Revolution of Necessity | Saving Lives in Nigeria - Temie Giwa-Tubosun
EPISODE TWO

SAVING LIVES IN NIGERA -     TRANSCRIPT

"There's one thing about me, I don't stop. So if you say no, I go away, I come back."

—Temie Giwa-Tubosun

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Temie Giwa-Tubosun: When you find your life's work it helps simplify your life. I don't have to save everybody in the world. It helps organize me, it keeps me focused completely on this one problem I've decided to solve.

 

David Madden: Silicon Valley likes to say that it's making the world a better place, but that's mostly bullshit.

The problems that most famous tech companies are solving aren’t real problems. but in other countries - developing countries - there are entrepreneurs who are building things that are actually changing people's lives in very practical ways.

That's what this podcast is about. I'm David Madden. This, is the Revolution of Necessity.

On this podcast we share the stories of tech entrepreneurs in developing countries. These are people who are innovating in places where technology could genuinely make the world a better place.

This podcast is supported by Omidyar Network. Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm set up by the guy who created eBay, Pierre Omidyar, and his wife Pam.

On today's episode I'm speaking to a startup that's literally saving lives. every day, around the world, hundreds of people die because they don't have access to safe blood, but there's a start-up in Nigeria that's tackling this problem. Their platform allows hospitals to find the blood that they need for their patients and then have it delivered in less than one hour.

The company is called Lifebank and its founder is Temie Giwa-Tubosun.

 

Temie, welcome to the podcast.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Thank you David.

 

David Madden: Temie it's great to have you here today.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Thank you, I’m very glad to be here!

 

David Madden: Now Temie you were, huh, born right here in Nigeria, but you only spend some of your childhood here. When you were young your mom won the green card lottery and had a chance to move to the United States and you followed her a few years later, you were 14 when you moved to the US. So Temie, what was it like to move from a small town in Southwest Nigeria to America at the age of 14?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right! it was, uhm, a journey of contrast I think. As you know Nigeria is very hot, very very humid, um, temperature... and I moved to Minnesota in, in the ice of winter so we moved...

 

David Madden: So right there in the Midwest, right?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right there in the Midwest in winter time so we moved on November and it was like winter was just starting and I remember feeling like the, the cold was attacking me cause I...I wasn't prepared for the cold, I don’t think you can ever be well prepared enough for the cold.

 

David Madden: So as you were growing up you really wanted to be a lawyer.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes!

David Madden: And everything that you were doing at school and after hours was focused around having a career in the law.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Absolutely.

 

David Madden: What changed?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: [laughs] Nelson Mandela is what what changed it all and and model United Nations. In 2005 I was a sophomore in college and I joined a group called model United Nations and I fell in love with it. And then after model UN I became an African person. It was the first time since I moved to the US and even since I was born, because when you’re in Nigeria, you're just a Nigerian, you're not African, right? and then when I went through model UN and I go through the process of writing a resolution and thinking about the problems around Africa I became an African person, right? and I think that was the first step, the second step was my brother gave me the autobiography of Nelson Mandela and I spent that weekend just reading and devouring this book and in Nelson Mandela I saw the vision for the future that I wanted. I felt very African but then also very Nigerian because his story was more a south African story and I knew that I couldn't share in that story but I felt like "okay yes, I am a Nigerian person, I am of African descent" and what he tried to do for his people was what I should do for my people.

 

David Madden: Inspired by Nelson Mandela, Temie had a blueprint for her future.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I felt like I needed to be African but I needed to be... my work for Africa would be in the United Nations. That was it.

 

David Madden: She finds a special masters program that will qualify her to work at the UN.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I took all my classes in French because I knew to get into the UN I needed a degree, a master's degree and then you needed a different language, so I did...

 

David Madden: Did you know any French when you...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I had taken maybe one year of French [laughs] in college and that was it but I didn't know much, I didn't know any French at all.

 

David Madden: While she was studying, Temie did an internship back home in Nigeria, an internship that would change her life.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So the project had just started and they wanted to do a baseline survey of household surveys. So that's what I did for about three months, going from village to village doing household healthcare surveys, uhm, and that's where my life changed when I met Aisha. Ooh, so one day my team, we’re going to a small village in, in Kano.

 

David Madden: Which is in northern Nigeria.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Northern Nigeria. We drove in and, huh, there was a group of people sitting in front of the household, so there was a young girl, she had been in labor for a few days uhh, three days and the baby was breached so some of the baby had already come out uhm, the rest was still inside her. In a normal place you can just, you know, do a C section so you should get to the hospital, it's a simple C section, baby is removed, the baby lives the mom lives and everyone is happy.

 

David Madden: But a C section is impossible here.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: But they couldn't find a car because it was a very far village, they couldn’t find any way of getting her from the bed to where she could get help which is the nearest town or the nearest city. The mother-in-law had mentioned that they were way too far to try because there was nothing they could do for her, they had done all they could.

 

So I remember just feeling like she was me, that was a refrain in my head, she was like me. She grew up in a small town, she looked like me. There were small accidents in my life that gave me the opportunities to be somebody who could see Aisha and felt sorry for her and I felt like she was me, she was me, it was an arresting moment, it was a moment that sort of forced me to see my privilege to see how different my life would have been if these happy accidents didn't happen. And it was, it was a moment that really committed me to maternal healthcare, this was the moment that I realized, at that time, that this is what I was meant to do.

 

David Madden: So Temie this moment has an incredible impact on you, how did you go about processing it, what what what came next?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So... I stayed in my hotel room for three days, I refused to talk to anyone, uhm, and then I just rallied and left, and uhm, I didn’t process it. There was a part of me that knew that “okay this is your work now” but also there was a part of me that didn't want to have this burden, right? I was young, I, I had a plan for my life I was gonna travel and you know, be a global citizen, I would jump from one, you know, plane ride to another, around this awesome husband, you know, we would travel and you would always be doing... off course! you know, I'd be like, I was going to be the next, you know, Kofi Annan, uhm, the secretary general of the United Nations. I didn't have any plans to have a crusade about maternal healthcare and that was not part of the plan, like, you know, moving to Nigeria was not even part of the plan. Like, living outside the West was never part of the plan, uhm...So I didn't process it for a while but I, I think in inside was because I didn't want it. Felt like a responsibility that was thrust on to me without anyone asking me if I wanted it. So I didn’t process it, I ran back to... back home to the US to California. I finished my degree, uhm, Global Health, now became what I studied, so I went to WHO to do my research in in in Geneva. So I was there for six months, here was like all sorts of people from all sorts of places in the world working to solve African problems, right? there were a few African people but... the leadership, you know, the structure...were not, you know, African people trying to solve walk thru Why Africa still had the worst HIV crisis in the world. And I thought that, I thought that we could do good policy proposals, however, the work of actually building a healthcare system needed to happen on ground with people getting their hands dirty and doing the work, and, a new dream was born: the dream was to come back home.

 

David Madden: Temie goes home to Nigeria. She gets a cool job incorporating public health messages into Nigerian movies. But aisha is still on her mind.

 

She develops a passion project to increase blood donations. It’s called the One Percent Project.

 

David Madden: Tell us about the One Percent Project.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right. So I figured out three reasons for why women die in the developing world, right? Uh, the first one was postpartum hemorrhage.

 

David Madden: Where you bleed.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Where you bleed. So you give birth to a baby and then shortly after, so postpartum so, shortly after you start bleeding, and you bleed, you bleed and if you don't, if your doctors can't stop the bleeding and replace the blood you’ve lost, you would die. At that time all I knew was there’s blood shortage and I decided that what I could do is try to figure out a way of getting people to give blood, especially young people. So I started this small project on the side and put like 10% of my income every single month into this project, uhm, going to one university after, after the other and telling them about giving blood.

 

David Madden: But it's totally a side gig, right?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Absolutely.

 

David Madden: It’s not, it’s not your main thing.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Absolutely.

 

David Madden: So... what made you give that up?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right.

 

David Madden: And focus 100% on these issues?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: The situation around my own childbirth was very similar to Aisha's story, very very similar even... apart from the, the bed rest and all the problems, the birth story itself lasted 26 hours.

 

David Madden: Woah.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Huh...it was...

 

David Madden: Long.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: ...problematic. I got very sick through the process, I had a huge infection through the process, they had to do an emergency C section and that's what saved my baby's life and my life, and if we had not been, uhm, where we were, we hadn't had access to these essential medical, you know, uhm, the medical products we needed, if we hadn't had access to the best doctors, to the best nurses, to the best medical team, I'm... I or my son would have died, and when I go back home I realized that my work around maternal health could no longer be a side gig. It had to be my life’s work.

 

David Madden: But before Temie could focus on maternal health full time, she needed to figure out how.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: You know as soon as I had this idea that I have to change the world but how? how? how? So I needed to figure out the how. I talked to everybody that would talk to me. I'd usually walk into hospitals like "so, what's going on around blood here?" cause I knew there was always blood but how do you solve the problem of blood, is it always going to be, you know, blood drives? huh, so I remember there was a day... it was one of the last meetings…

 

David Madden: But you're talking to practitioners.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Practitioners, yes.

 

David Madden: You weren't talking to random people about it.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: No, no no no no. I would talk to hospitals, to, you know, government agencies, anyone who would talk to me around, who knew something about, you know, this particular system, about maternal mortality in general, I would talk to them.

 

David Madden: Yeah.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I had meetings with anybody who would talk to me about blood and blood banks.

 

David Madden: There was one, there was one really important meeting, right?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes, yes. There was a... an incredible meeting. It wasn't really actually a very good meeting [laughs], it wasn't, it wasn't a meeting that like “wow, this is it!”. We were talking, he was actually trying to tell me not to do what I wanted to do, he was telling me all the problems that exist in that, all the ways that, you know, whatever it is I wanted to do would definitely fill in how this problem was going to be forever and...

 

David Madden: This is with the blood bank, right?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: This is with the blood bank.

 

David Madden: So you’re meeting with the blood bank…

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So somebody that ran a blood bank. Yes. So I’m meeting with someone who runs a blood bank and during this meeting and he said, "oh yeah, you know, it was just really now the problems" and then he said "oh, by the way, yeah, sometimes we have to throw away all the blood because, you know, blood only lasts 6 weeks” I was like "what?” you know, “throw away blood? how do you throw away blood?” you know, it’s a…  and he responded to me and said, "yeah, you know, blood is a short shelf life product, you know, it only last 6 weeks and ..."

 

David Madden: And you didn't know this, right? at the time.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I didn't know this, I didn't know this, I don't... I have...

 

David Madden: You've been running blood drives, collecting blood...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I’ve been running blood drives! All I knew was there was a blood shortage in Nigeria. That's all I knew. A few days after that my husband and my family we all were going on a, on a road trip. My husband is driving and he is in the mood, he’s, you know, listening to some music and I'm sitting down beside him in my own thoughts and I started thinking about all the things I've learned in this last year around blood. If there is a surplus and there's a shortage, then you just need the equilibrium, you need to have this surplus, the people who see the surplus and the people who have a shortage, talk to each other and then that's it. So I thought the best way to do that is to do a marketplace, right? Why don't we have a big platform were blood banks can list their excess products and then, at the same time, have that information to hospitals where hospitals can now request in real time for what they need. That way no one has to die. And that was it, and that's where Life Bank was born.

 

David Madden: So you’ve had this brilliant idea.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right.

 

David Madden: But you've also got a new baby...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: ...and a pretty cool job.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: So, what did you do?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: (Sigh) So, I spoke to my husband, he thought, "oh, that's a great idea, you could still be doing it, you know, on the side" I said “okay” uhm, I spoke to everybody and everybody like "you're crazy, you have a fantastic job” but I knew then and there that I was, I wanted to try to be courageous, I wanted to try to do what I felt was supposed to be my life's work and I had given my sweet child now, and I had, although I had responsibility to make sure that he can survive and go to good schools and, you know, have the healthcare and all the, all the things that parents must do for their children, I also thought that I had a responsibility to show him how to be brave.

 

David Madden: One person who encourages Temie is Bosun Tijani, the co-founder and CEO of “CcHUBb”, a tech hub that’s been helping to develop Nigeria's innovation ecosystem. Temie joins CcHUB’s startup incubation program and gets to work building her marketplace.

 

Okay so you've had this brilliant idea Temie, you are gonna, you are gonna create this marketplace…

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: ...for blood…

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: ...uhm, in Lagos.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: Now... Marketplaces often sound simple, but in reality they can be really hard to build. So, how did you do it, how did you put all the pieces together?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So… Huh...

 

David Madden: Did you start with the customers? Did you know the hospitals were gonna be the customers?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right! so the first thing is I wanted to build the platform, right? Uhm, I... so through the process we did it for about a year, huh, it was just hammering everything into place, we realize that, uhm, it had to start with the blood banks because we couldn't have hospitals coming to the platform and not have any pints to buy. So, you had to start with people who were the suppliers...

 

David Madden: Okay.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: ...who would list their products.

 

David Madden: And was it hard to get the blood banks to participate?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: It was hard. It was really quite hard.

 

David Madden: Even though they're throwing away their product.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right! Some of them was like "why would I give you my stock?” They weren't clear what the value was. They couldn't see if I was going to pull it off, that was the word “Can she actually pull off this idea? The idea sounds great, right? A marketplace, my extra stock... I can sell it! I'm gonna throw it away anyways. Why don't I make some more money, you know, on the side, right? instead of throwing it away...”

 

David Madden: But they weren't sure you could actually pull it off.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: But they didn’t like “why would us have to trust her, who is she? what does she know? she is not even a doctor”

 

David Madden: How did you... convince them...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right.

 

David Madden: … that you could do it?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: There's one thing about me, I don't stop. So if you say no, I go away, I come back. I remember there was a meeting where I told one guy, one, so, a man he runs a blood bank, I was like "if you don't do this in two years you're gonna come to me and beg me and try to pay me to get you on my platform" He was like "what?” He was like "hm, you're very confident" I said, "Yes Sir., I'm very confident", and then it's like "okay, I'll give you 10 bags".

 

David Madden: Was that the first yes?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: It was the first yes.

 

David Madden: That was the first yes.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: It was the first yes. And he didn't give me all the stock, he even refused to log in on the plat... like on the platform.

 

David Madden: Right.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: He just took a pen an a paper, said: "I have 10 bags of O-, I have 10 bags of O+, I have these..." So he listed all the blood types.

 

David Madden: Yeah.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: And it's like "And I'll supply it at this cost, at this cost" and he gave it to me and that was the first. After that I could go to the next guy and say "oh, you know, you know, huh, this blood bank is on our platform and they've already, you know, started seeing, you know, an increase in a month" and like "really? He's on this platform? Okay then I have to sign up" And that was it.

 

David Madden: It was like dominos after that?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: It was dominos, right.

 

David Madden: But there was no risk to the blood bank right? because you weren't actually taking the blood away, you were just...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: No, there wasn't. You just needed to give me your stock.

 

David Madden: Yeah!

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: It also, a lot of things in this market is... people just get used to how things are, and are not interested in doing something different, right? At some point you've been doing this, let’s say he's been running a blood bank for 20 years.

 

David Madden: Sure.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So he doesn't understand technology, he's not interested in technology. And it was just... no, no sense of, you know, innovation, and were not interested in it, cannot see innovation and how innovation helps him.

 

David Madden: Were the hospitals also hard to get on board? or...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: No, actually they were much easier. When you have a hospital, when someone dies, they are the one who sees the patient dying, right? So they have a front line view of the problem I was trying to solve. So they were on my team. So we actually have a business model where hospitals pay us, right? And that, that's been very very easy.

 

David Madden: Did you wait until you had some blood banks on board before you started pitching the hospitals?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes. They would even ask “which blood banks do you have?” to see if I was I was just lying, right? I remember I had a big meeting with an interested hospital that said, literally it's like "give me five names of the blood banks you have right now" to just test if I was lying and I was just trying to sign them up before I signed up the hospitals and I listed five and like "Wow, really? Those people are working with you?" I said "yes, they are working with us" And that was... and then they signed up.

 

David Madden: Temie now has both sides of her marketplace lined up: the blood banks, who have the blood, and the hospitals, who need the blood. She thinks she’s all set and then she discovers a big problem….

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So when I actually quit my job and started LifeBank and we started at the incubation  system, we were is ccHUB working, uhm, I w.... I thought we were going to be a technology company. All we were going to do is inform the hospitals where they could get the blood. That was it. The logistics part of what we do, the delivery part of what we do, came later. And...but the first order we had, there’s, we would say "so, when are you going to pick it up?" and, uhm, it was... you know they had to send an ambulance to go pick it up.

 

David Madden: Oh, wow, so you didn't build in...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yeah, we didn't build the logistics.

 

David Madden: Interesting, okay.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Absolutely not, it came later.

 

David Madden: That came later, oh!

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: And when we realized that it is a problem, like "oh, the logistics problem!"

 

David Madden: And the hospital, the hospital is expecting you to send it?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yeah!

 

David Madden: Uhhh...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Oh, they wouldn't expect it, so normally they... so before LifeBank they would go pick it up themselves.

 

David Madden: Okay.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Either they send a nurse or they'd send like a cleaner in the hospital, or they send the hospital’s... yeah, I know [laughs].

 

David Madden: Woah.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Or, or, or they would send the hospital's ambulance...

 

David Madden: Okay.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: …to go pick it up.

 

David Madden: Yeah.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: That was the system that existed before LifeBank.

 

David Madden: Right, so wait Temie, tell us about this first order.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So we got our first order and we said "okay, go pick it up" I think, if I remember correctly, they send the, the, the ambulance to go pick it up, it was so delayed they kept calling us, you know, “so... you know, huh, the ambulance is, you know, stuck in traffic, there's a problem, there’s this there's that, can you get us a new blood bank that's a little bit closer?" We were able to solve that, right?

 

David Madden: Okay.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: We were able to solve them, sort them at that time but then that was when we realized that it needs to be logistics as well.

 

David Madden: This is a huge deal. Lagos is a massive city. the traffic is notorious and Temie isn’t just another e-commerce company selling books or clothes.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So, blood is a living thing, right? huh, it has to be kept cold throughout its life cycle, once is being removed from a person's body, it has to be kept in a bag and that bag has to be kept cold until is transferred into another body, another's person body, uhm, when I realized this, we realized that the delivery can't be you just put in a box and then put it in a bike and you deliver it.

 

David Madden: Temie’s in trouble. She can’t take another order until she solves this problem.

 

Tell us Temie about how you identified what the solution was, just the practical challenges of getting the blood cold and everything.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right, right. So, I, I was just searching on, I literally used google, right? [laughs], entrepreneurs is the way Google helps you, uhm, I literally Googled: how to move blood.

 

David Madden: That was your search?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: That was it, how do you move blood and keep it cold. So that’s how we found that out that you had to, you needed a blood box; so there's a specially designed blood box and there are special temperature stripes for blood that could help you maintain the coldure. So I remember having a conversation with Bosu,n he really helped with this, and said, I remember talking to him about this problem and I said "I can either do it the Nigerian way or the right way" and he said "Temie, if you want to build something that endures you have to do it the right way" and that was it. And the difference between those two ways is you could, I could have just gotten a bike and put like a lunch, insulated lunch bag and put the blood in there, that's what is u... like, that's what hospitals use in their, in their ambulances. That's what the market really is used to. I could have just done that and I would not have to... I would have had to buy just bikes, right? but I remember that moment Buson said "you have... if you want to do build something that endures you have to do it the right way" And I thought “okay, yes, that's true”

 

David Madden: This is a big investment. Temie now has to buy medically-approved blood boxes, Bluetooth padlocks, employ bike couriers and open a 24/7 call centre in order to get the blood to the hospitals in the right condition, on time.

 

Was there any point in these early days when you're like... "oh, this is too hard."

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Everyday. Everyday, it was...

 

David Madden: “What have I done?” And you, you needed, you needed a lot of commitment, right? because there were numerous challenges right? you thought you were just gonna be a tech platform...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Absolutely. Absolutely. Software [laughs]

 

David Madden: But…

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: And then we became a distribution company.

 

David Madden: But you had...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: And now, not only just a distribution company, it has to be a 24/7 distribution company.

 

David Madden: Right.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So, because blood, especially in maternal health care, is not a scheduled thing, you can't schedule when you deliver a baby. The baby decides when the baby comes.

 

David Madden: Sure.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: And so if you just give birth at 2 a.m. in the morning and you are bleeding by 3 a.m. somebody needs to get the blood to you at 4 a.m. and so it wasn't a normal job, it was, we had to run a 24/7 call center and to be quite honest the first six months I was answering the phone 24/7. I was the Call Center 24/7 the first six months of LifeBank.

 

David Madden: Tell us about the call center because you were hoping that you would be able to do this seamlessly...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yeah, yeah.

 

David Madden: But you, you didn't... the blood banks and the hospitals are not the most tech forward organizations, right?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: No.

 

David Madden: So tell us about the hacks you had to... tell us about the hacks to make it all stick together.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes, yes, absolutely, absolutely. So we built this platform, this software, uhm, this Marketplace and…

 

David Madden: Yeah, it's an app, right?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: It's an app, it's a web app.

 

David Madden: Right, so in the, in the Temie vision...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: ...in the car...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: ...on the road trip it was meant to be "hey, we're going to have this app, the hospitals are going to go on, ding ding ding and…”

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Order, these are your choices, select order, tap, you're done, the order is on its way. Perfect.

 

David Madden: Yeah.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: No, it wasn't. That was not the reality. A lot of hospitals didn't have internet access.

 

David Madden: Right.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: That's what we found out. And also they were used to... before LifeBank started, the workflow was call the blood bank, right? We sensed that they wanted to continue calling, right? and we knew that the job of transforming them and pushing them towards the tech platform would take convincing. So we needed to build a 24/7 call center, so we needed to be the stock up measure to sort of meet them where they were.

 

David Madden: So Temie you said that it was, you know, in these really dark moments the thing that kept you going was this memory of being in this Village seeing this pregnant woman, uhm, Aisha, uhm, almost, almost die. Have you, have you actually heard any stories of the impact that LifeBank has had on, on people, cause you're, you’re running this tech platform and you're, you’re not in the hospital or in the blood banks, are you, are you hearing…?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So we hear them, uhm, every single day, every time we have an order, we know that it goes to save someone's life. So we’re actually working on a platform now. So we are collecting the first name of everybody we save and then we put it on our wall, huh, we're calling the Wall of Names. So just the first name and the dates of the day we saved their lives and then putting it down so we can remind each other of what we are doing and why we are doing it.

 

David Madden: That's cool.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Huh, so that's a new project we are working on.

 

David Madden: Today, Lifebank is serving 170 hospitals. it’s moved nearly 10,000 units of blood. They have a 24/7 call center and three Dispatch units that let them deliver within 55 minutes.

 

How does LifeBank scale? Right now you are just in Lagos, although Lagos is a very big city, with a lot of needs, but could LifeBank be a big business?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes. So we like to think of ourselves as, uhm, the, the business of saving lives, uh, a distribution, a medical distribution company that can move whatever the hospital needs to move.

 

David Madden: And so do you, do you think in terms of expanding the products that you're delivering...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yes.

 

David Madden: And expanding the areas you're servicing?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Absolutely.

 

David Madden: Okay.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So we, we are gonna expand in those two ways, uhm, in the next few months we are gonna start, uhm, oxygen delivery, right? Oxygen is one of those things that kills about 200,000 Nigerian children every single year.

 

David Madden: So Temie, you’ve got a, you’ve got a big vision for for for LifeBank...

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Right, yeah.

 

David Madden: ...a global vision for LifeBank. Now you just raised $200,000 dollars in seed capital, uhm, and that was tough, that took a while. You had a small amount of money at the beginning, $35,000 dollars, uhm, it took about two years to get these these these seed money… Tell us about the experience of raising money because, you know, this, this product could solve the problem in many other countries but folks are gonna have to... folks with money are gonna have to get behind it so…

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yeah, absolutely.

 

David Madden: ... what's it been like trying to raise money for for for this business?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I think generally, uhm, it's been very very difficult, right? We’ve… I tried to raise so I started raising about a year after we had started LifeBank, uhm, and it took me about a year to raise, I think partly is two reasons, I've never raised before right? for anything in my life, not even Grants [laughs,] so it was quite a lesson in how to raise, you know, how to sort of position the company in a way where investors were interested in investing and it wasn't also always clear what LifeBank was, a lot of people didn't understand it, right? I had to have meetings, I was very lucky to get access to a lot of investors but they wouldn't understand “s it a social business? or is it an NGO? you know, is it a business? does it have returns?” So I knew then and there that I needed to, you know, spend a lot of time making sure that LifeBank's numbers looked fantastic. Let's move more blood, and let's make more money and we needed to show that we are a business, you know, and that we could give returns to the, to investors, but I think that we knew that we had a social impact to mandate. So a lot of investors, especially local investors, were not used to a social enterprise, an enterprise that makes money that also has social impact, uhm, so we basically had to basically educate people that yes, you know, it's blood, yes, it's medical stuff, it's healthcare, uhm, but it's also logistics and you understand logistics, you know, you understand, you know, distribution, you get it and you would easily invest in a distribution company, but just think of Life Bank as a distribution company which a product happened to be a medical product, right? That was the first problem that I faced and two, I think when I think about foreign investors and people outside, you know, investment circles in Africa, uhm, I think they have never met anyone like me before, I don't look like an entrepreneur, I look big [laughs], I'm a mom, I am a girl. You will rarely find people who look like me that can found companies that are global in nature and I think that people were taken aback by that, and I think people always just second-guess like “can she do it? can she pull it off? I basically have to prove to the world that I can pull it off and that yes, yes, I am an entrepreneur, yes, yes there are lots of women who look like me who are entrepreneur, who are tough, who are courageous, who can do hard things and who can sort of lenient and and and get things done and, and win, right? Not only it is important for LifeBank but it's also important for the world to see people who are like, who are like me who are doing this sort of work.

 

David Madden: Temie, when you were in college you, you read the autobiography of Nelson Mandela you were really inspired by that.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Yeah.

 

David Madden: Who is inspiring you now?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: So, I think... I sort of... stopped looking to, for inspiration from people who are known, if you will.

 

David Madden: Sure.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Like I think I've started getting inspiration from people like Aisha who just refuse to die, right? I get inspiration from people like my mother who worked two jobs and raised six children, in the morning she would go to work, uhm, you know, in, at Medtronic putting together pacemakers, heart pacemaker, in the evening she would go watch after people in nursing homes. I get inspiration from my mother-in-law who raised six children alone, I get inspiration from everyday women who are doing tough things that nobody knows about, like nobody knows their story, nobody cares about their story, but they still do these amazing incredible things and, and they win and they do great things and they do hard things and, and they hold our community up, uhm, and that's where I get my inspiration now.

 

David Madden: Well Temie it’s been a great privilege to be able to chat with you.

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Thank you so much David and it was a lovely conversation, I had a great time..

 

David Madden: Thanks for listening to the Revolution of Necessity.

 

If you enjoyed this podcast, it would be great if you could help us out. please tell your friends and colleagues about it and rate us on SoundcloudStitcherApple Podcast or whatever your favorite podcast platform is.

We’d also love to hear from you. We’re on FacebookTwitter, Medium, Instagram.  All the links are on revolutionofnecessity.com or go old school and send me an email: David at revolution of necessity dot com.

Thanks again to Omidyar Network for supporting this podcast. To learn more about what Omidyar does, check them out at omidyar.com

 

This episode was produced by Julia Alsop with production assistance from Ellie Lightfoot and editing help from Sarah Barrett. Our engineer is William Smith. Special thanks to Clean Cuts Studios in DC and Aero Studios in Lagos.

 

We’ll have another tech story that matters for you next week. See you then.
 

So I asked Temie what her anthem was, we couldn’t get the rights to the song but here’s her answer:

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: I am a crazy fan, huh, of Beyonce’s, uhm, I love her, adore her and I listen to her music non-stop.

 

David Madden: Is there a particular Beyonce song?

 

Temie Giwa-Tubosun: Run the World (Girls)

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