Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pilar Mateo (Who?) Shows That Not All Corporate Founders are Greedy – Turns Down Offer for Patents that Provide Low Cost Weapon in War on Malaria in Africa

A Real Role Model – Not a Hedge Fund Role Model

The story of Mark Zuckerberg is a story that for many people sets out their goals and ambitions.  Mr. Zuckerberg invented Facebook and is now a real billionaire, one of the richest people in the world.  For many Americans this is what business is all about, accumulating far more wealth than one could ever need to lead of life of unlimited luxury.

Pilar Mateo is unknown to almost all Americans, yet when the history of this period is written she more than Mr. Zuckerberg will be the person for whom accolades are given.  Ms. Mateo, like Mr. Zuckerberg is an innovator.  But her innovation is not a products that wastes people’s time with useless information, her innovations saves lives, possibly millions of lives.

"It's not just the insects that are the problem," says Spanish entrepreneur Pilar Mateo. "It's the poverty."
Hopefully There are Other Colors

For decades, nets and sprays have been the only effective methods for controlling the mosquitoes that cause malaria and dengue. Pilar Mateo thinks she can do better. The Spanish chemist has invented a way to embed pesticides in microcapsules stirred into house paints at her Valencia company, Inesfly. The insecticides are released from the paint slowly, remaining effective for two to four years, while sprays typically need to be reapplied at least every six months. “The paint acts like a vaccine for houses and buildings,” she says.

Wow, such technology must be worth millions, maybe even billions.  Here is Ms. Mateo’s response.

Mateo says she’s received offers to buy her patent but refuses to sell out. Instead, her new venture, Inesfly Africa, will produce it commercially at a €10 million ($13 million) factory in Ghana. After years of donating paint to poor people in Latin America and Africa, Mateo wants the venture to fund her broader humanitarian efforts. “It’s not just the insects that are the problem,” she says. “It’s the poverty.”

And no Ms. Mateo is not building a house in California that is so large she needs elevators to bring her fleet of luxury cars from the basement garage.

She divides her time living with indigenous peoples in Bolivia’s forests, building and painting houses, and conducting research in her lab in Valencia. “We spend all this time talking about medicines and diseases when the primary problem for half the planet is that their homes are sick,” she says.

And while many children use the family money to live a life of quiet indolence, Ms Mateo used her family money differently.

Using roughly $6 million of her family’s money and $12 million in grants from nonprofits, Mateo has done research, created educational programs about hygiene, and helped paint more than 8,000 homes in Latin America and Africa. After the former Bolivian health minister tried to rescind the country’s approval of the paint, locals protested. President Evo Morales in November invited Mateo to his office, and the Andean nation again allowed the paint.

It is very certain that none of America’s “get rich by inventing complex financial instruments that create nothing to benefit people” have ever thought about doing what Ms. Mateo has done, and the few that might have probably responded with incredulity that someone would not use the technology to make billions. 

One can imagine them saying “Just like a woman, doesn’t know how to make huge profits off of a critical health care product”.  

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