Jeff Kurtzman


For me, Operation Incubation started when Julie (my sister’s best friend and my friend since she was born) e-mailed me after coming home from a medical mission to a very poor area of Jamaica. She said something like “Hey Jeff! I have an idea…and I think you can help me get it off the ground…I’m calling it Operation Incubation.” She then told me all about her medical mission trip to Jamaica.  While I had experience starting a for-profit social venture, I had never started a non-profit, but figured it would be an exciting challenge that, if successful, would make a huge impact! I figured, if we don’t do this, who will?

The next day I did some googling and was amazed to find out how big of a problem this really was…and how little was being done about it. I was blown away when I read that over 400 babies die every hour around the world (5+ million babies per year) due to the lack of incubators! Truly an unbelievably daunting figure! So many babies are not given a chance because a fairly simple piece of equipment is not available. What seemed like a fairly simply project…host some fundraisers in DC to send a few incubators to hospitals in Jamaica…was now, in my mind, becoming something much bigger.

When we read that a very innovative non-profit called Embrace Global had recently designed and were piloting an incubator specifically for the developing world that could be produced for around $25 (versus $10,000-$20,000 for a hospital grade incubator), we quickly realized that with the help of donors and volunteers Operation Incubation could really make a huge difference…and help save many lives!

Next, I checked in on one of my favorite charities, a cutting edge non-profit called Nothing But Nets, who have raised over $25 million to purchase bed nets that fend off malaria carrying mosquito’s in the developing world. Their non-profit had a mission much like ours, raise a relatively small sum of money to purchase a very simple device that could save life after life after life. The issue we identified (a high infant mortality rate) was very similar to malaria–it was a solvable problem! Julie and I have made it our goal to make just as big of an impact as Nothing But Nets.

I grew up between Baltimore and DC in Maryland. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2001 with a degree in Finance and Business Economics. After 18 months of non-stop work as an investment banking analyst at Deutsche Bank, I left to start up, along with 2 former college roommates, a social venture called Better World Books. Almost 9 years later, our online bookstore has grown to over 300 employees and nearly $50 million in annual sales–but more importantly, we have donated nearly $10 million to non-profit literacy causes around the world, sent hundreds of thousands of books to where they are needed most, and saved nearly 60 million books from landfills. Since leaving my full-time role as CFO three years ago, I have been consultant for numerous startups and am currently helping out a ”green” technology venture capital firm.

Stay toasty!