Celebrating 2016

By Julia Kurnia

2016 was a record-breaking year in so many ways.  Here are just a few of the highlights:

Number of loans funded: 21,846

Thanks to you, over 20,000 entrepreneurial dreams became a reality in 2016.

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Love, a widowed mother in Ghana, teamed up with Zidisha lenders to start a jewelry design business to support her family.

Love, a widowed mother in Ghana, teamed up with Zidisha lenders to start a jewelry design business to support her family.

 

Our loan cost ratio: 4.95%

In an industry where loan cost ratios of over 30% are the norm, we spent less than 5% of the value of loans funded on overhead and operating costs, such as money transfer fees, web development services and salaries.  Our lean web-based lending model means profits from the loans stay in the borrowers’ communities, rather than going to pay the lender’s overhead costs.

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This girl in Kenya is attending a quality school, thanks to profits generated by her mother’s Zidisha-funded peanut butter business.

 

Loans funded with a $100 lending account: $300

Thanks to recycling of repayments into new loans, a Zidisha lending account funds many times its original value in loan projects.

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A $194 loan was all Irwin needed to start a mushroom farm in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

A $194 loan was all Irwin needed to start a mushroom farm in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

 

Contributions to loans in Haiti: 986

Zidisha lenders were among the most rapid sources of resources to help people in Haiti rebuild their livelihoods after Hurricane Matthew.

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Zidisha lenders funded Lekol Haiti, a social enterprise that brings IT education to Haitian schools.

Zidisha lenders funded Lekol Haiti, a social enterprise that brings IT education to Haitian schools.

 

Number of borrowers who donated their time to coach new Zidisha members in their countries as Volunteer Mentors: 735

Volunteer Mentors are experienced, high-performing borrowers who mentor up to fifty new borrowers on how to successfully participate in the Zidisha community.

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Volunteers from around the world: 132

Our internationally distributed volunteer team handled everything from processing loan disbursements to sharing our most inspiring entrepreneur stories in social media.

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Number of Impact Investment Funds created: 238

We opened growth-enabled Impact Investment Funds to the public at the end of the year.  Over 200 new funds have since been created!

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Jude used his loan to scale up his clean drinking water distribution service.

Jude used his loan to scale up his clean drinking water distribution service in low-income neighborhoods of Ghana.

 

Installs of our new mobile app for borrowers: 4,988

We launched our first-ever mobile phone app in ten borrower countries in November, tapping into the recent spread of affordable smart phones in developing countries.

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Entrepreneurs profiled in our new Instagram page: 25 (and counting!)

To celebrate the rich diversity and inspiring accomplishments of our community, we’ve just inaugurated an Instagram collection featuring entrepreneurs’ stories in their own words. (Follow it here.)

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2016 has been our best year ever.  Help us make 2017 even better!  Make a loan to an entrepreneur today.

 

This school in Kenya is raising funds to build a classroom.

This school in Kenya is raising funds to build a classroom. Help them reach their goal!

Zidisha team spotlight: Alejandra, Operations Coordinator

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By Julia Kurnia, Director

One of the most inspiring things about the Zidisha community is that volunteers are at the center of our operations.  Volunteers undertake an incredible range of tasks: loan payment processing, borrower application review, email and SMS support in four languages, accounting reporting, sharing entrepreneur stories in social media, and more.  It is no exaggeration to say that without the generosity of volunteers, Zidisha would not be possible.

Our volunteer team is a collection of extraordinary people, who work from their own locations all around the world.  We have profiled a number of them in this blog.  Today, I’d like to highlight the contributions of our volunteer Operations Coordinator, Alejandra (“Ale”).

Ale joined us in August of this year, and it’s already hard to imagine Zidisha without her.  I’m inspired every day by the immense impact she has on the world and the joyful, giving way in which she lives.

As Operations Coordinator, Ale is responsible for welcoming and orienting new volunteers, organizing the volunteers into teams, and ensuring that everyone has the resources and information they need to participate successfully.   She has transformed the volunteer experience at Zidisha, by setting up a Slack room for our communications, and introducing fresh ideas like video introductions of new volunteers and group birthday cards.

As if that weren’t enough, Ale has taken on the additional project of bring Zidisha loans to her home country of Mexico.  Thanks to her, we are almost ready to begin disbursing the first loans there.  If our lending program grows in Mexico the way it has in other countries, her hard work will make it possible in time for thousands of people to access life-changing loan opportunities.

I managed to persuade Ale to take enough time off from her many activities to provide an interview, reproduced below.  It’s a rare chance to get to know one of the remarkable people at the heart of our community.

How did you hear about Zidisha?

I read about Zidisha in Y Combinator, they provide seed funding for startups, and they started applying their model to non-profits. Zidisha blew my mind by putting together the power of the internet with no interest loans.

With Zidisha I realized that lending money with no interest rates instead of giving handouts dignifies people.

What sort of activities have you done since you started volunteering with us?

My responsibility is that operations run smoothly and in order to do this I have been involved in activities ranging from helping our volunteer accountants with monthly accounting reconciliations to distributing duties among all volunteers. I have been responding to borrower emails, disbursing loans, entering repayments, reviewing new borrower applications, translating, helping volunteers through email by answering their questions and providing orientation to join a particular team. My work is motivated by helping our entrepreneurs.

The day I joined Zidisha I was curious to meet the amazing volunteers, I was also lucky to join the Ghana Payment team and quickly started disbursing hundreds of loans to entrepreneurs. One of my favorite tasks is talking to volunteers and thinking of ways to improve our daily work. We come up with proposals to spend our time more efficiently helping entrepreneurs.

Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?

My favorite story is the first loan that Zidisha ever gave, when I tell people about it I can see tears in their eyes. We disbursed our first loan to a Masai nomad in Kenya who wanted to buy cattle, he was a day away from a bank but had mobile phone with M-PESA, a money transfer service Zidisha used to send him the money.

To tell you the truth I easily fall in love with all our entrepreneurs. I enjoy reading all the stories, special from women. I can vividly remember they day I joined Zidisha as a lender, I remember choosing Rosine Sanogo from Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. She was born in a polygamous family with more than 10 children, she’s single with three children. I gave her money for her second loan, she sells shoes door to door her daily profit is $20 USD. Rosine’s customers enjoy buying shoes without leaving home.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy walking in the forest, I dive at least once a year, my favorite activity related to nature and the ocean is swimming with whale sharks in Holbox, Mexico.   

I love volunteering for different organizations.  In the winter time I work with my church to bring Christmas dinners to unprivileged communities. The rest of the year I’m involved in catholic retreats for prison inmates.

Introducing Impact Investment gift cards

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Looking for an interesting gift for someone who already has everything?

Our new Impact Investment gift cards let you give a growth-enabled Impact Investment lending fund to a friend or loved one with just a few clicks.  Here’s how it works:

  • Select a card of any amount and print or email instantly.
  • Your recipient can choose entrepreneurs to fund, or allow us to distribute the amount to fundraising projects.
  • Your gift keeps on giving as repayments are relent to new projects.  A $50 gift card funds $750 worth of loans in five years!
  • A portion of the 5% service fee paid by all Zidisha borrowers is reinvested in your recipient’s lending fund with every loan, so that its value can grow over time.

Learn more and purchase gift cards here:

https://www.zidisha.org/lender/gift-cards

 

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Introducing Impact Investment Funds

Our new Impact Investment Funds let anyone open a growth-enabled donation lending account.

Impact Investment Funds work just like regular lending accounts, in that 100% of the lending funds you upload, and their repayments, go to your chosen entrepreneurs.  In addition:

  • A portion of the 5% service fee paid by all Zidisha borrowers is reinvested in the account with every loan funded, so that its value can grow over time.
  • Lending funds paid into the account are tax-deductible as charitable donations in the United States.
  • Impact Investment accounts include a Lending Fund Value page, which tracks changes in the value of the fund and its outstanding loan portfolio.

 

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Who should open an Impact Investment Fund?

Impact Investment Funds are intended for anyone who would like to make a charitable donation and watch its impact grow over time.  (The average $50 lending account funds over $750 worth of loan projects in five years!)

Is this a financial asset?

No.  All funds paid into an Impact Investment Account are considered charitable donations to be used only for funding loans, and cannot be withdrawn.

Why are withdrawals not enabled for Impact Investment Funds?

Since Zidisha is not an investment broker, US securities regulations do not allow us to offer revenue-generating financial investments to the public.

How are Zidisha’s costs covered, if it is returning service fee income to the Impact Investment Funds?

Our costs are covered separately by the portion of the 5% service fee not credited to the Impact Investment Funds, and by optional tips from lenders.

Why not reduce or eliminate the 5% borrower service fee, instead of crediting part of it to lending funds?

Our founding purpose is to reduce the cost of microloans in the world’s poorest places, where interest rates upwards of 40% are common.  That said, we believe it is optimal for entrepreneurs to pay a modest cost for loans, because it helps prevent dependency on subsidized services, and encourages entrepreneurs to invest in revenue-generating projects.  In addition, returning the service fee revenue to lending funds increases the capital available to other deserving entrepreneurs over the long term.

How much of the service fee is credited back to Impact Investment Funds?

Currently the full 5% service fee received for every loan (or portion of a loan) funded by an Impact Investment Fund is credited to the fund at the time the loan is disbursed.  This may change in the future, depending on how large a percentage of loans are funded by Impact Investment Funds.

Are Impact Investment Funds guaranteed to grow over time?

No: Impact Investment Funds are subject to the same risks as other Zidisha lending accounts, including currency exchange rate fluctuations and non-payment by borrowers.  Reinvesting service fee revenue is intended to help counterbalance these risks and make fund value growth possible, but does not guarantee it.

How do I open an Impact Investment Fund?

You may convert an existing withdrawable lending account to an Impact Investment Fund in the Account Preferences page.

To open a new Impact Investment Fund:

  1. Go to www.zidisha.org.
  2. Use the “Sign Up” link to create an account.
  3. Go to the Account Preferences page and choose the Impact Investment Fund option.

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Zidisha is hiring a remote engineer

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Update: This position has been filled.

We’re looking for a remote engineer to help us:

  • Build out our nonprofit P2P microlending platform using the PHP Laravel framework
  • Bring opportunity to some of the world’s poorest places by connecting them to a marketplace that’s independent of geography
  • Develop the world’s first direct P2P microlending community – a model that is revolutionizing access to finance in developing countries

Our technology stack: PHP, Laravel Framework, Propel ORM, Elasticsearch, Ansible, Vagrant, Composer, Git, Github, PHPUnitTest, Twitter Bootstrap, Rackspace Cloud, Nginx, jQuery, many third-party APIs (Facebook, Google, Stripe, Paypal, Telerivet, SendWithUs, SiftScience, Geoip2, Phpexcel, Supremenewmedia, guzzelhttp, laravel-phone).

What You’ll Do

As our sole engineering hire (for now), here are some things you might do:

  • Refactor our Laravel 5 codebase
  • Add and update unit tests
  • Optimize queues (Beanstalkd) and database queries to handle a rapidly growing transaction volume
  • User experience improvements: smarter loan project search results, customizable email digests for lenders, loan balance queries via SMS for borrowers, etc.
  • Work with data scientists to integrate credit risk prediction algorithm updates (Python)
  • Interact with our borrowers and lenders via email for technical questions
  • Help with other activities as necessary in a startup

About Us

Zidisha is a Y Combinator nonprofit and the first direct peer-to-peer lending service to bridge the international wealth divide, allowing individuals in the US and internationally to lend to and communicate with borrowers in developing countries without local intermediaries. We’ve been featured in numerous press and media for our groundbreaking work in using internet and mobile phone technologies to connect entrepreneurs in some of the world’s most isolated and impoverished places with the international peer-to-peer lending market.

Our mostly-volunteer team is distributed worldwide.  You’ll work with founder and front-end developer Julia Kurnia, and with our volunteers and interns via Skype, email and our team forum. Opportunities for greater responsibility / leadership will continue to open up as we grow.

About You

You’re not satisfied with a conventional job: you’re compelled to use your time and energy to make an important impact on the world.

You believe the international wealth divide is the major injustice of our time, and have dedicated your life to solving it.  You have a substantial track record of paid or volunteer work on some aspect of this issue.

You’re happy working remotely.  You prefer structuring your own work days and being alone to focus on a project.  You’ve figured out the work-life balance that’s right for you, and your social life is independent of the workplace.

You’re upbeat and consistently exude positive energy.  You think independently, take responsibility for the overall success of the organization, and have the maturity to speak your mind in a constructive way.  You communicate clearly in English.

You’re extraordinarily disciplined with time management.  You comfortably prioritize competing projects, making obvious, substantial progress on the most important goals each working day.  You pace yourself reasonably to avoid burnout.

You’re excited about pioneering something that’s never before been done.  You’re comfortable with ambiguity and lots of unknowns.  You understand that innovation requires constant experimentation and change.  You expect to modify and replace much of what you build as our lending model evolves.

If you aren’t an expert at our technology stack already, you can become one quickly.  You have extensive experience with refactoring substantial codebases and applying unit testing.  You’re comfortable with being the most expert engineer on the team and taking responsibility for the quality of our codebase.

You’re a fast, independent learner. You have a network of people and resources you can tap for advice.  You keep yourself up to date on the latest technology and security best practices, and take responsibility for applying them as appropriate.

About This Job

This opportunity is open to people of any nationality.  You can live and work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

We may consider both part-time and full-time engagements, depending on your situation.  Hours are flexible; you can work any time of the day or night.  Your productivity should speak for itself, rather than number of hours spent.

We have an open vacation policy: take whatever is reasonable and right for you (we recommend minimum two weeks per year).

We’re committed to fair compensation that is competitive with comparable nonprofit positions in your location.

Most likely, we’ll start with a trial period of one to three months.  If the fit is right for everyone, we’ll move to a long-term relationship.

How To Apply

Send an email with your resume to julia@zidisha.org.  Answer these questions:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • How are you spending your time today?  Describe what you personally are building, either for a larger organization or your own project(s).
  • Describe any previous experience working with a team remotely.
  • Include a link to your GitHub page and a sample of code you’ve written.
  • Out of all the worthwhile things you could do with your time, why do you want to invest it in Zidisha?
  • If you had just five years left to live, how would you spend your time?

Zinc uses Giving Assistant to raise $92K for third-world entrepreneurs

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We’re incredibly excited to announce a $92,111 donation from Zinc, via the charitable shopping platform Giving Assistant.

Zinc provides a single API for operations at retailers across the internet. Its users can get product details, prices, make a purchase, or post a listing with a single POST to Zinc’s API. The API supports Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and more.

100% of Zinc’s donation will go to fund microloans for Zidisha entrepreneurs in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Zidisha is a direct online microlending platform that allows low-income young adults in developing countries to raise zero-interest loans for education and self employment.  Zidisha loan fund donations typically finance more than triple their initial value per year in loan projects, as repayments are continually recycled into new loans.

Zinc’s is the first donation loan fund contributed by a company.  Zidisha has previously received donation loan funds from individual philanthropists like Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail), Yun-Fang Juan (Facebook ads creator), and Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist and craigconnects).

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“Our software for Amazon and eBay sellers enables hundreds of enterprising individuals to work for themselves around the globe,” said Zinc cofounder Doug Feigelson. “We are excited to create even more opportunities for enterprising individuals through contribution to Zidisha.”

Giving Assistant saves shoppers money with cash back while enabling effortless donations for charities like Zidisha.  Use this link to sign up and Giving Assistant will give you free cash back while you shop, while making a donation to Zidisha with every purchase!  https://givingassistant.org/np#Zidisha

Celebrating 2015

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In 2015 we continued our five-year streak of 200% annual growth.  But our passion for life-changing person-to-person connections hasn’t changed since day one.  Here are some of our favorite milestones – and stories – from the past year:

 

$100 uploaded in January funded an average of $254 worth of loans by the end of the year.

Thanks to recycling of repayments into new loans, the average investment into a Zidisha lending account finances over 2.5 times its value in loans per year.  Talk about high-impact philanthropy!

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Wairimu was one of the few young ladies from rural Kenya to be accepted into law school. $100 in seed funding from Zidisha lenders helped her start a maize selling business to pay for her tuition – and ultimately realize her dream of getting a law degree.  Read her story here.

 

A record 5,156 lenders made loans in 2015.

5,156 people lent their own funds to Zidisha entrepreneurs during the year.

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Edward spent his youth in an orphanage in Ghana, reading American business books and dreaming of becoming a social entrepreneur. Today, he’s teamed up with Zidisha lenders to open a much-needed pharmacy in his isolated community.  Read his story here.

 

They came from 155 countries.

The top 10:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Germany
  4. Canada
  5. Norway
  6. Australia
  7. India
  8. Netherlands
  9. Singapore
  10. Sweden

 

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Violet hasn’t had many lucky breaks in her life. As a young child she worked as a hired hand alongside her mother to put food on the table. By age fifteen she was on her own in the city, sleeping in people’s kitchens and scrubbing clothes for a living. When Zidisha lenders finally gave Violet the chance to invest in her ideas, she turned $50 for vegetable seeds into a windfall profit. And when complications arose during the delivery of her baby, Violet’s new earning power gave her access to life-saving medical care.  Read her story here.

 

They lent over $2 million – up from $1 million in 2014.

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Mardiana was determined to become the first producer of mushrooms in her community – but she lacked the money to leave her home island of Sulawesi, Indonesia for agricultural training. So she used the internet to learn the art of mushroom farming, then experimented to adapt it to Sulawesi’s unique climate. Today dozens of small farmers in Sulawesi are using the mushroom farming techniqus she pioneered.  Read her story here.

 

Our lenders and borrowers posted 76,194 comments.

Borrower progress reports, lender notes of encouragement, sharing of family photos and favorite recipes… 2015 was a record year for cross-border dialogue.

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It took Rebecca 2 years of saving to buy her first $135 camera. Now Zidisha lenders are turbo-charging her efforts to build a videography studio.  Read her story here.

 

Together we funded 13,575 loan projects around the world.

More than double the number of loans raised in 2014!

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Elizabeth wasn’t satisfied with the service jobs traditionally available to women in Kenya. So she launched her own business retailing mobile phones. Though demand was strong, banks wouldn’t give Elizabeth a loan for inventory. Zidisha lenders filled the gap.  Read her story here.

 

2015 was our best year ever.  Help us make 2016 even better!  Make a loan today.