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Meet Jonathan Jackson of Dimagi in Cambridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Jackson.

Jonathan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Dimagi was founded in 2002 out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. I was volunteering to help mentor a student group in a medical computing class when I met Dr. Vikram Kumar, my co-founder, who was completing his master’s thesis at the Media Lab. He was already working on an early version of Dimagi, doing informatics in public health. Vikram wanted to build a company that combined global health and technology.

Together, we decided to focus on developing software for low-resource settings and started building one of the first mobile solutions for frontline health programs in developing countries. Today, I serve as Dimagi’s CEO, and Vikram is our CMO (chief medical officer).

Our team has grown to over 125 employees. We have offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts (HQ), New Delhi, Cape Town, and Dakar, with additional staff based around the world. We are a recognized social enterprise and certified Benefit Corporation, reflecting our commitment to creating impact. While we got our start in healthcare, we support projects across sectors today, including: agriculture, research, and humanitarian aid.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
At Dimagi, our primary focus is helping our partners achieve impact. Prioritizing impact over the bottom line presents a unique set of challenges. For example, the partners we work with often rely on aid funding, which can change overnight depending on varying circumstances — adding a layer of complexity on many of the projects we work on.

Juggling priorities, funding, and expectations from multiple partners on a given project taught us a lot about how to run a successful business in this industry. In 2017, CommCare was scaled to over 50,000 frontline workers in India. We are also on track to generate over $1 million of product revenue this year from hundreds of organizations paying low monthly fees.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Dimagi story. Tell us more about the business.
Dimagi is a social enterprise that exists to help the world’s most vulnerable people. We believe digital solutions improve the efficiency and quality of impact-driven projects globally, which is why we developed our product, CommCare.

CommCare is a platform that allows anyone to build mobile applications that can work offline and track information over time. These apps empower health workers to provide better care to their communities, help farmers practice sustainable agriculture methods, support university research projects, improve how humanitarian organizations track and provide aid to those in need, and much more. We believe wide-scale adoption of digital solutions is only possible if users are equipped with tools they love, which is why our design philosophy puts end users first.

Today, CommCare is used in more than 500 projects in over 60 countries. One of our biggest projects is in India, where we are scaling a project across eight Indian states to strengthen service delivery of healthcare for women and children. Once complete, this project is expected to cover tens of thousands of health workers, and reach millions of people.

From the beginning, our priorities have been impact, team, and profit, in that order. We are proud they still are.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
It is always hard to determine what role luck has played in Dimagi’s success. In hindsight, we caught the mobile health curve at the right time, but people on our team were also advocating to head in that direction before it was obvious that it was a great market for us. We have received strong support from partners and donors, but I attribute that to the exceptional team we’ve built rather than luck.

One clearly lucky thing, for me personally, was meeting my wife, Gina. We met in Lusaka, Zambia, through work I was doing with Dimagi. I had been traveling to Zambia on and off for years, and she had been living there for nearly a year. We met at a bar shortly before she was heading back to Texas to finish medical school. I think it is very likely the case that we would never have met had we not found each other that night.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
The Dimagi Team

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