Microfinance banks generally give small loans to people with no credit scores, but that means "there’s no real data to answer the question, ‘What’s my basis for investing in this person?’ " says Shivani Siroya. She’s the CEO of InVenture, a certified B Corporation with an inventive solution: software that prospective borrowers willingly download onto their Android phones, which monitors and crunches 10,000 indicators of each person’s level of responsibility. For example, are the majority of someone’s calls longer than four minutes? Good: They may have stronger relationships and be a better credit risk. And this is helping Siroya make the right bets. In 2014, the software’s first year, InVenture accepted 50% of applicants, for a total of more than 6,000 loans. Most were between $20 and $100, with no fees and just 5% interest. The repayment rate was 85%, and more than 75% of applicants returned for a repeat loan.
InVenture currently operates in Eastern Africa, India, and South Africa, where 2.5 billion people have no credit score—and where, because many banks won’t help these data-free borrowers, loan sharks have free rein. Siroya observed this during her years working on emerging markets and microfinance at investment banks, the UN, and UNICEF. "I just wanted to solve this problem," she says. And now InVenture goes even further, offering mobile and web tools for individuals to help manage their finances, their businesses, and, eventually, their newfound savings.
This video, produced by TED, features CEO Shivani Siroya and some of her clients talking about InVenture:
[Photos: Dan Monick]