Message from Sameer – “SUCCESS!!”

When Sameer first called this morning, I actually sent the call to voicemail (I was still in bed!). Then he called right back, and I figured it’s Sameer, of course I should answer — and thirty seconds later I was jumping up and down. THANK YOU TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU WHO REGISTERED, GOT FRIENDS TO REGISTER, FORWARDED EMAILS, ATTENDED PARTIES AND OTHERWISE DROVE REGISTRATIONS!! The note below appears on Sameer’s blog at helpsameer.org. As I said for Vinay, it’s not over, but this is HUGE!

When my best friend, Robert, first approached me with the idea of ‘going public’ to mobilize South Asians from around the country to register as bone marrow donors, I was quite hesitant, particularly as an entrepreneur running a business at a crucial inflection point. But Robert persisted and put my worries to rest, more or less saying, “Just let us use your name and we’ll take care of the rest.”

Whenever I’ve allowed my crazy friend – also my first business partner – to act on his incredible instincts, something fantastic has happened. But this time, the results have been outside the realm of all reasonable possibilities or expectations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was informed today that, through a miracle of God, a 10 out of 10 match has been found for me!!

Let that sink in for a second…this is truly a miracle that came through literally at the last minute. If this match had been found even next week, it’s not clear that it would have been in time given that I need some sort of transplant within 4 weeks. This is a case of God simply picking up a boon and dropping it in our laps…how else can one explain such unbelievable fortune??

This match appears to have come from the 400+ bone marrow registration drives that Teams Vinay and Sameer have put forth, registering nearly 24,000 donors to-date. Priti Radhakrishnan has been the national coordinator and driving force behind the Team Vinay drives, which kicked off several weeks before ours, and Robert mobilized many of my friends to join them and begin organizing drives nationally. Literally hundreds and hundreds of volunteers have been working tirelessly during the past two months to register tens of thousands of South Asians. The result? An increase of South Asian representation in the national bone marrow registry by 20%.

Knowing that our friends and volunteers have leveraged my situation to do something so valuable for the next batch of patients has been very satisfying for me. Recently I was also informed that two other patients have found matches through our drives, which has been even more thrilling. But, as I’ve stated publicly many times, me finding a match through this process was going to be close to impossible.

First, let’s look at the numbers: 1 out of 20,000 South Asians finds a match. If those odds weren’t tough enough, my search team at the Hutch found that I have an unusual gene on my father’s side of the family, which would prove to be extremely difficult to match. (In fact, we went the extra mile to type all of my cousins on that side of the family, and the closest we got was a 2/6 match.) To boot, it would take 4-6 weeks for any new registrant from a drive to show up in the national database, and I would need many more than 20,000 new registrants to have a statistical chance at a match. Bottom line: finding a match through this process in the time required would be nearly impossible.

Yet many hundreds of hands and hearts around the nation united behind this cause. You volunteers who have been tirelessly giving up your weekends and evenings to conduct drives have delivered a miracle from God to me – not only a match but a 10 out of 10 match, Pure perfection in the face of impossibility. You all have given me a new lease on life and for that I don’t have adequate words to thank you…

What I will say, though, is that our work is only half finished. We had set out a national goal of registering 50,000 donors, and we’re halfway there now. There are at least 3 other South Asian patients at this very moment who still do not have matches. They are surely as anxious as our friends and family have been, so we cannot rest till our work is complete.

Please keep pushing on all fronts and encouraging people to register. Please continue organizing drives – especially corporate drives and college campus drives. (I know there are a number of upcoming drives being scheduled around the country, and we will update the website soon to reflect these.)

As for me, I’m extremely grateful to have someone who appears to be a very dedicated donor. I don’t know anything about him but that he responded immediately when called upon. I am sure that he is committed and want to say THANK YOU to him for the new life that he is about to give me. I am simply overwhelmed by the day’s turn of events and thank you all for the prayers and wonderful kindness that have sustained me to this point in my journey.

With love and thanks to all of you,

Sameer


Highly recommended conference coming up: CommunityNext Platform

The event is being hosted by two friends of mine who are ridiculously smart/connected and even somewhat hip. I’ve copy/pasted these deets from the invite.

CommunityNext: Platform
October 5-6th
http://www.communitynext.com

The premier event on social network Platforms and APIs is here. Over 300 entrepreneurs, developers, and marketers unite for a 2-day deep dive featuring dozens of speakers and developers, from October 5-6th. Special guests include developers of top 100 Facebook applications we are flying in from all over the country.

We are doing a $10,000 platform code off. Without cross-promotion or any outside help the app with the most users after 24 hours wins. Secondary prizes include a trip around the world and an iPhone.

What are the topics?
– Nuts to bolts guidelines for developing successful apps
– 0 to 60 case studies from the top developers
– Drive viral growth through design, metrics, and strategy
– Make money from ad networks, affiliates, and other strategies
– Create real-world community through maps and local features
– Scalability, integration, and other technology best practices

An early preview of companies attending or speaking include:
– 15+ Facebook developers consisting of tens of millions of application installs
– AOL
– MSN
– Google
– Twitter
– Offermatica
– Compete
– VideoEgg
– Bebo
– Meebo
– Accel
– Benchmark Capital
– Elevation Partners
– Mohr Davidow Ventures

See you there!
Register with 10% off:
http://platform-fb.eventbrite.com/?discount=facebook


Message From Vinay – Going into Transplant (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Visit helpvinay.org for the original post…I had just to re-post here cause this is just incredible!!!!!! Of course, it’s not over yet, and my friend Sameer still needs a match, but stilll…woohoo!!

Good news everyone. I found a match. It is not a perfect match but it is a 9/10 match. The donor is extremely committed. His commitment is so strong that he was willing to pre-pone his stem cell donation to fit my doctor’s recommendations. I can’t express how much this means to me. In the past I wrote about how one of the potential donors became “unavailable” due to a lack of family support. This is not the case here. You, as volunteers and activists, deserve the credit in the change in our community’s mentality and their conviction to be a COMMITTED DONOR.

Tomorrow morning I will begin my journey into the transplant process. I will be admitted and have several procedures done, including placement of 2 Hickman catheters. The transplant will be a long and arduous process but your support and well wishes will get me through these difficult times. I love reading all the “show of support” comments and it really brightens my spirits.

Many of you stay connected to me through this wonderful website. Many of you I know and many of you I have heard of through my family and friends. I will do my very best to keep you up to date on my progress. And even if I am unable to write, I will have Rashmi relay my sentiments. I hope to have new updates at least a few times a week.

Team Vinay should be proud of all it has accomplished. In the short few months that you all have been active, we have registered over 23,000 South Asians. This is clearly over a 20% increase to the existing number of S. Asians on the registry. And as you may know a few of the marrow registrants through Team Vinay drives have already been contacted as being potential donors for others in our community. Through your tireless efforts we have also achieved a few more significant goals. Team Vinay, working along with NMDP, is responsible for implementing a protocol for culturally competent callbacks for potential S. Asian donors. Another wonderful outcome is the creation of a S. Asian specific website that will serve as a sustainable informational and educational tool for our community for the years to come. The content of the website is growing and will include input from key Team Vinay members – it should be up and running next month!

This past week has been amazing. I have enjoyed my short yet fulfilling week at home, spending time with Rashmi and other family and friends. We watched Rush Hour 3, had a BBQ and played dominoes. Thank you all again for your unwavering support and well wishes. Much love to you all; Vinay.


More is less – when value is vicious

When I spend money, I love feeling that I got a good deal, or got good value for my dollar. It’s like a mini-win that always puts me in a good mood for at least 2 minutes. Recently, though, I’ve started realizing that value can be vicious and sometimes it’s worth paying more for less. Example: I live next to a Ben and Jerry’s (-pausing for effect-), where a single scoop of ice cream costs $4.20 (first funny…then angering; $4.20 for one scoop?!). Anyways, just up the street there’s a little grocery shop where I can get a PINT of Ben and Jerry’s for only $4.00. No brainer, right? I’d walk past the line at Ben and Jerry’s with my pint in hand, laughing inside.

And then I realized that those folks were getting the better deal.

Have you glanced at the fat content on a Ben and Jerry’s pint recently?! Folks, there’s a REASON it’s so good. And that reason has costs associated with it. Sure, there are the obvious health costs, but in my head I was thinking “I’m going to have to swim how many laps to burn this off??” That’s time cost, which is much more tangible. When adding up these costs, turns out that it’s cheaper for me to spend $4.20 on a scoop than $4.00 on a pint when I need my fix — so now that’s what I do (my parents think I’m crazy). I’ve applied the same thinking at Starbucks, where I’ve started paying $2.65 for a short mocha (it’s not even on the menu) instead of $2.95 for a tall. I’m getting the most expensive (dollar wise) mocha on the menu at an already expensive joint, but in my mind it’s the best deal they’ve got.

Anyways, the word “value” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Meanwhile, my parents are wondering where they went wrong…how can spending more = better deal?!

Update: I just bought valueisvicious.com…maybe there’s a book in here. Want to write it? : )


Message from Vinay (still no match, but some great news)

Just got this email from Vinay & Rashmi c/o Priti…wanted to share:

We’ve heard that people who registered to become bone marrow donors have found matches through the HelpVinay Drives we started in June! What amazing news! To hear that someone else’s life may be impacted through these efforts has brought us indescribable joy in these difficult times.

So we’re writing to ask you: please make one more push: get 10 new people to register. Find a way to become part of the August 15 Freedom Drives or the August-October College Drives! Visit helpvinay.org. Please join us in this magical moment when we have the POWER as a community to save more lives.

One other thing – we also heard that there may be some donors who registered at HelpVinay drives who may be “unavailable”. That was really difficult to hear – it saddened us to hear that even people who registered this summer may not want to donate, even though they are the ONE person who can save a life. This showed us it is still important to keep advocating, keep educating, and yes, even keep reaching out to people who already registered.

Will you help us? If we as a community have already been able to find that MATCH for some patients, we’ve GOT to keep going. Do something, today.

We’ll keep you posted on my transplant, promise. Won’t be long before we know something now.

Lots of love,
Vinay & Rashmi

Update: I’ve been thinking more about this, and realized this isn’t just good news, it’s *great* news. Everyone who registered, who held drives, who forwarded emails — everyone should feel great about the fact that our efforts are *already saving lives*. Simply wonderful.


Empowerment marketing at Kiva

Let’s define “empowerment marketing” as follows: a marketing technique by which you empower members of your community to market your organization and its cause. I’m definitely not the first person to use the term (in fact a colleague from my MySpace days used it before), but for some reason I feel like I’m one of the first and that’s just wrong; this is powerful shtuff. Everyone is hyper-focused on viral marketing; well folks, I’d argue that viral marketing is a subset of empowerment marketing. Aaand I’d lose that argument. But I think people would agree that there’s a very Venn diagram overlap thing going on between the two.

Back in early 2006 I joined Kiva, a *phenomenal* non-profit, as a part-time staff member to run marketing. If you don’t know about Kiva yet check it out; they’ve built a platform that enables people like us to lend to low-income entrepreneurs in over 30 countries in the developing world, empowering them to earn their way out of poverty. *Absolutely revolutionary*. Anyways, upon joining, I asked Premal what my marketing budget was and his calm reply was $0.

Though I took several standard approaches in crafting Kiva’s marketing strategy, I quickly found that in our lender community we had impassioned evangelists who were running around their communities and networks raving about Kiva. In other words, we had a distributed marketing team on the ground in communities around the world. All we had to do was arm them with the tools to do the job better — so arm them we did.

We developed a suite of banners for bloggers. We provided sample text for people who wished to email their friends about Kiva. We got on the social networks. We provided sample email footers. We set up Yahoo Groups so folks could connect with each other regarding anything from setting up fundraisers and awareness events to sharing best practices (a die hard fan ended up setting up a much slicker kivafriends site for this purpose). We published our one-pager for folks to print out and use at events they hosted. We allowed them to volunteer. We gave them ideas for things to do such as contact celebrities they knew to see if they’d want to promote Kiva (it worked). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we communicated with them so they felt like a part of the Kiva team.

Empowerment marketing by no means got Kiva to where it is today (a world class team, an amazing product, an inspiring mission, and a heck of a lotta press did that). But it has (and continues) to let the small Kiva team focus on execution and not spend too much time on marketing; after all, they’ve got you to do that.

On a side note, we’ve been using this a bit for the Help Vinay campaign as well. I wonder if empowerment marketing is only effective for cause-oriented campaigns. For my myspace page I went out and grabbed banners of a few organizations I support, but they’re closer to causes than companies. If REI (a company I like) allowed me to get banners from their website for my blog, would I put ’em up? Hmm….