When COVID-19 took hold in the United States

April 5, 2020

On March 13th, a friend and mentor Rick Brennan and I spoke of the reality of COVID-19 in the US, and what we spoke of soon came true. The impact of COVID-19 in the United States revealed a massive shortage of ventilators and other life-saving tools.

What we learned from other countries in the throes of this virus is that there is a strategy for minimizing the impact and saving lives. 

  1. Social distancing to avoid the spread of the virus. 
  2. Access to life-saving tools to serve and save those who are suffering.

 

Ventilators are critical to saving the lives of COVID-19 patients as well as patients who are already suffering from other illnesses not related to the virus. The virus is putting a strain on an already inadequate medical supply in our country. Three weeks ago, Rick focused on finding the solution and identified a team to take on this challenge. Through his personal network he built a team of logistics experts, entrepreneurs, media professionals, and community leaders; Rick Brennan, Andrew Mulligan, Shakeel Dalal, Ron Thomas (Executive Director at Tinkermill), Scott Converse (CEO of Longmont Public Media), Sergio Angeles (CTO of Longmont Public Media) Marcia Martin (Longmont City Council), and Tim Waters (Longmont City Council) respectively. 

We identified a need that initiated the establishment of a new organization, Response for Life (R4L). A one-stop-shop for design, manufacturing, regulatory approval, and shipping. R4L was the answer to the question… how do you meet the needs to manufacture as fast as was necessary? Develop an organization that:

  1. Provides ventilator design needed to be easy to make. So easy, you could make it at a maker space. 
  2. Secures the raw materials and components.
  3. Supplies them to maker spaces who would make and assemble the devices
  4. Provides the logistical support to get them to the hospitals that needed them.

 

A week later, Rick had used his network to pull in people who shared his interest in serving the mission: Saving the most lives possible, manufacturing a disaster relief ventilator on a massively distributed basis. By that point, Namaste Reid, Don Landwirth, Don Robins, and Matt Kaufman, Colleen Mahon, Matthew Gordon, Ian Brennan, and Giulio Gratta had started to work on the technology and logistics infrastructure the organization would need. Another week went by, and our team included Bin Yu from the University of California – Berkeley, Beau Woods, Navit Reid, Alvina Vasquez, and a rough structure for the organization.

By this time, the virus had taken hold, many states were mandating stay at home orders, the economy was in a free for all and universities, and public spaces started closing their doors. It became clear that getting a ventilator that could be made in a maker space to receive the approval of the FDA is nearly impossible. Response4Life team decided to shift focus towards more urgent needs. Response4Life searched for an MVP – the minimum viable product, the smallest thing that is a deliverable for a new startup company that demonstrates the core concept of the organization. 

While searching for the MVP, we figured out Response4Life’s value proposition.

Response4Life exists to get badly needed medical supplies, including but not limited to ventilators, to the health care professionals who need them the most. We do this by eliminating the need for health care organizations to procure supplies. We help new manufacturers get off the ground and then give those supplies to health care providers for free.

As I write this, we’re in the process of building out our MVP. The literal physical good that we’ll use to test out our logistics system, finding a new source of a needed medical supply and getting it to someone who needs it.

Going forward, I’m going to write a blog post on most days, letting you know what progress we’ve made towards accomplishing those goals. I’ll keep you in the loop on what we’re doing and where we might need your help.