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eBay founder Pierre Omidyar will increase grants and investments

By Laurie Bennett

October 22, 2008 at 10:40am

While many billionaires watch their portfolios shrivel, and nonprofit organizations worry about their reliance on those portfolios, one well-known philanthropist plans to expand his giving.

The Omidyar Network, established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has pledged to increase investments and grants.

“The current situation encourages us to be more aggressive and more active as, unfortunately, a lot of philanthropic organizations will pull in,” Matt Bannick, managing partner at Omidyar Network, told the Wall Street Journal.

Pierre Omidyar
Pierre Omidyar

The network, which describes itself as “a philanthropic investment firm,” funds nonprofit and for-profit organizations. It assists microfinance organizations, which provide financing to help poor people start businesses. It also invests in well-known internet ventures such as Meetup, Wikia and Digg.

Today it announced new investment areas, including support for entrepreneurial activities that bring low-cost products and services to the poor.

The network also announced a new initiative called “Media, Markets and Transparency,” which will support technologies that increase information flow about media, business and government.

Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam founded the network after eBay went public in 1998. Omidyar continues to serve as chairman of eBay. He is also a trustee of Tufts University and Santa Fe Institute and a director of Meetup.

The Omidyars gave $100 million to Tufts University in 2005, to create a microfinance fund.

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