10 Big Thinkers for Big Business, by Karen Breslau
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Omidyar has made his largest investments so far in the field of microfinance, which empowers the poor around the world by granting tiny loans (often as small as $50) to poor people who want to become entrepreneurs. By helping a woman buy a sewing machine so she can start a clothing business or buy chickens to sell eggs, lenders not only profit from interest payments on the original loans, but also build a base of small-business owners who will continue to bank with them. “It’s a perfect match for the way we look at the world,” says Omidyar.
Last week the Omidyar Network made a $4 million grant to the nonprofit Grameen Foundation USA, which underwrites more than a million loans in developing countries. Later this year, says one of Omidyar’s advisers, the Network will disburse “a significantly larger” amount, intended to be the largest private investment ever in microfinance. In coming years, says Grameen’s Alex Counts, “Pierre will become to microcredit what Bill Gates is to global health and vaccines.” For a man who changed the world by helping people discover their own entrepreneurial power online, it’s a passion that makes perfect sense.
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