Rob Katz

Interview With a P2P Lender:

Kiva LogoThe innovative peer-to-peer microlending site received a new round of PR today when Nicholas Kristof featured the site in his New York Times column.? Check out an excerpt at the NB Newsroom or Times Select for the full column (subscription required).? Readers have also been chiming in over at Kristof’s blog on the Times site.

In light of this story, I would like to point readers to a two-part interview (Part 1; Part 2) that our own Sara Standish did with Kiva founder Matt Flannery and CEO Premal Shah last year.? There are MP3 files available as well as transcripts.? Woth a listen and/or a read.? Here’s a quick excerpt:

NB: How do you weigh in on the current microfinance debates?? And what is Kiva’s role in the greater micro credit community?
Matt Flannery: I just want to contribute to the field.? I want every MFI that works with Kiva to come out in a better place than where they started, whether it’s an NGO, a development organization or an actual bank.? If they work with Kiva I want to help them own it.? I hope that the money we provide furthers them along the path to being self sustainable and that is my personal view on where the industry is going for microfinance.

Premal Shah: What is the role of subsidization?? There are 10,000 MFIs.? Should there be industry Darwinism or should more MFIs proliferate because only 10% of the world’s poor have access to financial services?? There are these raging debates between practitioners and pundits and my experience through Kiva (and prior to Kiva) has been to try and understand the things that Kiva does that are indisputably good and I think that there are a couple of them.?

One example is how Kiva captures a previously untapped source of capital.? There is a guy in Kansas right now who probably A) never heard of micro credit or B) read a Newsweek article, has no other option but to make a donation at this point at a price that he would like to.? So, he could go and find and make a donation, but my sense is that compared to all the other donations that this person might make, he probably wouldn?t get around to doing it.?

So the thing that I think is indisputably good about Kiva is that it is such a unique idea and it’s so different from the typical thing you can do with your money.? Because it’s highly transparent, it’s highly personal, and you are doing something good with very little financial commitment.? It’s unlocking previously trapped capital for the microfinance industry.?? And because there is an emotional return that complements it, it subsidizes the need for a financial return, but it’s still operating at the market rate and translates into more affordable capital for a lot of the high quality MFIs that we wish to work with.?? To the extent that these MFIs use those savings in a productive way to expand capacity, I think it advances the mission.

More blogosphere coverage of the Kiva story is available at Bill Stevenson’s Heart of Business blog.