Last year, Kiva.org, one of the pioneers in micro-lending to international entrepreneurs, opened up its service to needy U.S. entrepreneurs, which caused some controversy. Since then, Kiva has facilitated more than $1 million in loans to U.S. small businesses. The new market has steadily gained its supporters, and today Kiva is launching a new partnership with Visa, that will help Kiva deliver new grants to small business owners in the U.S. Under this partnership, Visa will donate $1 million to Kiva to help with operations and the deployment of these micro-loans.
Kiva, which just celebrated its five year anniversary is a peer-to-peer lending site that began as a way to facilitate micropayment loans between citizen lenders and extremely low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries, Through Kiva’s platform, anyone can loan $25 or more to support an entrepreneur and the specific progress of the loan can be tracked from initial funding to repayment. Upon receiving repayment, lenders can withdraw their funds from Kiva or lend again to another entrepreneur, thereby continuing the lending cycle.
Initiatives within the new Visa partnership include efforts to drive awareness and understanding of microfinance for small businesses, building additional features within Kiva’s microlending platform to increase capacity to support U.S. small businesses and a joint study to address gaps in research in the marketplace of microfinance in the U.S.
The announcement also coincides with Kivas expansion in the Gulf Coast through the addition of ACCIÓN Texas-Louisiana, the largest microfinance institution in the country, to the Kiva Field Partners network.
Kiva has been growing like a weed since its launch in 2008. Currently, over 477,000 people have loaned more than $170 million to 408,000 entrepreneurs in 53 countries via Kiva. Kiva’s repayment rate thus far (for entrepreneurs) is 98 percent and the startup is raising $1 million every 5 days for small businesses. And the non-profit just added student loans to the mix. And Kiva CEO Premal Shah predicts that the organization will raise $1 billion in microloans by 2015.