Tuesday, May 23, 2006

By Tricia Duryee

Chris Brookfield sees similarities between building a technology startup and lifting people out of poverty.

As odd as it sounds, the former Seattle venture capitalist is doing just that by applying his investing skills to microfinance.

“I have to take the same hard analytical approach to this as I did in venture capital,” he said. “In structure and in the process, it’s similar.”

Earlier this month, Brookfield decided to leave the fast-paced, lucrative world of venture capital to work alongside Unitus, a Redmond nonprofit looking to dramatically change the microfinance industry.

Microfinance lends poor people small loans to fund businesses. A person may borrow $50 to buy a sewing machine to mend clothes or a buffalo to sell milk. The recipient pays off the loan with interest and, because the structure uses a group of borrowers that is responsible for each other’s debts, the programs have an outstanding 95 percent or better average return rate.

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Source: Seattle Times (link opens in a new window)