‘This is grind time’

Richard Xu (’18) and his team collect medical supplies for hospitals during pandemic

By Jazmine Otey (’20)

For the last three weeks, 23-year-old entrepreneur Richard Xu (’18) has stayed up all night sending emails and making calls to request medical masks from vendors in southeast Asia. After the masks arrive, free samples are distributed to labs and doctors’ offices in need of them. If they’re satisfied with the supplies, medical workers can place an order at a reduced price.

So far, Xu and his team have worked collaboratively to distribute more than 100,000 masks to assist medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, but no one wants to grind for it,” said Xu, a former Dukes football player. “Sacrificing a couple hours of sleep to protect a couple hundred doctors’ lives, I’ll do that any day. I’m trying to help these people out. It doesn’t matter if I lose a couple of hours of sleep. This is grind time.”

The overall process has been a team effort. The idea to help source masks for medical facilities manifested during a Zoom video call with Xu and a network of individuals with connections nationwide. The group met mostly through JMU X-Labs, a transdisciplinary program that encourages students to resist easy solutions and be fervent about innovation.

Many of the contributors are also a part of Xu’s hardware startup business, Vulcan Machine Co.

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