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.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Omidyar Network’s annual executive forum in Redwood City, CA. It’s an event designed to bring all of the Omidyar Network’s grantees and investments together under one roof for 3 days of brainstorming, inspiration, and learning. This year the vast majority of Omidyar’s 100+ companies had at least one representative present, some having traveled from as far as Zambia.
The network’s areas of investment are concentrated in two main areas: Access to Capital (focusing on microfinance, property rights & entrepreneurship) and Media, Markets & Transparency (focusing on technology and government/corruption).
Determining which of the world’s problems can be solved with profit generating entrepreneurial ideas and which are more suited for traditional non-profits is a difficult decision. It’s one that Omidyar grapples with every day. I sat down with Matt Bannick, Managing Partner for Omidyar Network to look for some perspective: