Y Combinator founder Paul Graham is a father figure to countless startups he’s helped accelerate, but had never taken a board of directors seat until now. Today he announced he’s accepted board seat with Watsi, a site that lets people donate money to pay the medical bills of needy people. Watsi came out of this season’s Winter 2013 Y Combinator class and is the first non-profit it’s ever backed.
More specifically, Watsi hosts profiles of people in dire need of medical care, but who can’t afford it. Donors can browse the profiles and donate as little as $5 to help someone get well. 100% of donations go to the sick, and Watsi funds its operations and even pays credit card processing fees on donations out of its own pocket. We named Watsi one of the top seven startups from the last YC Demo Day.
Today, Graham tweeted:
[Update: Watsi tells me “We’re thrilled to have PG as our first board member. He’s been an incredible advisor and supporter to us from the beginning and we look forward to growing Watsi with his continued guidance.” So this is not only Graham’s first board seat, but Watsi’s too.]
We’ve reached out to Graham for comment about why he accepted the position. But he had already been showing the startup some love.
After discovering the startup on Hacker News and meeting the team he invited them to be the first ever YC-backed non-profit. When the company launched, Graham wrote a blog post exclaiming “After about 30 seconds of looking at the site, I realized I was looking at one of the more revolutionary things I’d seen the Internet used for. Technology can now put a face on need. The people who need help around the world are individuals, not news photos, and when you see them as individuals it’s hard to ignore them.” He concluded, “I’ve never been so excited about anything we’ve funded.”
Then after the Boston Marathon bombings he tweeted:
Beyond a few advising investing roles with companies like 280 North, he’s known to devote himself fully to Y Combinator. He could help Watsi navigate the balancing act between being a startup designed for rapid growth, and being a non-profit with a mission for social good.