Google Invests in P2P Loan Company, Rolls out Transit Card in Kenya (May 2, 2013)
Google made two moves to expand its role in financial services this week, investing in a P2P lending company and rolling out a contactless transit card in Kenya. Google acquired a minority stake in Lending Club, an online financial community that matches creditworthy borrowers with investors, providing an alternative to traditional banking with competitive loan rates and investment returns. As part of the $125 million deal that includes investment by Foundation Capital, David Lawee, Google’s vice president of corporate development, will take an observer seat on the San Francisco-based company’s board. “Lending Club is using the Internet to reshape the financial system and profoundly transform the way people think of credit and investment,” Lawee said. Lending Club has facilitated more than $1.65 billion in loans since it opened for business in 2007, according to the peer-to-peer company.
In other news, Google announced on its Google Africa blog that it’s partnering with Equity Bank to launch BebaPay, a contactless prepaid card for bus travel in Kenya. BebaPay cards are available for free from major bus stops, according to the blog post, and cardholders receive free SMS text messages after each transaction and can track their balances online. Cards can be loaded at select Equity Bank agents or using mobile money. In time, Equity Bank will roll out BebaPay more widely beyond transit, according to Aneto Okonkwo, product manager, Google, who wrote the blog post. Additionally, the free BebaPay app turns any NFC-enabled Android phone into a card reader, which means that shops, traders and small businesses can use BebaPay to accept payments from customers, without needing expensive tills and cash registers, Okonkwo wrote.