The Story of Sameer and Vinay

Sameer Bhatia was always good with numbers. When he was in his twenties, the Stanford grad came up with an innovative algorithm that formed the foundation of his popular barter website, MonkeyBin. By age 31, the newly married Silicon Valley entrepreneur was running a hot mobile gaming company — he had everything going for him. Then, on a routine business trip to Mumbai, he started to feel sick. He lost his appetite and had trouble breathing. Sameer chalked it up to the 100-degree weather and unbearable humidity, but a doctor’s visit found that his white blood cell count was wildly out of whack. Sameer was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer that starts in the blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow. The diagnosis seemed unreal.

His friends, a tight-knit group of young and driven entrepreneurs and professionals, decided they would attack his sickness as they would any business challenge. If the doctors said that the odds to find a match were 1 in 20,000, all they had to do was get 20,000 South Asian individuals into the bone marrow registry. The only problem was that they had just weeks to get this done.

With focus, efficiency, and hyper-utilization of social media, Team Sameer and Team Vinay used web 2.0 services like Facebook, Google Docs, and YouTube to mobilize and empower others to organize bone marrow drives all over the country. In 11 weeks, Sameer and Vinay’s supporters registered 24,611 South Asians into the bone marrow registry and found a match for both. And the 7,500 people they registered in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Sameer lived, yielded 80 matches for other leukemia patients — an unintended but celebrated consequence.

Sameer received a transplant, as did Vinay. Tragically, both passed away some months later, succumbing to AML. The changes they effected did not end with their deaths, however. The potential lives saved in the past two years because of the 24,611 South Asians now in the registry numbers over 250. The two teams graphically illustrated how we can use the internet to create change in any area.