Pierre Omidyar’s eBay experience gave him a very different view of philanthropy, reports The Economist (10/26/13). What Pierre learned from founding eBay was "that in the right circumstances a business can be at least as powerful a force for good as a charity. By creating a readily accessible global marketplace, eBay had given thousands of people the chance to improve their lives by becoming online entrepreneurs." So, in 2004, he replaced his traditional charity foundation with the Omidyar Network, and making active investments versus passive donations.
The Omidyar Network "is free to put money equally into for-profit and non-profit ventures. Almost half of the 300 or so outfits it has backed aimed to make money," although Pierre, himself, takes no profits. The network got off to a rough start, but found firmer footing in 2007 with a focus "on five main themes: financial inclusion, consumer internet and mobile telecoms, education, property rights and open government." The concept is simply to develop "a non-profit start-up in the same way as a new business venture, except for not expecting it to make money one day."
Rather than making donations to "a specific project," the Omidyar Network "builds the capabilities of the charity itself," by funding its general budget and providing "a human-resources department that helps them find good staff." Some charities say this is "more valuable than the money they get." With for-profit ventures, the Network focuses on building "viable businesses that sell to the very poorest consumers," such as D.Light, a maker of cheap, solar lamps. Pierre is also "seeking a new business model for the investigative journalism that he sees as a crucial underpinning of democracy."