Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm started in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Since 2004, the firm has invested close to $500 million in both non-profit and for profit ventures, all of which have a stated mission to catalyze social, economic, and political change. We’ve written about many of the companies that Omidyar has helped start over the years – Ashoka, Mango, Kiva.org, CouchSurfing, and D.light just to name a few.
For the second time this week, I found myself presented with the “Avon model” of product distribution in Africa. This time, Living Goods‘ founder Chuck Slaughter did the talking. Living Goods mission is “Empowering micro-entrepreneurs to deliver life-saving and life-changing products to the doorsteps of the poor.” In a nutshell, this means they’re basically a wholesaler for goods that are currently hard to get a hold of in developing countries – and which also have the potential for “high impact” in terms of improving people’s lives.
Items such as nutritional supplements, medicines, basic consumer goods, and so called “pro poor” products like cookstoves are among the variety of items Living Goods offers. Interestingly, by being a wholesaler, Living Goods directly creates micro businesses in the form of people who willing to go door to door selling – the so-called “Avon ladies.” Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Living Goods model is almost infinitely scaleable and can be applied to almost any good – thus making life easier for any enterprising company with a live changing product looking for a market.
I sat down with Chuck for a brief interview: