“…anybody in the world can invest in the life of a deserving entrepreneur…”.
This quote belongs to kiva.org, third place winner of the “membersproject“. That’s the “American Express” project, offering an initial investment of up to $1.5 million, in a world changing project, chosen by visitors’ votes. My favorite was this 3rd place. The idea is so simple and so beautiful it simply brought up a smile.
Entrepreneurship occupies me a lot so I visited kiva.org web site. When I looked at the entrepreneurship categories I couldn’t find any mention of hi-tech. But then, there is also no mention of Israel… The rate of entrepreneurships per capita in Israel is extremely high. We look at entrepreneurs differently here. But it’s not like all we have here are hi-tech entrepreneurs. We also have the grocery shops, the farmers, craftsmanship and more. But hi-tech entrepreneurship occupies so much interest, offers so many jobs and rolls so much money, that it tends to over-shadow all other entrepreneurships.
Kiva.org is not interested in hi-tech entrepreneurships. There are plenty of angels, funds and organizations that are more than willing to invest in hi-tech. The idea of kiva.org is to offer struggling entrepreneurs, mostly from developing countries, who want to establish or expand their businesses, a loan to help them achieve their goal. In some cases “struggling” is an understatement and the loan could well turn into a donation that may help a family survive a few more weeks or months. The cleverness of their idea is that the loans, or donations, are small sums, made by private people, who want to make a difference. The risk is 25$ per lender, per loan. If the business does succeed, the loan can become profitable for the lender. Kiva promises to check the proposed businesses and also to offer training or mentoring to the entrepreneurs.
This idea is really exciting and I can understand their focus. But if we are talking about private people making a change with small sums, there are several more deserving territories of investments. Bear in mind that entrepreneurs, where ever they are, whatever the entrepreneurship, are struggling. Take a look at the dictionary definition: “the owner of a business who attempts to make money by risk and initiative”. Stress “risk”.
The first territory I would embark on is women entrepreneurship.
I don’t want to seem that chauvinist. In an ideal world there shouldn’t be a female category. I don’t particularly enjoy women-only events, for example. I find them too limiting. But then again, this is not an ideal world, and women do deserve the special attention and unique opportunities.
Just recently I heard about the beautiful TechAviv program, from the founder, Yaron Samid. The plan offers fresh Israeli hi-tech entrepreneurs the chance to learn from the veterans and get a substantial support. The plan requires, however, that you leave Israel, your home, friends and family, and travel to the US for several months. Interesting idea. Certainly not for mothers or married women. Women, as a complete gender, are underestimated as entrepreneurs. That’s in spite of the fact that they are not less inventive or capable of men and excel at multi tasking and passion. To be fair, I must make a distinction between married or mothers and unmarried, non mothers. The latter, being free from family obligations, are more flexible. However, comparing a single woman entrepreneur and a single man entrepreneur, at the same age, nobody can claim they are looked at with the same respect, trust or appreciation.
So I found myself looking for women entrepreneurs at kiva.org. Most of the projects I have seen seem strange to me, an Israeli entrepreneur, especially as I was looking for women entrepreneurship. One example is an entrepreneurship of a woman who is asking for a loan so she could buy scraps for her husband’s scrap yard. Another entrepreneur was looking for a loan to finance her kids’ school fee and the building of her house. Great idea, not exactly a business, though. If Kiva.org really intends to make a difference and claim to send mentors and guides to these countries, they should begin by explaining the idea of making a profitable business. The idea of asking for baksheesh, schnorr, scrounge seems clear enough by now.
“Isn’t it?”, I asked Liat Vardi, a woman entrepreneur of women entrepreneurship. Liat has established, some 5 months ago, the f5-Refreshing Women Venture, and its goal is to inspire women, help get professional advice and support, as well as networking. The f5 is a group that meets once a month for lectures and networking. “Kiva, in a way, was an inspiration of mine,” she agreed, and I filled with hope.