8200 Impact Spotlight - Helpers: A rabbi turned entrepreneur

Written by

It was a rainy Sunday morning in June 2016, when Michael Rubinstein was driving on the highway, some 50 kilometers from Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. The sudden, deafening sound of a car crash ahead of him drew his immediate attention, and instinctively he rushed to help the wounded. At once, his experience volunteering since he was 15 years old at Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical service, became pivotal. 

At the scene, Rubinstein found an unharmed crying baby and a bloody woman at the driver’s seat. “I realized she had a deep cut in a major thigh artery, and that I quickly had to create a tourniquet, otherwise her life would be in danger,” he remembers. As he stopped the bleeding, Rubinstein called the local emergency services and the operator promised help would arrive momentarily. But to his alarm, only 50 minutes later did an ambulance arrive to take the injured to the hospital. “How come it took you so long to get here?” Rubenstein lashed out at the doctor. She looked him in the eye and said “sir, we cannot arrive any faster.” It was an answer Rubenstein refused to accept. That was the day Helpers came to life.

Michael Rubinstein, Founder and CEO of Helpers
Michael Rubinstein, Founder and CEO of Helpers

Rubinstein was born in (Israel) to Argentinian parents, and by (year) he was a father of five. After being ordained as a rabbi in 2011, Rubinstein lept into a new adventure: a mission to Uruguay in South America as the spiritual leader of the Yavneh community. The earthshaking experience there convinced him to dedicate his time to life-saving initiatives. 

Having realized he did not stumble across an isolated incident, Rubenstein was startled by the figures: In South America a million people die annually, only because emergency services cannot reach a location in time; The average time it gets an ambulance to arrive at an incident location in South America’s largest cities is 25 minutes; and in Argentina alone over 100,000 people die every year because emergency services do not get to a patient within the first 10 minutes of injury.

Rubinstein then founded an Uber-like life-saving application: a location-based operative model which can connect medically-trained individuals to those in an emergency situation. The platform both educates civilians in basic first-aid training and social solidarity, and connects the relevant people at the right time. Effective results kicked in as early as three months after the initial training began, when the life of an injured, unconscious 19-year old was spared thanks to three Helpers who happened to be in his vicinity. “That day I knew my dream had become a reality,” Rubinstein says. “At least as an MVP.”

2,500 volunteers were trained during the first year of Helpers, and they saved lives in car accidents, epilepsy incidents, heart attacks, drug abuse and domestic violence. They now aim to spread across South and North America, and build partnerships with local organizations, education institutions and municipalities, to create a first-class local ecosystem of emergency response.   

The sixth most recent cohort of 8200 Impact was “The right place for me,” Rubinstein says. “I gained comprehensive knowledge on startup management processes, raging from the legal realm to the international impact world,” he says, adding that the personal mentoring the program offers transforms the theoretical training into hands-on experience. “But the most I’ve gained was from my fellow entrepreneurs, inspiring me in every meetup,” he claims.

Helpers today consists of 10 employees, 30 managerial volunteers and a network of 15,000 local volunteers across Uruguay and Argentina. Their clients include the Red Cross and Argentina’s electric company. Currently at the seed stage, Rubinstein has a clear vision and directive: to reach hundreds of potential customers within two years, and save numerous lives.