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The Anti Snapchats

Not all startups are here to help you gamify your shopping experience or disrupt the selfie. Here, five local companies that are successfully solving worldlier problems.

LendUp
The problem: Millions of Americans have used payday loans—but those loans usually come with high interest rates and a thicket of hidden conditions that can keep the already poor in a long-term cycle of debt.
The solution: An app and website that instantly analyzes would-be borrowers’ credit histories to discern whether their bad credit is simply the result of becoming entrenched in the payday-loan system—and, if so, offers direct loans of up to $250.
The bona fides: Backing from Google Ventures and several other VC firms.

Trail
The problem: An estimated 60 million Americans—many of whom are living in poverty—are digitally illiterate.
The solution: JobScout, a series of games and lessons about how to use the Internet to look for work—think Mavis Beacon for job seekers.
The bona fides: JobScout already has 25,000 users through libraries and social service organizations. The company also recently unveiled HealthScout, a health and wellness program, as well as a Spanish-language version of JobScout.

Medisas
The problem: Believe it or not, doctors and nurses still use paper forms to transfer patient information between shifts—an inefficient and insecure system that, according to studies, results in 66 to 80 percent of all medical errors.
The solution: A cloud-based medical forms system.
The bona fides: The company just finished implementation in its first hospital, with plans to expand to 10 by this summer.

True Link
The problem: Seniors—especially those with dementia—are inordinately vulnerable to financial fraud.
The solution: A personalized, prepaid credit card that allows a user’s family members to set spending limits, block certain purchases, and receive warnings about suspicious spending via text message.
The bona fides: even before the card became publicly available this month, it had a five- to six-week waiting list.

Watsi
The problem: Many people in the developing world don’t have access to high-quality healthcare, and people with the resources and goodwill to help may not know where to start.
The solution: A “Kickstarter for healthcare” that allows anyone to donate directly to an individual’s health costs—a cataract surgery in Guatemala, say, or a prosthetic limb in Tanzania.
The bona fides: To date, the nonprofit—the first ever to earn backing from Y Combinator—has raised more than $2.2 million for more than 1,000 surgeries in 16 countries.

 

Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco

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