Matt Flannery, a Stanford graduate, was working as a developer at TiVo Inc in 2004 when he started developing Kiva, a platform for retail microfinance investment funds. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Symbolic Systems and with a master’s degree in Analytical Philosophy. He visited multiple countries in East Africa, like Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, to film stories of small businesses initiated by the Village Enterprise Fund. His visit to these countries turned into an inspiration for creating Kiva. He was a Global Social Benefit Incubator entrepreneur in 2006. He is a Skoll awardee and was on the Top 40 under 40 Fortune list in 2009. He was also selected for the No Boundaries Innovation Award by The Economist in 2011. He is co-founder of Kiva, CEO and co-founder of Branch International, an adviser at DFS lab, and has experience of almost two decades as a social entrepreneur altogether.
In 2005, Matt left his job at TiVo to support his microfinance project Kiva. Kiva was a non-profit organization that worked person to person to lend finances to low-income entrepreneurs. It was an online business where applications of loan-seeking candidates were posted on the website, and users in the US, Canada, and Europe would lend money via PayPal to these businesses. The business started by lending money to small businesses like spinach farming, a hot dog stand, and bee-keeping businesses in developing countries. The business expanded from almost no users to about 2.5m borrowers with time. In 10 years, Kiva turned from a test project to a growing online venture with partnerships in around 80 countries. The business has lent over $1 Billion to low-income entrepreneurs all over the world. The company is now creating, on average, 6000 loans every day. Matt stepped down from Kiva as a CEO in 2017 but is still on its Board of Directors. (Flannery) (About | Kiva)
In 2015, Matt started a new venture as a co-founder, Branch International, which he called a branchless bank for African countries. Internet reach has increased, and the masses are using it to make payments and transactions through their mobiles. This inspired Matt to combine Artificial Intelligence and microfinance. Branch International is an android-based commercial application to provide financial services to emerging businesses. The application can be used as a credit card to borrow and pay money for day-to-day business requirements. (Branch International | Home)
Kiva.org started in developing countries where small businessmen struggle to find loans for their startups. Most of these entrepreneurs are unbanked and cannot access financial services like bank loans. The inspiration for Kiva was taken from the success and failure stories of these businesses. Matt was interested in microfinance space businesses and came up with Kiva.org. (Flannery)He worked on the project to make it more transparent and trustworthy for the users. Matt believes in creating a connection between lenders and borrowers to benefit them. The lenders, some of whom might never think to use their money, have an opportunity to keep it in flow by funding these loans and getting repaid. The borrowers, on the other hand, are getting loans instead of donations to maintain the dignity in their work, and they can help other businesses once they grow themselves. It offers loans on flexible terms, which helps small businesses keep up with market fluctuations and unfavorable situations. The farmers can deal with unexpected weather changes, and refugees can get stable in difficult financial situations in developing countries. The bond created through finances can build an inclusive world where anyone can gain the ability and power to improve their living. Entrepreneurship is important in economies for market development, improving the living standards of people, creating working opportunities, and maintaining a balance of wealth and resources.