Altruistic blood donation in Mexico is uncommon and usually occurs when a patient in need turns to relatives. But an entrepreneur is changing that mindset with a mobile app.
According to data gathered by the national health care institution IMSS, “Mexico is the archetype of family blood donation.” Only 3% of donations are considered altruistic, that is, the donor decided to do so without having a relative in need.
César Esquivel experienced the harsh reality of the situation through a co-worker who lost his wife after she became ill and needed blood.
“He was very worried,” Esquivel said. “He couldn’t even find it on the black market. He told me, ‘If I don’t get the blood, they’re not going to help my wife.’”
That experience stayed with Esquivel, who one year later, with with his brother Javier, founded a firm called Blooders after developing the idea at a “startup weekend” event held by project incubator Startup Studio Monterrey.
That event helped the brothers raise the US $50,000 needed to kickstart the design and development process.
The premise behind Blooders and its mobile app is simple: link voluntary blood donors with those in need of a blood transfusion.
Users can view a list of available hospitals — both private and state-run — in Mexico City, Monterrey, Puebla and Tabasco. Through a commercial partnership signed with the medical facilities, the mobile app is able to offer its service free of charge to users.
“It’s like Kickstarter for blood donation,” explained Esquivel. The relatives of patients in need of a transfusion create a campaign on the Blooders platform, setting the goal in accordance with each particular case and making it easy for donors to identify the most urgent ones.
Another advantage for voluntary donors is that they can schedule a session at the medical facility of their choosing, overcoming one of the major drawbacks of the practice in Mexico: wait times of between three and four hours.
Esquivel also hopes to put an end to a sort of cultural prejudice against donating blood.
People fear transfusions, Esquivel told Forbes México. “There is this series of myths: [if you donate] you’ll gain weight, or you’ll get infected,” but nothing is farther from the truth.
The young entrepreneur hopes to be a positive force in shifting that mindset, and summarized his motivation in a phrase: “Donating blood doesn’t hurt. It hurts to need it but not to have it.”
Men can donate blood four times a year while women can do so three times. Considering that with a single session a donor can save three lives — the blood is separated into three components — an adult aged 18 to 75 can save between 420 and 560 lives, Esquivel explained.
In its current narrow geographical scope, the Blooders platform has reportedly saved 6,000 lives, but Esquivel hopes to close next year with 12,000 to 15,000 more cases and extend the coverage to the whole country and, later, to Latin America.