Oct 15, 2012 KV Kiva HQ
By Camille Ricketts
A belated happy birthday to Kiva Zip!
In all of the excitement of planning for Kiva’s 7th birthday celebration, we almost forgot to celebrate Kiva Zip’s first anniversary. It launched as a pilot program a little over a year ago and has been growing ever since. Happy Birthday Kiva Zip!

We’re beaming with pride over the big steps Zip has taken in its first year, and we see a bright future ahead. In recognition of Zip’s successes and learnings, we’ve removed the password protection from the website. It’s been really exciting to see traffic spike over the last several days (around 2.5x!), confirming that we’re not the only ones who think our baby is beautiful.



A year ago, we weren’t sure it would even be possible to lend to Kenyan entrepreneurs via mobile phones. Now we've made 250 – plus another 70 or so in the United States via Paypal. What’s more, these 320 loans have had a repayment rate around 90% (as of late September 2012), and we’ve received almost unanimously positive feedback from the many borrowers using the service. 

In addition to loans, we’ve facilitated over 1,000 direct messages between borrowers, lenders and trustees, including more than 100 SMS messages from Kenyan borrowers’ mobile phones to their lenders. We’ve also recruited over 65 trustees to make Zip possible, and lender feedback has been tremendously encouraging so far. Most importantly, though, we’ve expanded access for entrepreneurs who -- without Kiva Zip – wouldn’t have been able to get loans to support their businesses.

While we’re officially moving Kiva Zip from “pilot” to “alpha” phase by removing password protection, there’s still a long way to go before its official debut on Kiva.org. The repayment rates cited above are still tentative, and we’ll continue to monitor them carefully over the next year. We also experience our fair share of technical “teething” issues that every startup faces, even as we continue to improve service across the Zip ecosystem.
 
Most of all, we need to prove that the Kiva Zip model is scalable without significantly increasing our operating expenses, jeopardizing the healthy repayment rate or risking fraud. It’s critical that both our lenders and borrowers get the technical support and additional services they need.

All that said, Zip’s promising baby steps have bolstered our confidence, and we want to share it with more lenders! We’ll continue to innovate, learn, fall, get back up and move forward in even smarter ways. And, if we can keep growing the number of entrepreneurs while maintaining strong repayment, controlling costs, and collecting positive feedback, the next step will be to launch Kiva Zip on Kiva.org.

Sounds like a great challenge for 2013.

Many thanks to all the lenders, borrowers and trustees who have supported Kiva Zip in its first year! We wouldn’t be at this point without you, and we look forward to your continued and increasing involvement next year and beyond. As ever, if you have any ideas, feedback or concerns, we’d love to hear them at contactZip@kiva.org.

Get started with Kiva Zip today at zip.kiva.org!

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Camille Ricketts Camille brings her passion for storytelling to Kiva, where she helps create and curate online content. A longtime journalist, she started her career reporting on arts and culture for the Wall Street Journal in London and New York. In 2008, she joined San Francisco-based blog VentureBeat, writing about  green technology, policy and finance. Most recently, she worked in public relations for electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors. Outside of work, Camille volunteers as a web designer for maternal health nonprofit Saving Mothers. She holds a B.A. in women's history from Stanford University, where she also served as editor in chief of The Stanford Daily.

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