Why I’m Joining Inventure

I’m very pleased to share that I’m joining Inventure today. Inventure is an amazing business currently working in India, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda that provides a free SMS, voice and web-based financial tracking and advice service for micro-entrepreneurs and young adults. You could call it a Quicken or Mint for the rest of the world. The team is whip-smart, laser-focused and incredibly talented.

You could also read this slide as ‘the opportunity’

Inventure then uses this data to prepare credit worthiness scores and licenses the credit reports to banks (both global and domestic) and other financial organizations. There is huge demand for these loan organization to reach the unbanked (as it’s billions of potential customers). Inventure’s mission is to help people with no collateral and no formal financial experience a) prove their worthiness and b) learn how to safely take credit and pay it back to build a crucial positive credit history.

The biggest challenge for businesses that serve the bottom third is getting the last mile out to the villages. By starting with SMS and voice, Inventure was as global as it was local on day one.

Inventure is a certified B-Corp with a fixed mission of pulling people from the bottom of the financial pyramid out of poverty. Inventure started as a non-profit (see below) and maintains the Inventure Foundation which works with academia studying micro-finance’s best impact and social ROI as well measures the social impact of Inventure’s work. (As a quick refresher, B-Corps are exactly like C-Corps, except they have committed to serving a social or environmental cause along with optimizing shareholder value. The B-Corps that win are those that optimize shareholder value because of the cause, not in spite of it. I’ve already written about how the tech and venture industry should think about B-Corps.)

The upside potential for Inventure is amazing. The carriers love having free financial tracking service to offer all their subscribers. Foundations and governments want to back scalable services that pull people out of poverty. Employees relish the chance to use technology to affect positive global change. And developers love the ease of working via SMS and voice-based interfaces ;)

I’ll be starting as a Strategic Advisor working almost full-time. We originally prepared for a C-level position, but the advice I always give is to experience working together before hitching the wagons for the long-term, and my HR advice was for Inventure to do the same.

It was almost a 12 month process to make this big change which I’ve documented. I’ve very grateful for everyone’s help along the way and Chris Sacca for the introduction to Inventure.

Shivani spoke at the Social Capital Markets 2013 Conference. She’s a rock star there.

I also want to take a minute to give the background of Inventure’s founder Shivani Siroya. Shivani and her family came to the US from India when she was fourteen. After college she worked on Wall Street for 2 years than went to Columbia for a Masters in Public Health focused on Finance & Health Economics. That took her to the UN researching small businesses in developing economies and she was dumbstruck to see how few people ever tracked the cash that changed their hands. Frustrated with the UN, Shivani returned to Wall Street, but taught herself Java in the evenings, and coded the first versions of Inventure’s SMS apps. The service was so successful that as a non-profit they started giving loans to users showing reliable cash flow. Repayment rates worked out so well, that Inventure became a for-profit and started licensing credit reports to banks. The company is now up to 17 people with office in the US, India and Kenya

Shivani is front left

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