New eBay site lets people finance the world’s poor
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By Jonathan Stempel
EBay, the world’s largest online auctioneer and payments company, launched on Wednesday a Web site allowing ordinary investors to buy securities aimed at improving conditions in the world’s poorest countries. MicroPlace, located at http://www.microplace.com, will allow people to invest as little as $100 (48.83 pounds) to support development in impoverished areas.
So-called microfinance is the supply of loans, savings, insurance and other basic financial services to low-income households and businesses, typically without collateral. It is often conducted in emerging economies, where people cannot typically obtain bank loans.
Microfinance is at work in more than 100 countries, and is generally provided by financial institutions or wealthier investors. It gained wider renown last October when Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered it in 1976, and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Capital markets are just waking up to this asset class,” Tracey Pettengill Turner, the founder and general manager of MicroPlace, said in an interview. “This is different because it is the first Web-based service for the everyday investor to invest in microfinance, and earn an investment return while addressing global poverty.”
Turner said she has worked in Bangladesh, and worked at Grameen in 1998 after graduating from Stanford Business School. She said she sold MicroPlace to eBay in June 2006.
Another microfinance site, Kiva.org, said last week it has built a $13 million loan portfolio in its first two years to help about 20,000 entrepreneurs. Other sites include Finca International and Accion International.
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