Rafaela Mantoan Borges '22 | Parana, Brazil
Major | Computer Science and Business
An oval, dome-shaped red insect with black spots on its back and six short legs was rapidly moving down my hand. A ladybug. Before it flew away, however, I wished my father would come home. I was eight years-old when he decided to move near the Amazon rainforest. As a doctor, my father wanted to make a difference in this poor and remote region of Brazil where there was and still is a lack of healthcare access. Six months later, my wish came true. He wasn’t the same person that left, however. He had lost a patient. One could argue that doctors are used to this inevitable fact, but this time was different. An eight-year-old boy, the same age as I was at the time, died under his watch on Christmas Day. Not because he couldn’t save him but because the hospital didn’t have access to the necessary medical supplies to help him. It was an unnecessary death and not the first one.
Today, twelve years later, I visited a start-up that could have saved that boy’s life. Zipline delivers lifesaving medical supplies by drone to inaccessible health clinics in Africa. In the short amount of time I could spend with Zipline’s Co-Founder and Head of Software, Ryan Oksenhorn, he stressed the importance of making good impact rather than impact alone. Instead of air dropping food or packages to college students, Zipline is committed to saving lives in developing countries. Zipline is disrupting an industry not because there is a profitable opportunity to solve a customer pain or provide consumer delight but because there is a humanitarian urgency that is not even quantifiable. I am extremely grateful that there are people like Ryan making efforts to deal with problems that don’t affect them directly. My visit to Zipline has helped me realize that I would like to be one of those people.
As my third day into the LehighSiliconValley Program ends, I look back and realize that all of the speakers I had the opportunity to meet so far, from Tim Eades, CEO of vArmour, to Lee Ann Hutter, Senior Director of Product Design at LinkedIn, have built and run their businesses by prioritizing human value. To be honest, I didn’t expect to encounter such a humane atmosphere in the competitive and intense environment that is Silicon Valley. Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the days to come, I hope to continue to be surprised by this unfamiliar place that drives innovation and entrepreneurship and inspires me to become the best version of myself.