San Francisco

Nov 2, 2011
Outside Magazine

BY THE NUMBERS: Since 2005, more than 628,000 ­citizen lenders have provided $248 million in microloans to small entrepreneurs in developing countries
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Matt Flannery, 34, a former software engineer at TiVo
WHAT IT DOES: In 2004, Flannery was working as a programmer when he took a trip to East Africa to make a documentary about entrepreneurs and saw how much difference small investments can make. In 2005, he launched Kiva, which connects citizen philanthropists directly to borrowers in developing countries. In a typical transaction, a potential lender peruses Kiva’s online listings of hopeful borrowers, chosen with help from partner organizations in the field. The lender picks one and makes a loan of $25 or more through PayPal. The borrower—a Tajik peddler hoping to buy rice, say, or a Kenyan farmer buying animal feed—makes the purchase and then repays the loan, which is available for the donor’s withdrawal or future loans. Within six months of Kiva’s founding, all seven of the original borrowers, including a goat herder, a fishmonger, and a restaurant owner, had repaid their loans. Now borrowers hail from 60 countries, and their businesses encompass everything from a Bulgarian bicycle-repair shop to an Internet cafĂ© in Benin.
EXTRA CREDIT: Philanthropy experts say it often takes an ­individual’s story to move ­donors to give. Flannery and Kiva harness that impulse, ­taking affordable, crowdsourced lending to new levels around the world.
LOOKING AHEAD: In June, Kiva, now working with an $11 million budget, announced its first U.S. microfinance ­programs, in Detroit and New Orleans.