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Microfinance on the CS Monitor’s Ethical Investing Show

Posted on November 15, 2006
Filed Under Microfinance | Leave a Comment

CS MonitorLaurent Belsie of the Christian Science Monitor produces a monthly show called Ethical Investing which I was recently made aware of. The show is available online and usually runs about 20 minutes. The most recent show took a look at microfinance as a viable investment opportunity which is why it popped up on my radar. The guests for the microfinance show were Scott Budde (managing director of social and community investing at TIAA-CREF) and Roy Jacobowitz (senior vice president of Accion International).

Laurent and his guests do a great job with the following:

One of the other key things about microfinance that was lightly touched on towards the end of the show was the expansion of microfinance from microcredit to microinsurance and other micro financial services. Thirty years into microfinance and a Nobel Peace Prize later we know microcredit works. It is now time to bring other financial services to the poor along with microcredit. Financial services should be considered a basic human right and we are getting closer every day to everyone having access to them.

In closing the group touches on the movement of microfinance from its non-profit/NGO roots to an emerging financial market. As long time readers know I am very much looking forward to seeing this change progress. As microfinance is treated more and more as a viable investment vehicle and a place where for-profit ventures can flourish more money will flow in, interest rates will continue to drop, innovation will thrive and more people will be able to help themselves out of poverty. This is, without a doubt, a very exciting time for microfinance.

Watch the Video - Read a Brief Synopsis

Grameen Foundation Launches Mifos

Posted on November 14, 2006
Filed Under Microfinance | 1 Comment

Grameen FoundationThe Grameen Foundation officially launched the Mifos initiative yesterday in Halifax, Canada at the Global Microcredit Summit. Mifos is an open source information management platform that aims to address the considerable technology challenges that face microfinance institutions. One of the major hurdles to sustainable growth in microfinance is the lack of access to affordable data management technology that can scale and grow with each MFI so Mifos comes as very welcome news. Here is a segment from the official press release that sums up the issue and how Mifos will help.

A 2004 survey by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor found that 46 percent of microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world were still using spreadsheets or manual systems to manage their portfolio and client information, severely hindering their efficiency and capacity to scale into the hundreds of thousands. With Mifos, a single technology “backbone” that all microfinance institutions can access and adapt is now available. Its innovative open source model allows microfinance institutions to engage local IT specialists to customize Mifos and to provide ongoing support at local, affordable rates rather than being dependent on one vendor that may sit on the other side of the world.

Many organizations and people have helped the Grameen Foundation with Mifos. The Omidyar Network provided a $1.5mm grant, Cisco Systems was an early supporter and the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs has given 1300 hours of time to this effort. It is great to see so many world class organizations and top notch people pitching in to help further microfinance sustainability.

I am very excited to see how Mifos will help MFIs grow especially because it combines two of my passions: technology and microfinance. The open source nature of Mifos should also prove very engaging as interested people can hop in and work on the code base to make it stronger and more robust. Microfinance and Mifos are truly situations where many hands have made light work so let’s all keep pitching in and evangelizing what microfinance can do.

If you’re a Java developer please click here to get acquainted with Mifos.

First Round is Hiring

Posted on November 14, 2006
Filed Under VC | 1 Comment

First Round CapitalJosh Kopelman, founder of one of my favorite companies of all time -, is looking to hire a Venture Analyst for his VC firm First Round Capital. This is a pretty incredible opportunity to learn from Josh and his team who have formed quite a portfolio. If you want to dive into the Web 2.0 space and are living on, or willing to move to, the west coast I would definitely consider applying. More info is available here.

Deal Flow: Week Ending November 13, 2006

Posted on November 13, 2006
Filed Under Deal Flow: Weekly Wrap-Ups | 1 Comment

Web 2.0 Launchpad:
- 3B
- Adify
- Instructables
- In the Chair
- oDesk
- Omnidrive
- Sphere
- stikkit
- Venyo
- TimeBridge
- Turn
- Klostu

- Image Recognition Search
- HitTail

- BlackArrow raises $14.75mm for non-skippable ads
- Brightcove seeking $55mm 3rd round
- Pluck raises $7mm
- SodaHead gets $4.25mm for adult social networking
- Mascoma takes on $30mm for possible gasoline alternative
- AboutUs, Inc. takes on $1mm for business wikis

- AOL acquires Relegence
- Zhongsou to acquire
- acquires FAQFarm for $2mm
- Motorola acquires push e-mail firm Good Technology

New Funds:
- Valhalla Partners raises $260mm 2nd fund
- Benchmark Europe raises $500mm fund three

Other Stuff:
- VC Dilution Calculator

Gadget O’ the Week:
- Water-powered Battery

VC Dilution Calculator

Posted on November 11, 2006
Filed Under VC | Leave a Comment

CalculatorMatt Marshall over at VentureBeat posted about a really interesting tool created by Dave Lavinsky the other day. The tool is a simple calculator that shows entrepreneurs what their dilution will look like after their seed and subsequent funding rounds.

The seed round is calculated based on Charles River Ventures’ new QuickStart formula and the calculator can calculate dilution up to the 5th round of funding. The calculator displays line items for other investors (by round), the management team and CRV since the seed round is based on CRV’s new initiative.

This calculator is a great tool for any entrepreneur wondering about how much ownership they’ll lose for a certain dollar amount. I urge you all to give it a try just to see how venture rounds affect ownership.

Photo Credit: Christopher Henden on Flickr

Offertrax: Cutting Spam and Prices

Posted on November 10, 2006
Filed Under Technology, Business, Web, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment

OffertraxI met Ron and Ben of Offertrax a couple of months ago when I was back in Boston and they gave me a demo of their offering which was still in the very early stages. I was intrigued immediately and now that the product is officially in public beta I wanted to write a bit about it.

The Offertrax product allows merchants and customers to interact in a more meaningful way during a product search via feeds. With Offertrax merchants can offer a feed based tracking solution to customers and customers can use this medium, which is also naturally spam free, to track a number of different items and receive notice of price changes, etc. All of this is hosted by Offertrax so there is nothing for the merchant or customer to install (unless you choose to install their browser tool bar).

According to Ron and Ben, only 3% of site visitors convert to a sale so allowing the other 97% to stay in touch in an easy manner would theoretically drive some of them back to the site and convert. Here is the basic idea in graphical format:

Without Offertrax the vast majority of your site visitors won’t convert and they will be lost.

With Offertrax potential customers will be offered an easy and anonymous way to track the products they are interested in resulting in more conversions.

The beautiful thing about the Offertrax system is that it is beneficial customers as well as merchants. Customers will enjoy the Offertrax method of tracking because it is anonymous and will not result in more spam. Some key features include:

Here is how the interaction looks for the customers point of view:

Offertrax has some interesting stuff going on so I urge you to check them out. Why not cut down on your spam and the price of things you are looking to buy? It seems like a no brainer.

Announcing the FeedBurner Publisher Tips Blog

Posted on November 9, 2006
Filed Under FeedBurner | Leave a Comment

In our continued effort to make sure all of the FeedBurner publishers out there are getting the most out of our service we have put together a blog that will house some wicked awesome publisher tips (and thanks to our design staff the site looks great - thanks guys!). Rick, Jake and I plan to keep this continually updated with tutorials, new services, reminders and creative ways to use our services to do things you never thought possible (well, maybe you thought they were possible and you just never attempted to make them happen - either way). If you are a publisher using FeedBurner this blog is a must subscribe. Click here to add it to your favorite reader and you’ll be sure to have the best feed on the block!

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