Tuesday, March 20, 2007

RED HERRING | Bye-Bye Bankers?

"A new crop of online lending marketplaces is letting even the hoi polloi try their hands at being angel investors or micro-bankers.

On Monday, U.K.-based Zopa, an online loan marketplace that unites lenders and borrowers without a bank in the middle, announced a $12.9 million third round investment led by Bessemer Venture Partners to fund a U.S. launch.

Zopa, launched in March 2005, joins a group of online lending marketplaces that includes raisecapital.com, a Port Washington, New York-based startup that matches startups and angel investors and kiva.org, a San Francisco-based site that lets lenders make microfinance loans to Third World entrepreneurs.

Should direct lending online gain a foothold in the marketplace, it could put pressure on a market traditionally dominated by banks, savings and loans, and credit unions.

Douglas Dolton, who is joining Zopa as global chief executive, will oversee the launch of the company’s U.S. operations based in San Francisco. A major hurdle will be to create an online loan marketplace in the United States that complies with federal statutes."

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