Evolving Kiva's Impact: Introduction of Kiva Labs and Kiva Zip
Kiva.org was a website through which individuals could connect with opportunities to alleviate poverty via small-scale lending. Founded in 2005, the platform had grown impressively and had facilitated over $500m in loans by 2014. The scale Kiva had achieved was facilitated by its partnerships with microfinance institutions, which managed all of the lending operations for loans made by visitors to the Kiva site. Kiva’s team had diverse views of impact, but in its early days Kiva measured impact based primarily on the volume of loans that were made through the platform.
A combination of external and internal factors led Kiva’s management to explore whether there were other products they could launch which would increase the social impact of the platform. Starting in 2011, two small entrepreneurial teams in the organization were formed to test new models, both of which would operate without microfinance intermediaries. Kiva Labs was set up to create and approve new loan products in partnership with social enterprises and other entities. Kiva Zip was created to experiment with direct lending to individuals via the platform.
Labs and Zip created excitement among funders, lenders, and within the team, and Kiva’s leadership believed that they had the potential to transform the organization and outpace the impact of the MFI channel. Nonetheless, there were real strategic and operational risks involved, along with questions about the financial sustainability of the new products.