Microplace Launches

I got an email from my friend, Karl Wiley, today announcing the launch of Microplace, a website that opens up a marketplace for microfinance to the broadest possible audience.

From his email:

I am so pleased to let all of you know that today we launched MicroPlace – an innovative new website that allows everyday people to make financial investments in the microfinance industry. It gives you the opportunity to have a direct impact on global poverty while earning a financial return!

As many of you are probably aware, last summer I joined up with this new eBay initiative, and have been serving as its Chief Operating Officer. Today is an exciting day for us, as the site is finally live to the world – the result of over a year of hard work and dedication.

I’m writing you all to invite you to check out the site (www.microplace.com), make an investment, and help us spread the word! For those who aren’t familiar with microfinance, it is a powerful, proven tool to alleviate global poverty. It involves making small loans – often as small as $50 – to the working poor in the developing world. They use these loans to start or grow small businesses – to purchase a sewing machine to make clothing, or inventory to start a small shop, for example. Over time, the borrowers use income from their businesses to pay back their loans with interest, and pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

Microfinance started around 30 years ago, with the formation of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh by Dr. Mohammed Yunus – the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the industry has grown dramatically, but demand for microloans still vastly exceeds the funds available in the industry to make loans. Together, we can change that. MicroPlace opens up the ability for all of us to put a modest portion of savings into this incredible, profitable and self-sustaining industry. Roughly half of the world’s population still lives on less than $2 per day of income, so there is lots of work to do.

You can visit MicroPlace and choose from a selection of investments, each of which supports a loan to a specific microfinance lending organization in a developing country. We have 15 listings today, and will be adding more every week. Our minimum investment is only $100, so it’s easy to participate. And while you are earning interest, you know that every one of your invested dollars is going to be lent out to the working poor in the developing world, over and over again. For just a few hundred dollars investment, you can have a direct impact on dozens of peoples lives. Remember, this is not a charitable donation – this is a savings and investment vehicle, but with equal or even greater power than a donation might have.

You can also help us spread the word by forwarding this email, or using our e-card feature on the site (www.microplace.com/ecards). Microfinance is still not well known in the US – and we have great resources on the site that can help educate people about this powerful model. Help us spread the word and take a bite out of global poverty.

Thanks in advance for your support for this exciting initiative. I hope you’ll participate – you’ll feel good about yourself, and the borrowers who benefit from your investment will have the chance to change their lives dramatically!

I am a huge fan of microfinance and of Karl, so it’s great to see this vision come to life. I’ve already signed up on the site and made my first $100 investment.

So congratulations to Karl and the whole Microplace team. Go check out the site now – sign up, and start investing.