Top ten highlights of 2014

By Julia Kurnia, Director

2014 was a transformative year for Zidisha.  Though there’s no way to fit all the milestones we passed into a single post, here are ten noteworthy highlights:

1. Growth

Our lender and borrower numbers more than doubled in 2014, to almost 20,000 members in 147 countries by the end of the year.

members

You may view more statistics here.

 

2.  Repayment performance

On-time repayment rates were better than ever, as we continuously improved our lending processes.

repayment

You may view the raw data for this graph here.

 

3.  A global team

Over 200 bright and passionate people from around the world volunteered with Zidisha in 2014 – generously giving of their time to mentor new borrowers, process loan payments, prepare financial reports, and share inspiring loan stories in our blog.

team

 

4.  World-class advisers

We were immensely fortunate to participate in Y Combinator, the technology start-up incubator program that launched Dropbox and Airbnb, early in the year.  Y Combinator gave us the chance to work closely with some of the world’s most brilliant experts in growing technology companies, many of whom continue to advise our strategy today.

advisers

 

5. Our new website

We rewrote our codebase to accommodate greater transaction volumes, and adopted a modern, mobile-friendly design.

Zidisha.org, 2011

Zidisha.org, 2011

Zidisha.org, 2014

Zidisha.org, 2014

 

6.  Fundraising

In 2014, we received over $300,000 in donations from prominent technology entrepreneurs and angel investors, such as Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail.

pb

 

7.  Press

In 2014, Zidisha was featured in the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Venture Beat, Huffington Post, Handelsblatt, the Collective magazine, and many other online and print publications.

collective

 

8.  New features for lenders

Much of our day-to-day work involves talking to our members, and improving our website based on their feedback.  Here are just a few of the new features we launched in 2014:
  • The ability to “follow” favorite entrepreneurs
  • Free lending invite credits for new lenders
  • One-click payments with Stripe
  • No-fee monthly lending credit subscriptions
  • Highly customizable email notification preferences
  • More user-friendly (and beautiful!) gift cards
  • Easily navigable source data for repayment statistics

monthly

9.  New features for borrowers
We spend roughly equal amounts of time improving the lender and borrower sides of Zidisha.  Here are some of the features we launched for borrowers this year:
  • Website displays location-specific information, using the appropriate language and currency, when accessed from borrower countries
  • Web design optimized for speed in low-bandwidth locations
  • New mobile-friendly website is easy to use with a smart phone
  • Streamlined new member application form
  • Bonus credits for invited borrowers and volunteer mentors
  • Profile photo cropping
  • Helpful tips for creating a compelling loan application, choosing quality profile photos and posting informative comments displayed alongside website forms

2

 

10.  Data science

In 2014 we teamed up with Bayes Impact, another Y Combinator nonprofit that connects top data scientists with high-impact social causes, to apply advanced machine learning techniques to our credit risk screening process.

bayes

 

What didn’t change

Zidisha is pioneering something that has never before been attempted: a direct person-to-person lending community that spans the international wealth divide – with absolutely no local offices, gatekeepers or other intermediaries between the lender and the borrower.

Since what we are doing is so unprecedented, there is no road map of established practices to follow.  That means that, unlike a more traditional organization, Zidisha needs to adapt continuously as experience makes clear what works best in practice.  Zidisha today is very different from Zidisha a year ago, and I’m sure we will change and improve a great deal more in 2015.

What has not changed since day one is our core conviction that geographic location should never be a barrier for motivated people to achieve their dreams – and that ordinary people in the world’s most disadvantaged places can participate responsibly in an online community without local overseers.

Our vision was memorably articulated in a recent post by Zidisha entrepreneur Edmond Barasa in Kenya:

Previously life was complicated as far as wealth and development are concerned. To those who were born from poor families, they had the highest chances of remaining poor… With the introduction of these means of funding like Zidisha, life has dramatically changed. Some of the people from poor backgrounds like us with big minds can now easily access money and exploit their capabilities turning them into reality.

I am sure that in 2015, ever more people “with big minds” will join us, and old stereotypes will fall away as our members continue to prove themselves and realize their potential.

eb

Edmond Barasa, Kenya

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