The Internet has transformed the way we work, live and socialize. It has democratized everything, it has moved the control from the few to the many. Today if you want to raise funds you can bypass the traditional funders and go directly to the masses through a number of crowdfunding platforms that are available and raise money on your terms. If you want to write a book, you can publish it yourself on Amazon and bypass the publishers completely, keeping most of your profits to yourself. If you want to sell your craft or your goods you can do it from the comfort of your house by opening a store on Etsy and build your business on your own terms.
In this hyper-connected tech savvy world where we believe anyone with Internet access can do anything its comes as a surprise to learn that there is still a section of society that are underserved by the web.
Many young entrepreneurs from urban slums and villages are on the Internet however it is still hard for them to leverage platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise funds. Other options like microlending websites such as Kiva require them to go through a middle-man to create their profile and setup their ask. Zidisha wants to change all this by building a platform where they can represent themselves and raise money for their business at a fair price.
Zidisha is the world’s first crowdfunding platform for low-income entrepreneurs. Young entrepreneurs from the slums and villages of Africa and Asia who use the web can log in to Zidisha to directly raise loans from people anywhere in the world. By connecting directly with lenders, these entrepreneurs are able to bypass middlemen and obtain loans at a much lower interest rate. On Zidisha’s platform the lender sets the interest rate which can range anywhere from 0 to 5%, which is incredibly low as compared to the industry average interest rate of 40% and upwards. The platform works just like any other funding platform, with entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas and posting updates and reports about the progress. The lenders can choose to back the entrepreneur for the full amount or just a part. As of date, Zidisha has raised over two million dollars in loans for its 5000+ entrepreneurs.
People are surprised when we say Zidisha entrepreneurs are using the web themselves to pitch their ideas. Nobody had the audacity to start a direct peer to peer lending program aimed at the urban poor. No one would attempt to when we first started in 2009 – Julia Kurnia, Founder of Zidisha
Zidisha is doing something that nobody else has done before and something that has the potential to change the world. For its bold idea and innovation, Zidisha was the second ever nonprofit to make it into Y Combinator, the world’s most prestigious and highly competitive tech startup incubator. Zidisha also received backing from the Gmail Founder, Paul Buchheit for its revolutionary idea.
Julia Kurnia, Founder of Zidisha came up with the idea when she was working in Africa, raising capital over the internet to provide small loans to low-income entrepreneurs. While she was there she saw something new happening – internet was making inroads in Africa and ordinary people were getting online. Cheap cyber cafes appeared everywhere and young people from the slums were getting extremely comfortable with using the internet. They were using Facebook, Yahoo and no longer needed middlemen to interact on their behalf. Julia started Zidisha to serve this new demographic – poor but connected.
So how does Zidisha ensure that the people seeking the loans would not default on the payments or simply run away with the money? Zidisha is very careful about letting borrowers onto the platform. Membership to Zidisha is invite only and only established borrowers with good payment history (95% on time repayment rate) have the privilege to invite others. It’s a reputation based lending system and people who have earned the right to invite others are very careful about who they let in. They are extremely careful about guarding their privilege. Besides Zidisha does some preliminary check of new borrowers at the time of application. The new members are required to verify their online identity by linking an actively used personal Facebook account to their Zidisha account. Zidisha has no staff on the ground in the countries they are operating, the program is completely delivered by its members and volunteers wherever they are available.
In countries where we are well-known like Kenya and Senegal people are lining up around the block to get Zidisha loans – Julia Kurnia
Soni Baidowi a 26 year old entrepreneur from a remote village in East Java, Indonesia googled and found Zidisha. He was looking to raise a cheap loan or a grant to expand his tuition business. He successfully raised a loan of $100 on Zidisha with which he was able to add more furniture to meet the high demand for his tuition classes.
It’s amazing to see the new possibilities the Internet is unlocking for this new demographic, which is only going to grow bigger in size as Google and Mark Zuckerberg led initiatives like Internet.org connect more people to the internet.
Zidisha is tackling a tough problem is a new space, as one of the early players its inventing and discovering ways of serving the connected poor over the Internet. If you want to do your bit to help drive this change make a loan on zidisha.org