When she was a student at the University of Michigan, Grace Hsia discovered that 75 percent of babies born prematurely die from hypothermia, something that is largely preventable.
“I was born one month premature, so I had this very surreal moment,” recalls Hsia. “I was lucky to be born here in the U.S.”
Hsia was kept alive by an electric incubator, which is standard procedure in the U.S. and other developed nations. But 1.5 million premature infants die each year as a result of hypothermia-related causes in places around the world where resources are scarce.
Hsia wanted to find a way to help those less fortunate. And she found it in an engineering class, where one of her assignments was to figure out a way of “heating people up” in regions where there is no electricity. Hsia knew the idea she came up with could help newborns.
When she launched Warmilu, the WeWork member’s passion for saving premature babies “gave me the extra push and motivation to convince my team to work on this particular challenge.” Within six months, her team had finished a prototype.
Warmilu makes safe, reusable heating packs that help regulate the body temperature of premature infants. The InstaWarmer is currently used in hospitals and clinics in places that don’t always have electric incubators, such as Kenya and Somalia.
While the product was initially created to help infants, the InstaWarmer has many other medical uses. For example, it can be used in the place of a heating pad to ease the pain of arthritis and other ailments.
Hsia’s product caught the eye of judges at the Creator Awards, sponsored by WeWork. She left the Detroit event with $72,000 in funding.
For Hsia, making the world a better place has always been key to her business.
“I actually remember almost not staying in engineering,” she says, “because I didn’t think that I was having enough social impact.”