Omidyar Network: Conjugating Investment With Philanthropy

Omydiar Network Intelligenthq
Omydiar Network Intelligenthq

This is a Part 5 of a Guide we are creating in the IntelligentHQ Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations. In these series of articles we will be highlighting the top international Foundations focused in social business and social entrepreneuship.

Omidyar Network

Looking for funding to get a philanthropic venture off the ground? The Omidyar Network may be a good place to start. The Omidyar Network is an investment firm with a difference. It focuses specifically on making investments that are philanthropic. It seeks to provide opportunity for people to enhance their lives through investment in initiatives that drive economic and social change.

The Omidyar Network was founded by Pierre Omidyar. He was also the founder of eBay, and this experience had an impact on Pierre’s development of the Omidyar Network. The organisation is of the firm belief that market forces have the ability to drive positive social change, and for this reason the organisation invests in both for-profit businesses and non-profit organisations. Both of these have the power to drive the change that is hoped for, according to the Omidyar Network. The Omidyar Network boasts big figures. Indeed since its inception it has committed $709 million in total. It has provided $325 million for for-profit investments since inception, and $384 million in non profit grants.

The Omidyar Network has its own take on philanthropy. It argues that:

 “In its truest sense, philanthropy is about improving the lives of others, independent of the mechanism”.

For these reasons it believes that philanthropy is more than just a kind of funding. The organisation has a positive approach towards humanity and it starts “from the premise that people are basically good”. This means that the platform has been created to make sure that everyone has access to information and opportunities. The Omidyar Network invests in entrepreneurs that have the drive and commitment to social good in the same way that the organisation itself does. There are five areas of focus for the organisation that are being targeted and these are:

  • Consumer Internet and Mobile
  • Education
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Government Transparency
  • Property Rights.

These areas have been selected as targets as the Omidyar Network believes that they are critical to the development of prosperous, stable and open societies. Initiatives followed are those that offer access, connection and ownership.

Quote by Pierre Omydiar
Quote by Pierre Omydiar

Consumer Internet and Mobile

Consumer Internet and Mobile is an area that is close to the Omidyar Network’s heart. The organisation believes that innovations in this area have the ability to “shrink geographic boundaries and expand people’s horizons”. They allow people to exchange information in a trustworthy manner. The organisation has strong ties to Silicon Valley which helps it to be able to invest and leverage these types of innovations, hence its strong support in this field. In the area of education, the organisation supports initiatives that seek to help people to develop and offer a better future for themselves and their families. The organisation particularly supports opportunities to deliver high quality affordable schooling, pre-primary education and vocational training to areas where access and opportunities have traditionally been scarce. Meanwhile, financial exclusion is considered to be a massive problem worldwide, with the Omidyar Network quoting that 2.5 billion people do not have access to basic financial services. Here the organisation works not just in developing countries to help those in extreme poverty, but also in the US market where people “live paycheck to paycheck” and are thus underserved in the USA. With government transparency the organisation seeks to provide people with the information and tools that they need to make sure that their best interests are represented and also to ensure that citizens are able to hold their leaders to account. This includes defining best practise and supporting independent journalism that reports on government actions. Finally in the area of property rights the organisation seeks to help individuals, groups, businesses and communities to protect their rights to property, given the fact that many people worldwide have weak or no rights in this regard.

The Omidyar Network has invested in countless organisations. In consumer internet and mobile these include the Alliance for Affordable Internet, Change.org, Nation Builder, Meetup and Wikia. In education, some of the organisations supported include the African Leadership Academy, Aspiring Minds, English Helper, Tree House and Teach for India. In financial inclusion, those supported include the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, BRAC, Kiva, LeapFrog Investments and MFX Solutions. Government transparency beneficiaries include the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics, the Code for America, Fundar and Global Voices. Finally, with regard to property rights, Landesa, MicroBuild and Red Tierras have all been supported, among many others.

Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 1- Skoll Foundation
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 2 – Ashoka Foundation
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 3  – Schwab Foundation
Intelligenthq Series on Social Entrepreneurship Foundations Part 4 – UnLtd