MicroPlace, a for-profit company which enables everyday internet users to invest $100 or more in the world's working poor, launched on Wednesday. The site is notable for two reasons: it's not only owned by eBay but it's also the first microfinance site to allow everyday folks to earn interest on their investment. Interestingly, eBay plans to donate all profits from MicroPlace to various non-profits, including (but not limited to) its own eBay Foundation.
We spoke today to founder and general manager Tracey Pettengill Turner (right), who has long been focused on poverty issues. Earlier in her career, Turner worked with refugees in Sudan and later at Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. MicroPlace was an idea she'd been working on independently for a year when she met eBay and PayPal execs in the summer of 2006. Intrigued by the idea of a marketplace for microfinance, eBay bought Turner's company and helped the site earn its broker-dealer license with the SEC, jump through all the associated regulatory hoops, and hire a staff that today numbers 16 full-time and 10 part-time employees
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