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Social Capitalists: Unitus

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Unitus

Geoff Davis, president and CEO
Redmond, Washington
unitus.com
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Our Mission

Unitus is a worldwide leader at scaling innovative solutions to global poverty. We accelerate access to life-changing financial services for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid -- the 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day.

Since the 1970s, microfinance has proven itself a powerful poverty alleviation tool. By leveraging microfinance loans averaging between $50-$150 and other financial services, such as savings products and insurance, micro-entrepreneurs are able to start or expand their own small businesses, create a sustainable source of income, and begin to lift their families out of poverty.

In reality, microfinance is one of the only development tools with the potential to be financially self-sustaining. However, even after nearly 30 years of industry effort, some 80 percent of the working poor (approximately 400 million families) are still without access to microfinance services. At current growth rates, this vast gap will not be closed for decades.

We started Unitus in 2001 because the microfinance industry was still so far from reaching its potential. Lack of capital, limited technology, narrow product offerings, human resources challenges, and poor operational infrastructure all constrained the growth of the industry. We set out to change the landscape and remove these growth constraints so that microfinance institutions (MFIs) can do more of what they do best -- provide life-changing financial services to the world's working poor, and provide hope and opportunity for a brighter future for millions.

Our Strategy

Unitus helps the microfinance industry scale to reach more of the world's working poor.

Unitus:

  • Partners with the highest-potential MFIs in the world that share our vision of rapid growth.
  • Recruits leading finance and consulting professionals from the for-profit world to combine best practices from the venture capital, strategy consulting, and investment banking industries to help guide our partners' growth and business development.
  • Provides high-impact financing, consulting, and technology tools to "supersize" our MFI partners so they reach at least 10 times their current number of clients.
  • Demonstrates that MFIs are not charities, but businesses which serve the poor, proving a sustainable and scalable model for microfinance.
  • Encourages product development such as health insurance, school loans, mortgages, savings products, and more.

As of October 2007, our 16 microfinance partners empower over 2.4 million micro-entrepreneurs throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. To these poor women and their families, microfinance means the opportunity for a successful small business and more -- better health care and housing, more nutritious food, and perhaps most importantly, an education for their children.

Our Goals

Unitus has ambitious goals for our organization and for our partners. We aim to help our partners reach 15 million poor families by 2010. We will achieve this objective by accelerating the growth of our current MFI partners and by selecting and delivering high-impact capital and advisory services to even more high-potential partners.

Unitus is based in Redmond, Washington, with an office in Bangalore, India. We rely on innovative financial instruments and the financial resources of like-minded individuals and foundations to fulfill our mission.