The Silicon Valley and Microfinance?

April Newman, SVMN

April Newman, SVMN

What’s the connection between Northern California and microfinance? I interviewed April Newman, Interim Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Microfinance Network, to find out.

Q: What does Silicon Valley have to do with microfinance?

The Bay Area and Silicon Valley have the technology, expertise, and venture capital of few other places in the world. Social entrepreneurship is quite vibrant in the Bay Area as well. If you think about MicroPlace or Kiva, they were both born here and that doesn’t seem to be a coincidence because they bring together elements of investing, technology, social entrepreneurship and microfinance.

Q: How did Silicon Valley Microfinance Network (SVMN) get started?

The idea was to connect the Bay Area’s human resources, investment interests and technology with the growing interest in microfinance, which was particularly high three and a half years ago when we formed. Tracey Turner was one of the co-founders of SVMN, and she also founded MicroPlace around the same time. Dave McClure was another co-founder and he came from the technology side. The microfinance community here needed a place to get together, connect, and share what’s going on.

Q: What are the objectives of SVMN?

Our goal is to mobilize resources into the field of microfinance to increase its impact in reducing poverty. Resources include people – volunteer staff, permanent staff, consultants, and innovation; funds, to increase the amount of investment in microfinance; and technology. Technology is one of the key components of how microfinance will achieve scale in the future. To link those resources, that supply, with the demand within the microfinance field, we have three pillars, or what we call the three “N’s”: kNowledge, Networking and eNgagement.

Q: What SVMN activities do you feel have had the most impact so far?

The major program is our monthly Speaker Series. It’s a set of talks where we bring in world class leaders in microfinance and they speak on some current issue, trend, or challenge in microfinance. These events serve a threefold purpose: 1) to educate people on a current topic; 2) to get them in the same room and same space to discuss and collaborate and think what can they do in their positions to address the topic; and 3) to serve as networking events.

Q: What does the future hold for SVMN?

Our next speaker event will be on August 19th and it features Stephen Goodman. The topic will be the intersection of emerging technologies and emerging economies. These two areas are an exciting breeding ground to watch and direct consciously. You can link to our home page for more information on the event.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

We have over 1,000 members with a broad range of backgrounds and experience. Some have been in microfinance for 20 years and some have just gotten into it. We even have members outside the Bay Area – including internationally – because we have created a microfinance community where people can stay connected; there’s a need for communities like SVMN.

SVMN really is for anyone who’s interested to learn more about the field and hopefully get involved in other ways – for example to volunteer. A lot of people in our membership are transitioning from a different sector into microfinance or looking for a way to use their skill sets in this area. I encourage people to check out our website, http://SVMN.net, and attend our Speaker Series. By coming to our Speaker Events you can start to get to know us and meet some of the community members and see what we’re about.

About Kirsten Weiss

Integrating marketing and strategy to develop profitable, demand-driven institutions.
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  • silicon valley is great because it houses some of the world’s best electronics firm ::

  • i haven’t been on the silicon valley but i would really love to visit that place. i bet that it is a very exciting place to visit ~.-

  • Found you blog by way of yahoo I must say I m amazed with your blogposts!

  • Thanks, Albert!

    There are lots of great bloggers on this site and I’m the least prolific. I haven’t had much to write about lately re: microfinance but hopefully will soon!

    Kirsten