Entrepreneur Profile: Jane Chen, Embrace Infant Warmer

aNewDomain.net — I visited Embrace Global’s Bangalore office in early 2012. It was in startup mode with local and international staffers clustered in conference rooms, workstations or taking breaks outside. They were all there to launch a low-tech infant warmer that in developing countries makes a difference between life and death for premature and low-birth weight infants.

The Embrace Nest Infant Warmer looks like a little blue sleeping bag. A pocket in the back houses a heating pack. The heater pack, an Embrace Global invention, can be warmed in hot water or on a warming AccuTemp Heater. The wax-like material of the heater keeps the babies’ body temperatures at 98.6F, regulating the heat as needed. This is critical for infants when they are born because their tiny bodies are unable to regulate heat. In developing countries, a cool winter night is a big issue for babies born prematurely and do not have access to incubators.

Jane Chen Embrace

Image Credit: Jane Chen, Embrace Global

The idea of the portable Infant Warmer started as a class assignment at Stanford’s Institute of Design in 2007 when students Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Naganand Murty and Linus Liang were asked to design a low-cost incubator that could potentially help save premature babies born into poverty. The students made a trip to Nepal to see what the mothers and their infants were facing every day.

The team saw first-hand what the World Health Organization described in its report on children. Every year 15 million babies are born prematurely a number that works out to more than one in 10 of all babies born around the world.

Jane Chen and her teammates also learned that the cost of an infant incubator was prohibitive at nearly $20,000 in the United States, making it inaccessible to mothers in developing countries. The Embrace Infant Warmer costs only $100 in comparison.

Embrace Global is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. The warmers are distributed free to participating non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Embrace Innovations is the for-profit arm of the organization responsible for manufacturing, distribution and sales of the Infant Warmer.

The Infant Warmer and the organization has received its share of publicity and funding,  including recognition by Echoing Green and won the grand prize for the 2007-2008 Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students Social E-Challenge competition. Chen was also awarded a TED Fellow in 2012.

Investors at Embrace Innovations include Khosla Impact and Capricorn Investment Group.

With pilot programs in India and Africa well underway Jane Chen commented on what’s next for Embrace in the next few years and how the organization foresees encountering growth challenges.

“We hope to expand the product globally over the next few years, and start developing other innovative products in the maternal/child healthcare space,” she said.

Understanding the end-user and creating a product that was light, low-tech, portable and waterproof — easy to clean — is one of Embrace’s greatest assets.

For a brief overview on Embrace Global, you can check out Jane Chen’s talk on TED.

Joy Ma

Joy Ma

Contributor at Tech Page One
Based in Silicon Valley, Joy Ma is a longtime tech journalist and startup veteran. She currently serves as aNewDomain.net’s Executive Editor. Email her [email protected]
Joy Ma
Tags: Downtime,Entrepreneurship