Matt Bannick of the Omidyar Network on Philanthropy, Social Enterprise, Technology and More

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recently, I interviewed Matt Bannick, Managing Partner of the Omidyar Network-a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. They invest in and help scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic, social, and political change. eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and wife Pam established Omidyar Network based on their conviction that every person has the power to make a difference.

As Managing Partner, Matt leads all aspects of Omidyar Network’s operations and strategy. He works closely with the co-founders and board of directors to ensure that Omidyar Network achieves its long-term mission and strategic objectives. Matt brings a wide range of executive, international, and multi-sector experience to his leadership of Omidyar Network. From 1999 to 2007, Matt was a member of eBay Inc.’s executive staff and served in a number of senior executive roles. As the general manager and later as president of eBay International, Matt was largely responsible for building eBay’s global footprint and driving phenomenal revenue growth. He grew the company’s global presence from five countries in mid 2000 to 25 countries two years later. During that time, he grew international revenue from approximately $2 million per quarter to more than $100 million per quarter.

After eBay acquired PayPal in 2002, Matt was selected to be PayPal’s first post-acquisition president and established PayPal as the global standard for online payments. Under his leadership, PayPal’s revenue more than tripled in its first two years with eBay. In 2004, Matt returned to eBay International, increasing annual revenue to nearly $2 billion, which was nearly half of eBay marketplace revenue. Matt also spearheaded eBay’s initiatives in Global Development and Citizenship, where he worked to bring the power of eBay to the developing world.

Rahim Kanani: Describe a little bit behind the founding and motivation of the Omidyar Network.

Matt Bannick: After eBay went public in 1998, Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam decided to commit much of their wealth to the betterment of society. They first established a traditional foundation, focused on distributing money to worthy nonprofits. Seeing eBay scale in size and social impact, Pierre and Pam later broadened their scope to form Omidyar Network, which makes investments in for-profit companies as well as grants to nonprofit organizations.

Pierre and Pam established Omidyar Network in 2004 as a new type of philanthropy-marrying the social good focus of the nonprofit sector with the market incentives and drive for scale of the commercial world. At Omidyar Network, we invest in and help scale up entrepreneurial ventures that each have the potential to create opportunity for millions of people. We believe that creating opportunity for individuals enables people to improve the quality of their lives, the lives of their family and community, and will ultimately create a more fair and prosperous society.

At the heart of our strategy is a flexible approach to philanthropy. We embrace whatever tools necessary-including nonprofit grants and for-profit impact investments-to support high-impact social entrepreneurs and the broader environments in which they work. Our hybrid investment approach is supported by a hybrid organizational structure: we operate both a foundation and a for-profit investment fund under the same roof.

Rahim Kanani; As a philanthropic organization that invests in both mission-driven for-profit companies as well as gives grants to nonprofit organizations, is Omidyar Network trying to break the mold of traditional philanthropy?

Matt Bannick: Ultimately, Omidyar Network is part of a movement to break down artificial and unnecessary boundaries between nonprofit and for-profit sectors so that we can reach effective solutions more quickly. It’s a vision for philanthropy that’s not just about charity, nor even just about business-but about what really works. We want to illustrate the importance of finding hybrid solutions to pressing social problems.

If there’s any message we’d like to share, it’s that we need to avoid the straightjacket of either/or thinking and embrace the power of AND. Both grants AND investments are critical for progress.

Source: Forbes (link opens in a new window)