I was fortunate to realize very early in my career that there are "different" companies and there are "difference" companies. I have always strived to get involved with latter, because they are more likely to change the world. When it comes to changing the world, I often think about Louis Armstrong’s famous "What a wonderful world!". If the world is indeed so wonderful, then why change it? It is only, when we look at the world from 36,000 ft and search for the biggest problems. I believe that poverty is big and it needs to be changed. It leads to other problems of tectonic magnitude – illiteracy, congenial epidemics, crime, terrorism, and many more derivatives. I am convinced that one of the simplest ways to change the world is by eradicating poverty from the world.
Many thought leaders have been working towards the mission, including Bono from U2 with his ONE campaign. But, the one that excites me the most is the entrepreneurial approach – through microfinancing. The whole notion of fostering entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty is "WOW". In the simplest terms, microfinancing is to provide small amounts of loans($50-$100) to extremely poor people as seed capital to start a small business in developing countries. The concept was popularized by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen bank in 1976.
Over last three decades, about 3,000 or so micro-finance institutions have been founded and have provided loans to a few thousand people. But, when we look at 700+ million poor people in the world who define the term poverty, the minor impact of these small-mid-sized micro-finance institutions does not scale. Here’s where a truly "difference" organization comes into play – UNITUS. Founded by Mike Murray – a passionate former executive at two other "difference" companies (Apple and Microsoft), Unitus takes the venture capital approach to dramatically increase the impact of micro-financing.
Unitus defines itself as a microfinance-accelerator, and that is what it does. The smart and passionate team members at Unitus apply the strictest due-diligence to select the top performing microfinance institutions in the world and infuse capital as well as thought leadership into these high-performing microfinance institutions (MFI). Unitus’s intervention exponentially increases the MFI’s ability to give loans. Instead of giving loans to a few thousand people, MFIs are now equipped to serve hundreds of thousands of people.
I am passionate about entrepreneurship and leveraging entrepreneurship to eradicate poverty. Yesterday, I got an opportunity to discuss "entrepreneurship vs. poverty" with a group of thought leaders at Microsoft. S. Somasegar recently blogged about the meeting.
Let’s change the world.
Technorati tags: microfinance , unitus , poverty, entrepreneurship