. This process can take up to 30 minutes—which can easily be the difference between life and death for patients lying splayed open on the operating table. Sisu’s Hemafuse takes just 10 minutes.

Case’s investment firm, Revolution, which cut the $100,000 check to Sisu Global Health, is broad in its approach and invests in companies that its team believes will bring widespread innovation and disruption to large markets. Revolution is a separate entity from the Case Foundation, which also makes impact investments. The Case Foundation’s approach to impact investing is much more pointed and looks to for-profits that are working to solve complex and pressing social challenges, with an eye on sub-Saharan Africa.  

Related: Inside the Case Foundation’s Impact Investing

One striking similarity between the two organizations is in their financing ideals, as they both invest “in people and ideas that can change the world.” Clearly, there’s some crossover in investment philosophies in Revolution's decision to back Sisu Global Health.