For 27 years Marc Koska fought to stop the reuse of syringes. One of the most impressive and inspirational entrepreneurs in the world, Marc faced and broke down bureaucratic barriers to fight one of the most virulent contributors to the spread of AIDS, with his non-retractable syringe, which was endorsed by the World Health Organisation in 2015.
At the age of 6, Marc had a realization that he had to find a purpose and do something meaningful with his life. When he was old enough to read newspapers and watch the news, he became aware of the plight of millions of people in Africa who were carrying the AIDS virus, and his lightbulb moment came when he read that the deadly practice of reusing syringes was spreading the virus like wildfire.
What if a syringe couldn’t be reused, he thought? It took Marc all of three minutes to design a syringe that breaks when it’s been used, but seventeen years to manufacture, patent and distribute the K1 Auto-Disable. Attempting to pull the plunger back up to reload the syringe causes it to break, rendering the syringe useless. Sounds like a no-brainer, yet investors, manufacturers and politicians were uncompromisingly adverse to a simple idea designed to save millions of lives.
With a story of sheer persistence, patience and resolve, Marc has battled through red-tape, incompetence and unwilling, to implement a product and a strategy that has compromised the spread of AIDS through Africa forever.
"Marc was very an excellent speaker and it was a pleasure to hear him speak. It was humbling and passionate in a belief - thank you Marc"
In 1996 he co-founded Star Syringe to license the technology to manufacturers around the world. Since 2001 more than 2.5 billion K1 syringes have been sold around the world, resulting in the prevention of an estimated 10m infections, and more than 8m lives have been saved. He has actively and successfully addressed an urgent human challenge with a successful policy changing effort.
Marc licenses manufacturers worldwide from his Ashdown Forest base. In 2006, he was awarded his OBE in the New Year’s Honour list for his ‘Contribution to Global Healthcare’.
Marc is a highly motivational and charismatic speaker, someone who has fought ignorance, bureaucracy and vested interest every step of the way to create a highly successful and dynamic company, and whose sole motivation is to save lives by eradicating the spread of a killer virus. Marc’s genuine lack of financial motivation is inspirational, moving and an admirably unique quality rarely seen in a thriving entrepreneur.
Marc has spoken at the TED Global Conference, The Zeitgeist conference, TED MED, INK, the DLD conference, and the European Union Innovations summit.
Films about Marc’s work have been shown internationally, including at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Peace One Day.
Marc has been awarded numerous awards including the International Visual Communication Association Award; International Business Award - Best Multi-national Company; Tech Award; Queen's Award for Enterprise for International Trade, and The Economist’s social & economic innovation award.
Marc featured on the film that accompanies The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee song – Stronger As One - first sung at the Commonwealth Observance Service on Commonwealth Day 12th March 2012 at Westminster Abbey – the official start of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
His Life Saver public awareness campaigns inform and educate governments and healthcare providers about risks their countries face, and propose possible solutions.
Marc's latest achievement is the adoption by the World Health Organisation of a new injection safety policy – using the 'auto-disable’ syringe.
Marc Koska has been selected as a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Awardee. Of the 33 global awards granted there are only 2 from the UK.
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Copyright Speakers Corner 2015
Interview with Marc Koska
How did the corporate speaking begin?
I was invited to talk at TED in 2009, which I had barely heard of, and then it kicked off.
Which event has been your favourite and why?
I loved talking at Google Zeitgeist in Arizona in 2010. Can’t explain why really, other than the generosity of the Google team combined with very high calibre attendees.
If you could speak at any event, past or future, what would it be?
Can I say Wembley Stadium?! : )Well I have a full house now of all the conferences such as TED, World Economic Forum, etc.
Who would you most like to share a platform with?
Anousheh Ansari or Scott Parazynski. I have met both of these astronauts and there is something in their eyes that comes with the determination of getting UP there. Special people!
What are your most frequently requested speaking topics?
Well I think the story of my syringe journey is popular, but I get great feedback from including tips on how to “find better solutions from problems”.
What do you do to ensure your presentation has a lasting impact?
Ah, well I have two secrets: I was taught how to present by Nancy Duarte, the best presentation coach anywhere. And I pay attention to what the client wants to get across from the talk.
What can a typical corporate audience learn from your experiences?
Well I hope to get across that not all success has to be instant and to bring light (and a balance) to a developing world issue and how a big difference can be made! I suppose that my story has covered most aspects of innovation and business, and as above, make sure that I focus on the particular ones the client is looking for.