Kiva kicks off U.S. expansion with Detroit lending arm

Kiva.org, a web-based microloan service for budding entrepreneurs, plans to make it services available across the U.S. this year, and the people behind this expansion thought the best place to start is Detroit.

"What I see in Detroit is an engages community that has a long history of helping each other out," says Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva.org.

Kiva.org, based in San Francisco, is personal micro-lending website that empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur as way of alleviating poverty through small business development. It got its start in 2005 by making small amounts of financing available here in the U.S. available to people in developing countries. Six year later more than 590,000 people have loaned more than $219 million to 567,000 entrepreneurs in 60 countries.

Kiva.org is now working to make those resources available throughout the U.S. with its Kiva City campaign. Kiva Detroit is the first phase of that initiative. Kiva.org will provide the web portal for entrepreneurs and lenders to meet. ACCION USA, a micro-finance institution, underwrites the loans. The Knight Foundation is providing $250,000 in matching funds for the loans and the Michigan Corps, a network of Michiganders both local and ex-patriot focused on helping the state, is helping identify Detroit-based entrepreneurs and lenders to match together. The microloans can be for as little as $25 and as big as a few thousand dollars.

"We all think we're potential leaders here," says Rishi Jaitly, co-founder of the Michigan Corps. "Leaders who can take that step forward with the proper platform and help."

Kiva Detroit has already made five loans totaling $110,000 to five aspiring entrepreneurs. Those small businesses include a newspaper focused on helping Detroit's homeless (Thrive Detroit Street Newspaper), a vegan breakfast café (Detroit Brunch), an organic fashion line (Homeslice Clothing), a bike shop (Brightmoor Bikes) and a personal assistant/concierge business.

For information about participating in Kiva Detroit, click here.

Source: Rishi Jaitly, co-founder of the Michigan Corps and Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva.org
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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