An online community where people can lend money directly to other people in a safe and secure way. It is an exciting and unique lending service for Canadians that will revolutionize the way lending works in Canada.
I asked Colin about his new venture and here’s what he told me:
I look at the Canadian Banks’ involvement in the US Sub Prime mortgage market, and the fact that over $2Bn has been lost there by Canadian Banks. That’s an enormous loss. There is a need for greater transparency for people seeking a return on their money, and what they are investing in. Social lending not only eliminates those issues, but provides a better return for borrowers, and lenders.
Colin deserves a lot of credit for his outstanding blogging on the Sub Prime and ABCP situation, while many others have skirted around the issue or moved on. I have learned a lot from reading Colin’s editorials on this situation, and have a lot of faith in his opinions and his ability to create alternatives to the lending and borrowing options Canadians have today.
According to Colin’s blog “2007 was a long year, as we raised our funding, and organised the management team (of which he is Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder).” They’re aiming for a Beta launch in early 2008, which means those of us north of the border can finally kick the tires on the services that several companies around the world have started, including Zopa, Prosper and Lending Club.
CommunityLend’s website, very recently updated with information (for months now it’s been a teaser with no real information) says that:
The unsecured consumer loan marketplace in Canada exceeds $100 Billion in volume every year and generates interest payments on those loans exceeding $15 Billion annually… Today in Canada, this very profitable industry is also a very closed industry, with only a handful of major companies involved… CommunityLend intends to democratize lending in Canada by opening up this billion dollar industry to other Lenders interested in participating. Share the wealth, we like to say!
They’re also obviously going to have a big community component around people’s borrowing goals. Knowing Colin, they’re going to tackle all of this very, very smartly. I can’t wait to try it out and see how it works.
I’m very excited about social personal finance and think it may well change the way people exchange money when they just need to borrow or invest a small to medium amount and don’t want to bother with a bank or credit union.
But tonight my aunt showed me Kiva.org, and I got to admit I was a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what it was. It’s an amazing concept where anyone can make microloans to people in the developing world who need small amounts of money to start an enterprise. According to their website:
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on Kiva.org, you can “sponsor a business” and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.
You can cash out when you’re repaid or reinvest it into a new opportunity. I think this is genius. Did everyone else know about this and somehow I’m the last to the party? Hard to be shown up by my aunt after all…
I started tonight by investing $25. Kiva.org asks you for a 10% addition as a donation to keep them running. That’s optional. You can pay by PayPal or credit card. When you’re done you can easily send the info about the cause you donated to to your email list to spread the word. Nicely done.
I have been asked many times about the ROI of community projects like ChangeEverything.ca. Up until last month I had an answer, but it wasn’t very good, and I can’t even remember what it was any more. Just some mumbling about how we can’t measure ROI on everything.
At Net.Finance I heard Michael Seaton speak and he asked the audience, “What’s the ROI on a round of golf or lunch with a client?” I loved it. If a company is interested in being innovative, some money has to go towards projects where the ROI cannot be expressed ahead of time. You have to try it and see if it works. Certainly I wouldn’t recommend this for more than, say, 10% of your marketing or development budget. But if you want to innovate you have to have a little fun money to play with for experimentation purposes (rumour has it that Google developers can spend 10% of their time on side projects, that can end up creating important innovations).
And then, via Colin I came across this post by Will Pate: Online Community Success and ROI. He has found metrics and stats from a variety of sources indicating the benefits that community features will give to a website’s ROI. Nicely done.
I discovered on Colin’s Blog that there will be a BarCamp specifically focused on the FI sector in Seattle. The time and exact location of BarCampBankSeattle is yet to be determined, but it sounds great. I hope to be there!
His theory, and I hope I do it justice is that web design as we’ve been dealing with it is a bit of a boondoggle, avoiding the key element of what the customer wants. And it goes back to our product design as well. A huge idea really, and I gotta admit, I’m still fully wrapping my head around it.