“What if I told you that we provide 0% interest loans for you to grow your business?” was usually the most controversial question during my speaking engagements.
“What’s the catch?” usually followed up my statement. “There is no catch, we are just trying to really outreach to entrepreneurs that need small loans and don’t have access to credit, we trust you will appreciate this loan and repay it back”. Silence filled the room while I continued to explain…
Sounds too good to be true? Well is it too good and it is also true… Kiva Zip is really revolutionizing the micro-lending space and cyberspace and I had the opportunity to be part of it, promote it and see its impact hands-on.
With a 93% repayment rate from our borrowers and a 98% relending rate from our lenders, Kiva Zip successfully survives its 3 years in Kenya thanks to it’s “Trust Model”.
Zachary and his first borrower Dennis who is now on his 7th loan
Even though Kiva Zip is trying a peer-to-peer lending approach, to really outreach to the entrepreneurs in Kenya that don’t have access to technology or credit we needed to implement a third party figure like in the kiva.org model, here we call it “Trustee”.
A trustee is a person or local organization working with BoP entrepreneurs/leaders that connects us to the ones they trust. We usually identify trustees through good old Google research, word of mouth and referrals. In short, trustees are not our life-long friends, but after a meeting and a due diligence call we trust them to identify and connect us with the stars of the movie, our borrowers.
Borrower identification is 100% responsibility of the trustee and from our observations these past 3 years, our 175 trustees all endorse borrowers whom they trust. 

Esther and her trustee Wycleff who has given her a chance to restart her business for the 3rd time.

But how can you measure trust?
We measure our trust in trustees by evaluating their leadership, credibility, intentions, passions and influence.  Our trustees measure their trust on their borrowers based on how long they have known this person, how successful their businesses have been, or if they have been previously responsible and honest with them.
What was very interesting to me is that in my time working with trustees and borrowers I experienced that the biggest “trust” indicator to determine whether or not this borrower will pay back is the relationship of respect the trustee has with the borrower and the opportunity the trustees is bringing to the borrower.
Kiva Zip is really reaching out to those who wouldn’t have had a chance to access a loan otherwise if it wasn’t for the trustee trusting them. This is the essence of our success.
Working in Kiva Zip Kenya for this past 3 months has really made me reevaluate the value and existence of trust. Going from working in a global bank where we don’t usually trust anyone to a non-profit in the “lending space” that all the collateral they ask for is to be over 18 years old, have an M-Pesa account and use the money to scale their business has meant a shift of mindset for me and a shift of opportunity access to the world.

Pamela a Borrowe Trustee who wanted to share the opportunity she had gotten and empower other women in Kibera living with HIV
<< Fellows Updates