By Danielle Hyams
The crowdfunding platform is targeted to members of the Haitian Diaspora looking to invest directly to Haiti
Lovens Gjed has accomplished more in the last five years than many will in their entire lives. In 2014 he moved from Haiti to the United States, taught himself English while working as a cashier at Walmart and went on to graduate from an Ivy League university. On Oct. 27, he will attend the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit in Detroit as part of their Scholars Program, where he will be representing his new social venture, MEnvesti, which launched in August.
MEnvesti, which is Kreyol for “I invest,” is an online crowdfunding platform that seeks to utilize the booming remittance industry to fund development initiatives in Haiti while simultaneously creating job opportunities for students and recent graduates as project analysts. Gjed, 23, feels that given the current political and economic climate, Haitians need a reason to be hopeful.
“Many people are discouraged and feel like they should leave the country because everything that’s happening,” he said. “We want MEnvesti to be something that inspires young people to take initiative because we are connecting them with the money power, the resources that the diaspora have had for a long time, except they haven’t been leveraged.”
The online platform will feature profiles of entrepreneurs along with their business proposals and allow members of the diaspora to lend as little as $10 to different project that interest them. Once the loan is repaid, the money will be sent to a family member or friend of the lender’s choice in Haiti.
And unlike when money is sent via a service such as Western Union, there is no transaction fee. Instead, loan recipients are responsible for a five percent fee that is used to pay analysts.
MEnvesti is partnering with Haitian universities and student organizations to find and train these analysts who are responsible for determining which businesses will be featured on the platform. They are looking at five factors: feasibility, sustainability, team composition, social impact and innovative character.
“I want people to be entrepreneurial,” Gjed said. “In Haiti we have a business mindset, but we’re not entrepreneurial per se. We don’t believe in innovation. So I want MEnvesti to be about entrepreneurship and innovation and using what’s in place in Haiti.”
Every year the Haitian diaspora sends billions of dollars back to Haiti, accounting for nearly a third of the country’s gross domestic product. Most of the remittances are used to buy consumer goods, which are generally imported from abroad, and therefore the money is not being invested back into the country, Gjed said. That’s where MEnvesti comes in.
Gjed, who is currently based in Miami, hopes MEnvesti will generate $30 million in loans and create 5,000 new jobs in Haiti within five years. Ultimately, he envisions the platform becoming a place where members of the diaspora can actually invest in local businesses and create online portfolios.
MEnvesti is comprised of eight part-time employees based in the U.S., Canada and Haiti, plus dozens of analysts. The platform is currently in the process of selecting participants and will begin accepting loans in January.
“One of the things that I want people to understand is when you’re an entrepreneur, when you call yourself an entrepreneur, you don’t find excuses,” Gjed added. “No matter what’s going on around you, you find a way, and I want MEnvesti to be that message.”