Product: Zopa

People behind it:
Name: Giles Andrews and the Zopa launch team

Giles Andrews is chief finance officer and UK managing director of social lending site www.zopa.com. He became involved when he was asked to help the original team – James Alexander, ex-strategy director at Egg, who he met at the INSEAD business school; Richard Duval, Egg’s co-founder and launch director, who died in 2006; and Dave Nicholson, Egg’s strategy manager – turn an idea into a reality and raise capital. Before Zopa, Andrews co-founded Godfrey Davis car dealerships.

How innovative?
In effect, Zopa is an eBay for personal loans, marrying social networking principles with financial services. Individuals looking for a loan post details of the amount, reason and the interest they are prepared to pay; lenders, all individuals, look at information on the potential borrowers, including a credit rating system, and decide whether to lend to them. It mirrors the bond markets for major institutions, but aimed at individuals.

Market success
So far, around £25m has been lent by around 10,000 people to around 6,000 borrowers, but around 200,000 have signed up for Zopa’s e-mail newsletter and other communications. The real marketing point of the Zopa system is that it cuts out the banks and financial services companies and puts individuals far more in control of their financial dealings. Lenders and borrowers are both getting better rates than they would from traditional banks.

How it fits
Zopa is a perfect example of using Web 2.0 not just as a technical platform, but also as a philosophical one. Just as eBay allows buyers and sellers to contact each other and come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement without any real interference from eBay’s staff, Zopa lets borrowers and lenders do the same. Exposure to risk is minimised by the use of social networking tools such as feedback and credit ratings.

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