Kiva’s CEO and Co-Founder Matt Flannery Story, To Inspire You

I suspect a good number of people might not know Kiva or even heard about them, I didn’t know much about them till I was about to start my PhD in social entrepreneurship, and ever since then we at CreativityTurf have sort of monitored their progress.

We love many things at CreativityTurf and Kiva is one of them. Kiva is an Internet lending platform that allows people to lend money to people in the developing countries through Kiva’s partner microfinance institutions, which Kiva calls field partners. Internet users in the United States, Canada, Europe, and beyond make small loans via PayPal to loan applicants on the website and these businesses pay the lenders back over a period of about a year. Kiva operates in more than thirty countries. Kiva includes personal stories of each person who needs a loan because they want their lenders to connect with their entrepreneurs on a human level. Kiva itself does not collect any interest on the loans it facilitates. It is purely supported by grants, loans, and donations from its users, corporations, and national institutions.

Matt Flannery & Jessica Jackley started Kiva in 2005. Matt has a very interesting story of how they started Kiva. Matt had graduated from Stanford University, one of the best and expensive schools in America but could only get a job as a software writer and also doing some design at TiVo while many of his friends who had graduated from Stanford with him had struggled to find work in the depressed tech market, so he knew he was blessed to have even had a job.

In all this, Matt still spent a good deal of his time dreaming up new business ideas. He says, “I’m the kind of person who always has a new idea, and is always talking about it”.  Meanwhile Jessica (his then fiancée) was working at Stanford Business School as a staff member and she had access to a wealth of ideas and contacts in the social entrepreneurship arena. One night, she invited Matt to come hear a guest speaker on the topic of microfinance; the speaker was none other than Dr. Mohammed Yunus who shared his story of starting the Grameen Bank. And it all started from here for both of them.

Matt Flannery (Courtesy: Ashoka)

While visiting Jessica in Africa, Matt and Jessica spent time interviewing entrepreneurs about the problems they faced in starting ventures and found the lack of access to start-up capital was a common theme. After returning from Africa, they began developing their plan for a microfinance project that would grow into Kiva. In April 2005, they loaned out $3,500 and by September 2005, the entrepreneurs repaid the entirety of their original loans, and the founders realized they had developed a sustainable microcredit concept. Matt and Jessica then decided to go on a larger scale.

Even after starting up Kiva Matt still stayed back at his day job, and didn’t leave until October 2005 (after seeing the initial success of Kiva). There is nothing stopping you from being a change agent, you can start small and still combine it with your daily work. Be the change you want to see. As of March this year (2012), Kiva has distributed $300,209,450 in loans from 744,558 lenders. And Kiva’s current repayment rate for all its partners is 98.94%.

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