Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2013

Omidyar Network: Pioneering Impact Investment

by Michael Chu and Lauren Barley

Abstract

Omidyar Network, having deployed to date over $500 million in ways ranging from donations to commercial equity capital, must decide whether to back Anudip, an Indian organization dedicated to providing the rural unemployed and marginalized with livelihoods linked to the modern world. The immediate issue at hand is the tension between the high social impact of Anudip and its lackluster financial performance. Is this a suitable project for the Omidyar Network? Being able to deploy all the tools along the capital curve of impact investing, are there any that are appropriate for Anudip? If so, which are optimal for Anudip? Established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, Omidyar Network (ON) is the successor to their first philanthropic organization, the Omidyar Family Foundation (OFF). The case recounts the transition from OFF to ON and the conceptual and organizational evolution from a traditional grant-making organization to a pioneer of impact investing: the application of investment practices in the delivery of high impact social interventions, with the intent of providing positive financial returns to the investors. The case is intended to: • Examine the key elements underpinning the concept of impact investing. Through a unique organization that mirrors the entire spectrum of the social impact capital markets, the case allows an analysis of the role of each piece of the capital curve in the furtherance of social objectives: when are donations appropriate versus capital seeking market risk-adjusted returns, and all the variations in between? • Provide an opportunity to analyze a potential investment from the perspective of an impact investment fund, dealing with such issues as the analysis of business and social models and the uncertainty inherent in future projections. In the process, gain insight into key considerations for both a social investor as well as a social entrepreneur. • Expose class participants to the practical deal structuring challenges involved in taking an actual social impact initiative in the field to an investible transaction by an impact investing fund.

Keywords: Social Enterprise; Social Entrepreneurship; Investment; Giving and Philanthropy; India;

Citation:

Chu, Michael, and Lauren Barley. "Omidyar Network: Pioneering Impact Investment." Harvard Business School Case 313-090, January 2013.