Since 2004, Omidyar Network, the philanthropic investment firm of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, has been investing in market-based efforts with the potential for large-scale, catalytic social impact. Technology is a significant focus of its work, as it can greatly improve the quality of life, reaching millions of people efficiently and easily. Matt Halprin, partner, and Stephen King, director, Investments, will discuss the organization's pioneering approach to philanthropy, the developing world context for technology, and innovative examples of liberation technology from the field.
Matt Halprin, Partner
Matt leads Omidyar Network's Media, Markets & Transparency initiative, supporting technologies that promote transparency, accountability, and trust across media, markets, and government. Within this initiative, his team pursues investments in Social Media, Marketplaces, and Government Transparency. In his role as Partner, Matt builds Omidyar Networkâ€™s team of talented investment professionals and works with portfolio organizations to help them succeed.
Matt has more than 20 years of business experience, including six at eBay. As Vice President, Global Trust and Safety at eBay, he led a team of 90 statisticians, policy managers, and product managers. He also helped coordinate the efforts of 2,000 customer support personnel to increase revenue while minimizing fraud and other trust-reducing behavior. Prior to eBay, Matt served as a Partner and Vice President at the Boston Consulting Group, where he worked with technology clients on issues of corporate strategy and corporate development. Previously, Matt was Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Quadlux, a VC-backed developer of technology-based ovens that was later sold to GE and Hobart.
Matt is on the Boards of Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia), Sunlight Foundation, DonorsChoose.org, Goodmail Systems and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which supports the next generation of minority leaders in the United States. He graduated with High Distinction as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School and holds a BS in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.
Stephen King, Director, Investments
Stephen brings Omidyar Network exceptional experience in applying media and technology to create positive social impact. Based in London, Stephen focuses on expanding our efforts outside the U.S. in the Social Media and Government Transparency investment areas. He also makes investments across all areas within the Media, Markets & Transparency initiative.
Prior to Omidyar Network, Stephen served as the Chief Executive of the BBC World Service Trust, where he led a period of sustained growth that included building programs in more than 40 countries in the developing world. Stephen helped establish the Trustâ€™s international reputation as one of the largest and most successful organizations using media and communications to improve the lives of the worldâ€™s poor and promote better governance and transparency worldwide. Prior to the BBC, Stephen was the Executive Director of the International Council on Social Welfare, an international organization working to promote social development. Stephen has also held positions with nonprofit organizations HelpAge International, Help the Aged, and Voluntary Service Overseas.
Stephen is a board member of CARE International in the U.K. He holds an MA in Oriental and African Studies from the University of London.
Summary of the Seminar
Matt Halprin is a Partner leading Omidyar Network's Media and Stephen King is the Director of Investments and is based in London. They introduced us to the work of Omidyar Network which invests in market-based efforts to give people the technology tools they need to improve their lives.
The network was set up in 2004 by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and his wife Pam. It comprises both a venture capital fund and a grant-making foundation. The network has a strong focus on individual empowerment and is committed to market-based solutions, believing that business is one of the best mechanisms for achieving sustainable social impact. Omidyar looks to invest in projects that have potential to impact large numbers of people and that show signs of real innovation - for example, new business models or new markets.
So far $307 million has been committed, with $138 million going to for-profit investments and $169 million to non-profit grants. There are two broad areas of focus:
- Access to capital: This encompasses projects around microfinance, entrepreneurship and property rights.
- Media, markets and transparence: This encompasses projects around social media, marketplaces and government transparency. Omidyar are particularly interested in the role of journalism in ensuring accountability of governments.
Projects in the Unities States include:
- The Sunlight Foundation - works to make information about Congress and Federal government more accessible and meaningful to citizens; created the first searchable site for all federal government contracts to monitor where money is going.
- Global Integrity - uses quantitative and qualitative analysis to provide a scorecard tracking governance and corruption in different countries.
In the developing world, Omidyar looks to supports access to greater information and government transparency, which it views as key drivers of prosperity. The network is supporting global organizations, national partners in three African countries (Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya) and is establishing a pan-African mechanism for smaller grants. Current global projects include:
- Ushahidi - an open source platform to report and share data in the aftermath of a crisis. Omidyar will be working to help Ushahidi to build traffic to the site and to tackle the challenge of verifying reports.
- Infonet - a web portal that acts as an information hub for all national and devolved budgets in Kenya; currently used by NGOs, citizen groups and the media.
- Mzalendo - a one stop shop for citizens to track the activities of parliamentarians in Kenya.
- FrontlineSMS - a two way communication tool using laptops and mobile phones for organizations without internet access.