On the Road in Indonesia …

While in Indonesia for a series of meetings, I had the chance to do my very first site visit for Mifos.

Our host, the Koperasi Kasih Indonesia, welcomed us at their head office in northern Jakarta nearby the container port.

We spent some time with the team to talk about the Koperasi and the procedures and tools they are currently using. Their goal to grow comes with a need to scale their business procedures and make them more efficient, which leads to better support by a back office solution, and the need to eliminate most of the paper intensive work in the field and the inefficient  manual data transfer in the office. By then just words to me.

KKI invited us to take part in a group meeting held at a member’s house … so we hopped on a scooter and off we went.

20160921_130003As we arrived, the group already has gathered and was waiting for us. You could feel happiness and tension all around as the purpose of the meeting was to start a new cycle and disburse loans. The meeting started with a prayer and the KKI pledge shouted by all attendees (including us) in unison.

20160921_132134Then some rustling noise appeared … paper magically came out of nowhere. For me it was hard to believe: attendance lists, application forms (of every member), ID card copies, disbursement sheets, and agreement forms. Given that the meeting was a joint meeting of two groups, there were over 50! pages of paper, at least.

The formal meeting started with an attendance check, followed by an educational training session. After the training, four members were tested to verify that they have understood the purpose of the Koperasi and the meaning of group liability and their own responsibility for the group and all other members.

One group welcomed a new member; she recited the policies aloud, and showed her “Fra20160921_135818me of Dreams” to all. What is a “Frame of Dream” you may ask. It is a blank surface that every member needs to fill with the goals she wants to reach, e.g. education for her children, better housing, or growth of her small enterprise.

This frame is shown to every member of the group because they are now all responsible for these goals (shared liability taken to the next level). The frame serves two purposes, (1) a self-motivation for the member, and (2) an agreement that everybody cares about the dream of all other group members.

Suddenly action entered the room and all attendees started to move around and lined up: disbursement time was here. Every member, one by 20160921_140904one, was sitting in front of KKI’s employee, the loan amount was stated out loud, and then cash was counted and handed over. Every member then signed off the payment in the disbursement sheet and the agreement form.

20160921_140926The closing of the meeting included a prayer and the KKI pledge again.

My take away after that experience is two-fold. There are two ingredients that make this kind of business work, (1) a social component where everybody is responsible for each other and (2) and the technology that allows a broader outreach by easing the pain of handling paper.

Cash, even if we Westerners are moving away from it, still has some value. It is something you can feel, which is more than simply the money itself. There is some hidden message in cash that could not be erased by electronic money, a transition needs to be made to distinguish between money and expectations/feelings.  

As a techie, my first reaction was that we can solve all this with decent technology. After seeing what really happens, I realized that technology can not replace a group meeting, rather technology needs to assist the social bonding by providing a solution that allows the employee to focus more on the group, instead of handling large amounts of paper, and other mundane details and error checking.

Technology needs to enhance the social experience, not replace it.

-Markus Geiss, Chief Architect

Thank you to Drew Fass!

Some of the unsung heroes in our community are the community development interns who have been helping our community grow over the past several years. Often their contributions go unrecognized so we wanted to give Drew Fass a proper farewell after an amazing year. He’s completed his year-long internship and is now back to full-time studies at the University of Washington.  You might not know but we’ve created a program of bringing on community development interns through the Chi Psi fraternity at the University of Washington that is now in its fifth generation.

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Along the way they’ve helped to formalize the procedures and programs to effectively engage with all members of our community. Starting with Braden Timm who compiled all of our contacts into Insightly, our first CRM. Ollie Janders then led the transition over to Salesforce for our CRM and contact management, while famously fighting poverty with financial inclusion with a lightsaber! Next came Andrew Mottet who streamlined and perfected the communications cycle and systematized into Google Drive templates and playbook that he used to smoothly on board Drew. Over the past six months, Drew Fass has now worked hand in hand with Jacob Kobzi as he passed over the torch.

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Paul Maritz

Amazon Vs. Open Source

“We strongly believe that the world needs a mechanism to write cloud applications. We don’t want the cloud to be like the bad old days of the mainframe computer. There’s potentially some tension between  people who want the cloud to be closed and proprietary and folks like us who want it to be an option for developers to write cloud applications. History teaches us that every time there’s a major wave of technology and a major new category or platform, then new players emerge. The world went from the mainframe computer, in which IBM was the big winner, to the PC and productivity software, where Microsoft and Oracle were the big winners. Now, we’re going to the cloud as a new category and platform. We know that Amazon is a big winner there but it operates a closed platform and history teaches us that in every major shift, there’s at least one closed winner and at least one open winner. We know that the closed winner is going to be Amazon but we don’t know yet who the open winner is going to be.”

Check out what else Paul Maritz, Executive Chairman of Pivotal and Mifos Chairman of the Board has to say about the future of Open Source and cloud computing in the Forbes article:

Paul Maritz’s Vision For Pivotal And The Battle With Amazon Over Open Source Cloud Computing

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Luisa’s Extended Stay in Ecuador


After the Mifos Innovation Team finished their week in Ecuador, Luisa had the opportunity to stay in Pindal to hold a couple more meetings. Pindal is a small town in Ecuador that borders Peru. Even though it is composed of just 6000 people, it produces 90% of the corn in Ecuador. Luisa was joined by the Assistant Director of Banco Desarrollo, Juan Carlos Aguirre, to experience first-hand the effect that the Electronic Money system wo20160719_125711uld have on these rural areas.

Luisa and Juan first met with Pablo Saritama, the manager of Banco Desarrollo in Pindal. They discussed the various types of loans that would be implemented using Mifos, similar to the conversation that the team had at the Banco Desarrollo headquarters.

After the meeting with Banco Desarrollo, Luisa and Juan then met with the Corn Producers Association. They were able to answer questions and gain valuable insight from the corn producers regarding what kind of loans were needed and which loans work best. Luisa and Juan were able to explain Mifos and the Electronic Money System and everyone there seemed excited and willing to embrace this new system.

Signing off,

Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Friday in Ecuador

Friday, July 15th, 2016

IMG_0332After a week of work, the Mifos Innovation team has seen it’s last day in Ecuador.

The team met with the Dinero Electronico team in order to discuss regulations. Dinero Electronico saw eye-to-eye on the prospect of providing nano loans as a financial service. They also directed us to the right people to talk to next.

That was the last meeting for the team’s week in Ecuador. The Mifos Initiative is extremely excited for what the future holds and we are looking forward to making the vision of Financial Inclusion 2.0 a reality.

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Thursday in Ecuador

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

The week is almost over but the Mifos Innovation team is still hard at work in Ecuador.

The day started with the Innovation Team meeting with an organization that oversees a network of cooperatives. The biggest takeaway from the meeting is that the organization sees the value that the MifoIMG_0404s Financial Inclusion Cloud can bring to their network of financial institutions.

Then, the team met with the IT director from CONAFIPS, an organization responsible for providing support to cooperatives. They put us in contact with some of their cooperatives so that we can discuss our future with the financial institutions directly.

The team then met with Banco Desarrollo to discuss value-chain financing and nano loans further. The team also talked briefly about the integration of accounting services in the Mifos platform. Although it is going to take a little longer to get specific details out of the way, the team is working through the complexities to make the vision of Financial Inclusion 2.0 a reality.

Luisa, a member of the Innovation Team, will officially be traveling to Pindal, Ecuador to observe the entire value-chain financing production. On Monday, she will be meeting with a cooperative to clarify the best configuration of the core banking system to match their needs. She will also be interviewed at Impacto about the Electronic Money System. Javier had two more interviews today, one on TV and the other on the radio.

Tomorrow will be the last day for the Mifos Innovation Team on this week-long trip to Ecuador and we look forward to telling you all about it.

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Wednesday in Ecuador

Wednesday, July 14, 2016

The Mifos Innovation Team has finished their 3rd day of work in their trip to Ecuador. Javier started Wednesday off strong with yet another interview on TV. He discussed the benefits that Electronic Money can have on Financial Inclusion. He also discussed the integration of mobile money within the Mifos Platform.

The team then joined with one of our technology partners and met with the leading social-m2016-07-14-PHOTO-00000062ission bank in Ecuador. The team met for two hours discussing the Mifos operational model and giving demos of how the system will function. The leadership within the bank is eager to move forward with the Mifos Financial Inclusion Cloud!

Before the day was over, the team joined the audience of about 200 youth to listen to one of our team members, Luisa, give a talk. Luisa was talking on behalf of an organization called Global Shapers, and sharing her story to inspire others to create opportunities for themselves. Luisa’s talk was very inspiring, and a fantastic way to end the third day of the trip!

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Tuesday in Ecuador

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

The Mifos innovation team saw no lack of action on their second day in Ecuador. After a busy first day, they got right back to work with multiple meetings and interviews scheduled for day 2.
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Javier started the day off presenting to SEPS, a regulator for cooperatives. The members of SEPS were very intrigued by our operational model. Then it was on to the next meeting with Banco Desarrollo to discuss some specifics on how our model is going to tie in perfectly with their financial organizations and cooperatives in place. In particular, our team discussed how nano loans and value-chain financing was going to work with our platform.

Javier had to leave the meeting with Banco Desarrollo early, since he had scheduled interviews he had to attend. He had two interviews on live television and another on the radio with FM Mundo 98.1. You can see Javier in the photo to the right in the middle of his interview!

Soon enough, it was time f20160712_195945or the Mifos Innovation Team to regather and meet with the Ministry of Economic Policy. They met with two high government officials who in turn put us in contact with dozens of other valuable individuals. After talking with them briefly about mobile wallets, the team was off to meet with Level 3, a worldwide provider of data centers. Our team was astounded by the coverage of the data centers and is happy to partner with them to launch the Mifos Financial Inclusion Cloud in Ecuador.

The end of the day came after another brief meeting with IOU Fintech. The team has found that the excitement in Ecuador is contagious. Everyone is on board and ready to announce Financial Inclusion 2.0 in Ecuador. We’ll keep you updated on all that happens in the coming days!

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Monday in Ecuador

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Mifos Innovation team of  Ed Cable, Javier Borkenztain, and Luisa Martínez,  landed in Ecuador today for an exciting week of work. Right off the bat, the team had their schedule booked. To start the day, they met with Carlos Córdova from IOU Fintech to be introduced to his team as  well as briefed for tomorrow’s mCnG1fDOW8AAk_fveeting. Carlos can be seen in the picture to the right presenting his plan for emoney in Ecuador.

After a short break, the team then had two meetings with the Central Bank of Ecuador, one with their technical team and the other with their public relations team.

Finally, the innovation team regrouped at Impacto, the social impact hub for Ecuador. Impacto has doubled in size since the last time the Mifos team visited Ecuador!

Long story short, the process of bringing Financial Inclusion 2.0 to Ecuador has began, yet there is so much more to come. In the following days, Javier, a member of our innovation team, has 8 interviews scheduled about the Mifos Financial Inclusion Cloud. He has 2 on TV, 1 on the radio, and one with the newspaper just tomorrow. There is still much more to be done and we look forward to filling you in with what happens each day of our trip.

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Mifos in Ecuador

Hello Mifos Community,

There are still 2.5 billion people worldwide that do not have access to basic financial services. Financial inclusion is working to bring this number down. However, financial inclusion only works when available. It is costly to implement and difficult to access for many developing countries. This is why the Mifos Initiative has been working to develop Financial Inclusion 2.0, an innovative approach to allow every person access to financial services using just their phone.Mifos in front of Central Bank of Ecuador

Mobile Money in Ecuador

In 2013, Ecuador reported that there were more mobile phone lines than citizens in their country. Yet, 60% of the Ecuadorian population does not have access to financial services, and that number only gets higher in rural areas. Realizing this, the Ecuadorian government saw an opportunity where a mobile electronic payment system could be the answer to their financial inclusion problems. Ecuador implemented the first-ever state-run mobile electronic payment system that is low cost and easy to access for everyone that has a mobile phone. Read more