The other day I read about a young man who was practically destitute, despite having excellent job skills, because he had poor dental luck and couldn't afford the £1100 to get false teeth. He might benefit from Zopa, a social networking site which matches lenders and borrowers in a model based on eBay. Though it presently uses a credit check, the plan is to expand it to check things like your MySpace contacts (who'd've thought that'd ever get you a car loan?) or LinkedIn comments in order to judge whether or not you're a better person than your history (or lack thereof) says. Maybe you just got divorced, went abroad, or were ill (I was all three of those things). By going in this direction Zopa could offer a powerful ethical alternative to usurious payday loan companies, who are often the only option low income people have, or banks who simply don't give a damn.
“You could offer people the ability to say ‘I’d like to lend to A-rated nurses living in London for 12 months,” says Nicholson. “Or you could lend to charities for a zero percent return, or at least a very low interest rate. That’s where the social networking side can come in. We have to be very careful with privacy issues though, when it comes to stuff like letting people connect and chat online.” For more on this, see Techscape's interview with Zopa co-founder Dave Nicholson. [GT]
More money and finance