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Social Entrepreneur David Green Introduces Empathetic Capitalism

Visiting Innovator encouraged the Steward community to think outside the box on humanitarian issues.
David Green makes a difference in the world. In the last 30 years, he has focused on the idea of empathetic capitalism: the notion that helping the world’s most needy and enjoying financial success can go hand-in-hand. He has played a role in the establishment of several profitable businesses that make healthcare technology services and devices affordable for those who are unable to pay for them.

With the background knowledge that one percent of the world’s adults own 50 percent of the wealth, Mr. Green saw a way to help with vision and hearing devices several decades ago. His organizations go to countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Egypt to perform eye exams, vision tests, and cataract surgeries as needed. When Mr. Green first began these practices, he was accused of “getting people addicted to a high-tech fix that wasn’t sustainable,” he said. As a result, he pursued methods of using the same manufacturing processes as his competitors, but with the costs demystified by going directly to customers.

“Pricing becomes a weapon to change the competitive landscape,” Mr. Green said to the Middle and Upper School students. “It’s all about how you look at the whole ecosystem of distribution.” By eliminating middlemen, researching alternatives, and restructuring distribution methods, Mr. Green’s companies have been able to lower the cost of devices such as the intraocular lens, which his company, Aurolab, offers for $1.75 instead of the going rate of $300. Another of his developments is a Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid that connects with a smartphone and is offered for between $80-300, depending on the country. His latest development is the LCKnee, a prosthetic knee joint that costs $100 to manufacture instead of the $20,000 price tag charged by competitors.

Throughout the day, Mr. Green talked of the importance of collaboration, believing that anyone can be a part of solution if they approach the problem with “out-of-the-box thinking” and apply that thinking to technology advancements. His success stems from the ability to be able to break down complicated systems into steps and aligning passionate experts with cutting-edge technology. Each example he gave was punctuated with the importance of building a strong financial model that will not only sustain a company but will support growth.

In addition to his morning lecture to students, Mr. Green participated in a Biomedical Design class during a cow eyeball dissection lab and met with the entire seventh grade class to talk about humanitarian issues. During the evening, he spoke to a large, enthusiastic crowd that included visitors from throughout Virginia.

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