Quote from Podcast
“Mentorship is why we’ve been able to accomplish as much. Loren, my SheEO mentor, brings a new perspective and shifting up that insight and thought process is really important in my personal entrepreneurial journey.” – Carolyn Yarina, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Sisu Global Health, SheEO Venture
In this episode
Imagine a world where medical technology enables access to healthcare for each person in their own community. Today, there is a 100-million unit deficit of donor blood around the world. This means when clinicians reach for a unit of blood, it is often not there.
In today’s episode, Vicki Saunders chats with Carolyn Yarina, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Sisu Global Health, a medical device company that designs and commercializes medical devices with and for emerging markets. Sisu Global is one of the newer ventures in SheEO from the United States.
- The need for donor blood to access the healthcare each person needs.
- The concept of using our own blood to heal ourselves.
- Why emerging markets is Sisu Global’s first choice.
- Creating a system for medical device commercialization in emerging markets.
- Non-profit vs for-profit models for the medical device space.
- The importance of the dignity of healthcare.
- Hemafuse is the recipient of the 2020 Award for Patents for Humanity.
- Pros and cons of behaviour change in any market.
- The balance of being co-founders in entrepreneurship.
- Scaling for health innovation in emerging markets.
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The podcast was transcribed by Otter.ai.
In terms of coaching mentorship is why we’ve been able to accomplish this much. And through each phase of my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve had someone who I’ve sat down with once a month ever since my first company in college, I would say every few years, I’ve sort of transition to different learnings and different phases of who that is. And I think this came at a really good time with Loren, as my co-mentor brings a new perspective, and it’s shifting an insight in that thought process is really important in my personal entrepreneurial journey.
Podcast Intro 0:33
Welcome to SheEO dot world, a podcast about redesigning the world. I’m your host, Vicki Saunders. In each episode, you’ll hear from SheEO Venture founders, women who are working on the World’s To-Do list. These innovative business leaders are solving some of the major challenges of our time. Please sit back and be prepared to be inspired.
I’m Carolyn Yarinaa. I’m the CEO and co founder of Sisu Global. We’re a medical device company for emerging markets.
I’m so excited to hear all about the updates on your business and introduce you to the community with our SheEO podcast. So thanks for being here today.
I’m also very excited to be here. It’s so wonderful to be a part of the SheEO community.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
100 million units of blood each year missing, which means that when clinicians across the globe, particularly in emerging markets reach for a donor blood bag, it often isn’t there. So at Sisu global, we’ve invented a solution where a clinician can use a patient’s own blood to save them with a simple technology that can during surgery, capture, filter and recycle blood from internal bleeding with our patented product team with us.
Unbelievable. So how did you how did you come up with this tell us a little bit about the journey.
The company that we’ve built, came from actually in our flagship product came from our CTO and my co founder Gillian. So she was inspired by hospitals in emerging markets. So what happens when donor blood runs out? Because technology isn’t made for emerging markets, clinicians will sometimes use innovative techniques to salvage blood filter to give it back to the same patient using kind of scooping the blood out and without proper technology to do so not because there’s no money there. But because currently, our medical devices are made for us European markets, we decided to build a company around designing with and for emerging markets device that uses the most recent manufacturing kind of innovative techniques, a patented product that can really expand the concept, the use of autotransfusion globally.
I’m just imagining So you said 100 million units are missing. Can you talk a little bit about how this works? Like how do we use our own blood to heal ourselves, that’s really fascinating.
The concept of your own blood is better than someone else’s is pretty much common sense for the most part. And when you’ve had some sort of trauma or accident and that blood has You’re bleeding and it’s pulling internally, it’s still good blood is just not transporting oxygen nutrients. When you go to surgeries, often that blood is actually discarded. But there’s this technique that’s been around since the 1800s of capturing that blood filtering it and give it back to the same patient. We’ve seen a resurgence in recent years, universities like Johns Hopkins University have done studies to show that your own blood is better if you can capture that blood and give it back. But really in terms of changing the status quo. It’s not a widespread adoption and use. And so that’s what we’re looking to do with cc with Hema fuse is bring that concept, bring it globally and not just use the large $30,000 electromechanical devices that are really great for specialized surgeries, say like a cardiac surgery, but distill that concept down to its basic mechanics around how can you move simply capture that blood such in and out during surgery? How can you move simply filter it so that you move any clots or particulates, get it into a blood bag so it can be re transfused. And so that’s the design around Hema fuse is our product looks a lot like a giant syringe that confection that blood out, filter it, capture it in less than 10 minutes per blood bag in a surgery and be assembled in less than five minutes. If you’re talking about a trauma case, and you have that emergency where you need blood immediately, you can be able to capture that and get it back and we’ve seen this be extremely successful, where we’ve launched and kind of our initial launching point or minimum viable product as you will in Kenya, also in Ghana, where we’ve seen Hema fuse used in many cases, both as the preferred option over donor blood and often as the only option for donor blood for those cases where there is no no blood available.
How did you decide to go to market in Kenya?
The reason we decided to go to market in Kenya is for several reasons, tied back to the the shortage of 100 million units have done a bloody cheers shortage of blood is concentrated in emerging markets. And so the need for the technology, the market size for our product is also a much greater in emerging markets, even though there are needs in US hospitals, US military have, interestingly even to animal veterinarian applications as well. But we chose Kenya as really a leader within emerging markets and more narrowly within East Africa, that could be that springboard for human use and the technology to be adopted. So Kenya is a really interesting country, it is private sector driven, it is a wealth of really great distributors. And it has a at the same time of having really top line hospitals that has a shortage of blood that we can solve and be that entry point. We’ve worked with local regulatory there, we’ve worked with different hospitals to adopt our product. And now we’ve been able to grow and expand that into other markets. And so similarly, our technology actually has some roots and invention within Ghana, which is our second market, which is we’re very proud to essentially be coming home back to Ghana, where the original technology began, and starting to expand that in hospitals in Ghana as well.
This is a global need. I mean, are you focused on emerging markets to start with and that’s your where you’re going to be for a while, are you now that you’re out in the world starting to get more interest from all over the place? How do you decide?
Our expansion, it is a global mean in terms of access to blood. And we chose our markets first based on market size, opportunity, regulatory barriers, where we can get our product in and operating safely and effectively, but in conjunction with that regulatory, and kind of having those launching points. And so that choice to start there in emerging markets was very much a financial decision. We are a for-profit company. If you look comparatively, in terms of markets, the emerging market, the focus is about a $3 billion market for humans views were kind of a smaller market for military and an even smaller market for the veterinary side of things we are scaling very specifically with our kind of go to market is individual countries first making sure we have our models. And then right now we’re starting to move into discussions with regional distributors to scale our product, and then looking at in collaboration with some of the more global organizations that can speed through entry. And so starting in Africa, moving into other emerging markets, and also looking back in our backyard in the US, we want awards from the US military, those organizations as well, but it’s sort of a three-tiered strategy.
Okay, maybe I just want to like step back for a sec and go, how did you get into this, tell us a little bit about more about your journey and who you are.
I’m an engineer by training. Then he go a few steps back over my entrepreneurial journey. As I grew up on a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve lived in several countries of them. I’ve lived in Turkey, I speak Turkish, I’ve lived in India. And I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the continent of Africa since CCU global health and where we found it. So when I was in engineering school I founded my first company is a nonprofit working with rural mobile clinics in India. I got my seed money from winning different competitions and awards, like Entrepreneur of the Year at the University of Michigan, and use that to launch moved to India for that company. And that’s where I became disillusioned with the nonprofit model. And I also saw the opportunity to build a medical device with in floor emerging markets built a company around that concept. So looking at what is the cost would give us a share, what are the needs for emerging markets, and I saw that the large medical device companies were just taking their us European equipment, pairing features making it cheaper, rather than actually designing medical devices for that market. And so I reached out to my co founder, Gillian, she had been working on a medical device design firm focused on Ghana, inventing products like Kima, fuse, and other city entrepreneurs iterated on our prior companies. And we decided together to cc global.
So you started together working on these with your different experiences. Let’s just talk about the nonprofit for profit thing. unpack that a little bit. For me,
In nonprofit versus for profit, there are certain areas and spaces for each model makes sense. For example, you never want to have a for profit orphanage, for example, or in certain sectors. But when it comes to medical device in that nonprofit space, what I saw from my prior company was that the incentive structure was a bit off. Take for example, in my prior company, we were invented a centrifuge that works with refined electricity. We created a design which for a centrifuge made out of bicycle parts, which is a terrible idea. And that product, we were getting a lot of interest from, oh, locally sourced materials. And people can build things themselves and kind of, it got a lot of attention and awards and everything else. But actually spending time with our customers realized gives the dignity of health care, you need to have medical devices that are designed for that space, they go through very robust regulatory, that have a lot of r&d, and testing, those incentives, a longer-term play, saw that, you know, the nonprofit side was looking for more of small things that can be scaled up from even taking these big leaps, building these new devices and technology, where the for profit space, you know, there’s flaws in it as well. But you are actually serving your customers. Ultimately, what you’re judged on is can you sell, you can only sell if your customers believe your product is more valuable and worth that amount of money that is being spent on the product, and can create that cycle of technology and their investment structures in place. And very fortunate to have what we do here in the United States. And also a small caught the importance of also investing with diversity is that we can take this big things and those big risks and big rewards to invent new products and new technologies, bring them to market and scale them. Ultimately creating products that have great financial return and great impact at the same time in a sustainable, scalable way.
Congratulations, by the way on the new of the awards you just got which is a patent for humanity. Can you tell us a little bit about that one?
We’re so excited to be named the team of US patent for humanity. It’s quite a prestigious award from the US Patent Office. So that’s bringing the showcase of our product to our government legislatures, and also globally to recognize the importance of our product and our patents and the importance of invention of that technology, that it is not only a great invention, that technology, but also has great impact in the humanitarian space to save lives. So with him fuse of increasing really being that solution to the donor blood shortage and starting to scale impact across the globe.
So when you’re going into a new market where they don’t have anything, it’s probably not as hard to sell as places where you’re trying to change behavior. Is that true? That’s my assumption. I don’t know if that’s true.
I think it’s an interesting question. Because in any market, there’s always something. So there’s always competition, there’s always, you know, any market there is stoner blood, right? Even if it’s not there, you have the option to wait to try and find it to do the activity. So, behavior change is an element of any new product adoption. So it’s a dependent on how much behavior change that we’re doing. Where our product is scaling, there are typically certain hospitals that have other perhaps auto fruit transfusion technology that exists and maybe not scaled within the market. Other techniques, like I mentioned, to perform auto transfusion. So we’ve seen that the fastest adoption of our product is in locations that understand autotransfusion and maybe perform it in some way. Our biggest need are kind of becoming that standard of care happens fastest in places that struggle with access to blood. So that’s really our sweet spot is hospitals that perform a lot of emergency surgeries don’t have strong access to blood, and ideally, already understand auto translation. Of course, places that don’t either understand or don’t have the option for autotransfusion. There is the potential for much bigger impact of our product as well, where it’s not a comparison of being better. It’s a comparison of performing surgery or not performing surgery. But there’s pros and cons to any market that we agree to. Totally
Yeah, it’s interesting. I just I think sometimes to your point this like the degree to which you’re asking people to change their behavior, even if it’s cheaper, and it’s better. I’m always so surprised, like, there’s nothing really rational about getting something new to market is there, like, Oh, this will be so simple. And people like the number of objections are always quite unbelievable. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about what it’s like to entrepreneur together with another founder, how’s that going?
It’s really important in terms of the team of no company is generated by any single individual. And so having a partner to go through this entire process has been really important, really wonderful. We really balance each other out where I’m more an options driven person and kind of seeing the opportunities and kind of fitting these different puzzle pieces together. And she’s very process driven in terms of creating systems and kind of thinking systematically development. That’s a really great pairing between the two of us to make sure that we can both swing for the fences in terms of our ideas, but also make sure you have this on Underlying practice needs to support our scale and development. And I’m really grateful to have such a wonderful partner in this journey.
It’s really one of the hardest things to find when you’re like a solo founder looking for that process, operational partner, finding that mix is like gold when you do so congratulations on finding that that’s a really big deal. Yeah. What does the world look like, in five years for csea? Given all of the craziness that’s going on? I know, it’s a kind of crazy question to ask.
You know, of course, you never know what’s going to happen. And even this, this current time frame has been really interesting for human uses where blood actually has become more of a challenge during COVID of blood tests are being canceled, donors are staying home. And so it’s increased the severity of the shortage of really working fees to be a solution, in terms of the next five years, is where we have a goal that we’ve seized on our website and everything else as well to have 100 million dollars in revenue and to impact at least 1 million lives with medical devices designed with and for emerging markets. So human fuse is just our flagship device, it’s our foundation. This success drives the success of all the following products. But we actually have a portfolio of five devices. We have a device from my history of centrifuge that operates with or without electricity, we’ve built a database of other technologies created by whether nonprofit University inventors or emerging market hospital chains, for technologies that we can bring into our pipeline and bring them to market where our sweet spot is really in the design for manufacturing and bringing those products to market. And that is where we want to grow their sweet spot. So Hema fuse is our focus over the next year. And that slow will switch into building and adding in additional portfolio products to bring our technologies first to a couple of countries right now we are in Africa, scaling into that country strategy, moving into a regional face scale, looking into Southeast Asia in 2021. And scaling across emerging markets and eventually reverse innovation gaps, the United States and other markets as well, to be that solution not only to the global blood shortage, but within other value based medical devices focused on the needs of emerging markets.
So you’re one of our newer ventures from the US this year. It’s only been a few months, and it’s been a few crazy months. Just wondering what you’ve noticed about the community and is what has surprised you what feels different.
I came into CEO not knowing what to expect, I saw a fellow entrepreneur have actually interned at embrace with Jane Chen. And she had posted that there was this application for this CIO program, and I sort of submitted an application. I’ve been really impressed with the organization in the community. Since joining us coming into this retreat, I think there’s so many ways a lot of these models have felt like maybe a little odd. But going into the process and seeing the openness of the other fellow women entrepreneurs, kind of through that negotiation, and just willingness to help in that community. Since then, people are reaching out to say, like, Hey, I heard that, you know, the stressful thing was going on, how are you doing? And those simple things of the kind of mentorship and advice, the ability to ask for help and receive that help and offer that in return is something that I think has been so impressive within the shio community and something that I am really glad to be a part of such an intentional, thoughtful group of powerful women.
Did you have a coach before? Have you ever had a coach before?
So I think that in terms of coaching, mentorship is why we’ve been able to accomplish this much. And through each phase of my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve had someone who I’ve sat down with once a month ever since my first company in college, my first mentor who I was assigned, actually, through a similar program lives at Wayne Harvey, a serial entrepreneur, I would say every few years, I’ve sort of transition to different learning to different phases of who that is. And I think this came at a really good time with Loren, as my co mentor brings a new perspective. And this was right as I had another mentor. I’ve been sitting down once, not for the last three years. And I found that kind of shifting an insight in that thought process is really important in my personal entrepreneurial journey.
Having that person or a few people around you as mentors and advisors is just such a game changer. When you think that everything’s going wrong. They’re like this is normal. It’s fine. This is what goes on, especially when you’re first getting started. I mean, you’ve been around for a bit and started a number of organizations, but this is Yeah, I’m glad to hear that as we sort of close up here. First of all, I’m gonna ask you for an ask if you haven’t asked for the community after this. But if you were starting over again, what advice would you give yourself? anything different
For giving advice to myself is a really good question. Because there’s a lot of things that I might have done differently given 2020 hindsight. But there’s also really important lessons that were learned through the process. If I were to give myself any advice, I think it would be to trust in myself go with grit and tenacity, that it’s not going to be easy, but it’s the journey and kind of the end result is incredibly worthwhile. So continue to learn and grow, and know that there is great potential and great impact on the other side. But
On that note, then what happens when you get really down? What do you do to lift yourself up?
Everything kind of ties back into successful organization, and Griffin is the right community. So whether it’s the right team members that we have mentors, family and my fiance as well. So just building that support growth and network and knowing when to and how to ask for help.
Yeah, that’s the hard one. So on that Oh, yes, exactly. Actually, oh, we always do this ask so we can practice this and get better and better at making audacious asks, Do you have an asset for the community?
I do. I am really working on this series A, I think some of that’s really daunting, the steps that have come through some some raisins before. And I think especially with an emerging market focus, that can be somewhat daunting to kind of make those steps and kind of move into raising that next round of financing. So really is looking out for kind of on a couple levels is one is organizations or investment firms, that would be a good fit kind of partner. So bracing that process individuals to be willing to help review performance, then different materials, or help in that next step for I would say help with one of the things so finding the right partnerships that allow us to scam kind of pinpoint those organizations who can grow CCU to greater heights cycling mid back to that cheery k as well. Awesome. Yeah,
I mean, having the right an investor for your vision is extremely important for the series of investors and being like hands off for your vision, but also maybe some influencers in there as well who can help you to make the introductions to really scale up so anyone out there listening, who’s intrigued and has some expertise in emerging markets around health innovation, see, Sue is the person how can
We find you a couple of different ways my company’s website is SISU, the Finnish word that means persevering in the face of adversity. So Sisu Global Health.com. And my email is my name [email protected]
Awesome. We’ll put that up on the meeting notes as well. Thank you so much, Carolyn, I wish you great success in what you’re doing. We’re cheering you on and really grateful for your leadership. This is a stunning, amazing innovation and we’re really excited to see it scale.
Thank you. And I’m very excited to be a part of the shijo community. So thank you for that, that support and also for the entry into this wonderful community.
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