Omidyar Network “Priming the Pump” for Cross-Sector Growth

Businesses need a lot more than a good idea to thrive. They need an enabling business eco-system, complete with business-friendly policies, networks of partners and competitors, and access to finance and talent. The Omidyar Network (ON) believes that making a real difference for SGBs requires foundation support for all aspects of that eco-system—an approach it refers to as “priming the pump.”

Financial access is one area where foundations can see ON’s “priming the pump” approach in action. Like many others, ON has made direct investments in a number of small-and-growing businesses that are expanding access to basic financial services for low-income customers and businesses. ON small business beneficiaries include Zoona in South Africa and Paga in Nigeria, both of which offer mobile payment systems to enable small businesses to pay and get paid; Lenddo, which allows customers in the Philippines to use their social media profiles as a credit risk scoring tool; and Cignifi, which uses mobile phone data to analyze a consumer’s financial behavior and provide a risk score. ON is complementing these direct investments by contributing to the financial access eco-system through support of organizations such as: CGAP, which works with policymakers to develop the laws and policies needed to expand safe financial access; the Mobile Money for the Unbanked initiative of Europe’s GSMA (the global association of mobile telecommunications providers); and the Better than Cash Alliance, which advocates for governments to transition to mobile payments. By supporting both the small businesses themselves and the policies and systems they need, ON is priming the pump for cross-sector growth that far exceeds what they might accomplish solely through direct investment in individual SGBs.