GlobeFunder, a new entrant into the small “social lending” market, has raised $1.5 million in seed capital.
Unlike competitors Prosper and LendingClub, web-based networks that focus on facilitating small personal loans in the U.S., GlobeFunder’s goal is to tap into nascent international micro-loan market, which it says is potentially $300 billion worldwide. Micro-loans are typically in the hundreds of dollars.
Overall, the social lending market is hot. Last month, Prosper, the market leader, raised $20 million (see coverage here) and the month before that, LendingClub announced its $2 million seed round and launched with the Facebook Platform (our coverage here). The idea with these lending tools is that borrowers get lower interest rates and lenders higher returns than either would get from banks.
Microlending was made famous by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dr. Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank, and involves extending micro-loans to poor entrepreneurs who don’t ordinarily qualify for credit. A recent article in BusinessWeek suggests investors believe opportunities exist in this market and are looking to exploit them.
In October, the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based GlobeFunder will launch a social lending service in the U.S., but will set up a shop in an undisclosed developing country shortly after that. The company won’t reveal much about its strategy. Chief exeutive Brian Mullally says GlobeFunder will build an “investor-centric” social networking platform that will include profiles and blogs in order to help investors make better decisions. However, LendingClub is already integrated with Facebook, and how GlobeFunder intends to outmaneuver LendingClub on that front is not clear.
But perhaps it won’t have to. Mullally says there are more than 10,000 microfinance institutions in the world and that they lack efficient access to liquid capital. Mullally says his company will tackle this problem by linking these tiny banks to both individual and institutional lenders with the promise of higher returns for all. That’s a big promise. Whether this start-up can deliver is it yet to be seen.