Tech Entrepreneurs Boost Microfinance Startup Zidisha
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and a handful of other tech entrepreneurs and companies have donated a total of $525,000 to microfinance startup Zidisha, which hopes to bring down costs of peer-to-peer lending to cash-strapped young entrepreneurs in the developing world by getting rid of intermediaries.
“I was impressed with their microlending community,” says Newmark by email. “Like Kevin Spacey says, if you manage to do well, then you should send the elevator back down. Helping microlending efforts kind of builds more elevators.”
Newmark first learned of Zidisha when he helped Women Who Tech with a startup competition for female founders. Julia Kurnia, Zidisha’s 31-year-old founder, presented at the Washington, D.C. forum. She didn’t win, but she made an impression. Newmark’s donations over the past six months, while small potatoes given his wealth, represent a vote of confidence in Zidisha (which means “grow” in Swahili). “Where we’re really resonating is among former tech entrepreneurs who have become philanthropists,” Kurnia says.
In fact, Kurnia says, four tech entrepreneurs and two companies have donated to her microfinance startup, including Gmail creator Paul Buchheit and Yun-Fang Juan, a developer of Facebook Ads and cofounder of Fundastic, a site that offers business financing tools. Zidisha is a registered 501(c)3, so for tax purposes, these are considered restricted donations, Kurnia says, and Zidisha turns off the ability for donors to withdraw their funds.