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A 'Flip' Chat With...Premal Shah, President, Kiva (Part 1)

June 14, 2011

(This video was recorded as part of our 'Flip' chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat, with Big Duck VP of client relationships and strategy Farra Trompeter.)

For much of its existence, Kiva.org -- an online platform that enables people to make small loans to poor people in developing countries -- has been one of the coolest nonprofit Web sites around. Founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley in 2005, the organization capitalized on its Silicon Valley connections -- its current president, Premal Shah, was a product manager at PayPal -- and the Web 2.0 boom to become the darling of social change activists and the DIY philanthropy crowd in just a few years.

Indeed, by the end of 2009 the organization had won a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and a Webby People’s Choice Award, had been named one of TIME’s “50 Best Web Sites” (2008), had registered more than 250,000 users, and had facilitated over $100 million in loans.

That same year (2009), the organization announced that it was piloting a program in the U.S. to allow individuals across the globe to make small loans to U.S. entrepreneurs through its field partners, ACCION USA and the Opportunity Fund. A year later, with unemployment hovering in the low double digits, Kiva announced a $1 million contribution from Visa to expand its reach within the U.S. generally -- and, through the addition of ACCION Texas-Louisiana, the largest microfinance institution in the country, the Gulf Coast specifically -- and further empower small businesses.

Having been named one of Oprah’s Favorite Things of 2010, the now five-year-old organization continues to expand. During the recent Microfinance USA 2011 conference in New York City, PND spoke with Premal Shah about the state of the microfinance industry, how the field of philanthropy has responded to Kiva’s emergence, and the status of the organization’s efforts in the U.S. Part one of our chat with Shah is posted below; parts two and three will follow tomorrow.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)


(Total running time: 5 minutes, 36 seconds)

What do you think? Is Kiva changing the way we think about the billion or so people worldwide at the bottom of pyramid (BoP)? Is the organization's business model sustainable? What should it be doing to have even more of an impact?

-- Matt Sinclair

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