Small businesses in the region have a new resource for getting access to loans: a San Francisco-based crowdfunding platform called Kiva Zip.
Kiva Zip is designed to connect small businesses with potential investors through an online platform. Similar to other well-known crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, projects, or businesses in this case, are listed online for investors to browse. Investing is as easy transferring the money on PayPal.
The difference is that investors are offering a loan, rather than a donation, with a set time frame for repayment. Borrowers have up to 24 months to repay, and the loans are zero interest and go up to $5000 for first-time borrowers. There are also no additional fees or credit check requirements.
There is less immediate pay-off for investors than crowdfunding sites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, which offer rewards in exchange for giving. However, the loans made by investors on Kiva Zip do get repaid — not something your average IndieGoGo campaign usually guarantees. Borrowers have a 98 percent repayment rate, according to Kiva Zip.
Kiva Zip is also distinguishing itself by forming special partnerships with cities to fully leverage the power of its platform. Philadelphia is the latest city to jump on board, joining New Orleans, Los Angeles, Detroit and others.
At a series of events held yesterday, Mayor Nutter and Premal Shah, president of Kiva.org (the nonprofit that launched the platform) to announce the launch of Kiva Zip Philadelphia. The initiative is a collaboration between city government, the philanthropic sector as well as a range of community organizations to support the use of Kiva Zip in Philadelphia.
The city is pitching in by hosting a full-time coordinator for the initiative at the Commerce Department as well as actively promoting the platform.
Community organizations are taking a direct role as “trustees,” which support and endorse the small businesses and helping them pick up the social capital they need to attract investors. Without a rigorous financial assessment of the businesses, trustees play a key role in vetting them and making sure there is some standard of quality among the businesses using the platform.
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As for the philanthropic sector, the Zisman Family Foundation and PNC Bank will be matching loans dollar for dollar. The Barra Foundation and The Philadelphia Foundation are helping fund the overall initiative.
There are currently 10 businesses seeking loans on the site, many of which are well on their way to meeting their goals (full list here). For more information, check out the Kiva Zip Philadelphia page.
Photo via Flickr user Simon Cunningham
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