Entries in innovation (2)

Wednesday
Feb042009

Kiva introduces its API

Kiva, the first p2p micro-lending website, is opening its doors to third party developers. Build.kiva.org is its new destination for developers looking to expand its micro-lending platform. Its blog explains:

Our website has already done so much to connect people and bring new opportunity to the developing world, but it is nothing compared to the impact we think that technology and microfinance together will have to alleviate poverty. It is going to take a lot of innovation, a lot of creativity, and a lot of passionate people bringing the opportunity of loans to places they’ve never been.

 

By opening up its data and enabling independent, inspired developers to create applications, Kiva hopes to further connect its community and expand its reach. This move shows that the non-profit continues to be a model of both innovation and transparency.

 

Tuesday
Feb032009

The most troublesome of Harvard Business Review’s “breakthrough ideas” for 2009

It’s a phrase to make you shiver: state capitalism. Yet HBR has named the re-emergence of state controlled enterprises as one of its “cutting edge business ideas” for the coming year.

Unfortunately none of the innovative markets that we profile here made the cut. Instead, HBR focuses on where the real money lies: government expenditures. The U.S. auto and financial bailouts are just small one piece of an increasing worldwide trend towards nationalization. As the article profiles, the largest companies in the critical sectors of telecommunications, energy, and asset management dwarf their purely private sector counterparts. The authors correctly note the risk to free markets of state-owned enterprises, specifically:

The (often authoritarian) governments that are profiting from these enterprises will be tempted to take foreign-policy gambles, confident that their market clout in critical sectors will limit the response of concerned countries.

 

I would add another concern: Will innovation continue to thrive when governments hold leading positions in so many sectors of importance? [See David Brooks of the New York Times for a thoughtful consideration of the people who are now making many business decisions.]

Government involvement in these sectors is not new or particularly “breakthrough” (Russia and China being obvious examples), but the extraordinary scale is. P2p lending, p2p e-commerce and locavesting are tiny free market and independent counterweights to this behemoth of government direction in market affairs. Will their appeal find new ground with those troubled by this opaque anti-market trend? Or will they simply be swallowed up?