For-profit

Omidyar Network

Website:

www.omidyar.com

Location:

Redwood City, CA

Type:

LLC Grantmaking Organization

Formation:

2004

CEO:

Mike Kubzansky

Omidyar Network is an LLC created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam Omidyar to make philanthropic “impact investments.” Its sister group, the Omidyar Network Fund is a 501(c)(3) grantmaking foundation. Omidyar Network and the Omidyar Network Fund are often referred to interchangeably, and both support causes including critical race theory-aligned visions of anti-racism and left-of-center economic regulations. As of 2016, they have spent over $1 billion across over 400 for-profit and nonprofit groups. [1]

The Omidyar Network has spun off numerous media, political, and philanthropic groups, including Democracy Fund, Humanity United, and Luminate.

Lauren Booker Allen, the former senior manager of impact investing, has claimed that the Omidyar Network and Omidyar Network Fund have influenced other major innovative philanthropic groups, including Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, for promoting a form of philanthropy modeled after Silicon Valley investing. [2]

The Omidyar Network is a member of the Omidyar Group, the Omidyars’ umbrella coalition of organizations they have founded.

History

In 1998, Pierre and Pam Omidyar established the Omidyar Family Foundation, a philanthropic family foundation, after eBay launched its initial public offering, making the couple billionaires. Their initial goal was to empower underprivileged individuals through donations that mimicked the positive impact of eBay by dispersing entrepreneurship opportunities. [3] The Omidyars soon grew frustrated by regulations on nonprofits and decided that an LLC structure was more conducive to their charitable goals. In 2004, the Omidyars founded the Omidyar Network, and the Omidyar Family Foundation became the Omidyar Network Fund. [4]

At first, the Omidyar Network and Omidyar Network Fund were focused on “microfinance, community, and enabling technologies.” Microfinance in particular was a priority, and the Omidyar Network spent $100 million on microloans in developing countries. [5] Eventually, these priorities evolved into providing the underprivileged with access to capital, and “media, markets and transparency,” which later became five focuses: education, emerging technology, property rights, governance, and citizen engagement. [6]

In 2008, the Omidyar Network spun off Humanity United, a group devoted to peacebuilding and combatting forced labor. [7]

In 2014, the Omidyar Network spun off Democracy Fund, an advocacy group which primarily supports left-of-center organizations. [8]

In 2015, the Omidyar Network spun off Omidyar Technology Ventures, a philanthropic venture capital fund. [9]

From 2018-2020, the Omidyar Network spun off six organizations to operate independently with special focus areas: Flourish VenturesOmidyar Network IndiaSpero VenturesImaginable FuturesLuminate, and PLACE. [10]

Investment Style

The Omidyar Network structures its investment approach in the style of a Silicon Valley venture capital fund, an approach sometimes known as “venture philanthropy.” [11] The group often takes leadership roles in organizations it invests in. In 2016, it had board seats on half of the 200 companies in its portfolio. [12]

The Omidyar Network does not accept unsolicited proposals. It seeks out organizations to support. [13]

The Omidyar Network has targeted nonprofits that work with governments, including Bridge International Academies, an education group that operates in India and Africa. The group has also encouraged governments to deregulate financial sectors to permit more flexible investments, particularly to underfunded sectors. To this end, the Omidyar Network crafted the blueprint advocated by the G7 Alliance/Global Steering Group and claimed to have convinced the United States government to relax rules around investors considering social and environmental factors in their investment guidelines. [14]

Focuses

In 2018, the Omidyar Network established three new focuses which they have maintained to the present day. These new focuses indicate a leftward shift in the Omidyar Network’s priorities. [15]

Reimagining Capitalism

The “Reimagining Capitalism” focus is based on the premise that though “free markets have led to prosperity for some, they have also generated increasingly harmful and untenable inequities across economic, racial, and geographic lines.” Thus, the Omidyar Network seeks to address “structural challenges” so the economy will “serve the interests of all people and society.” [16]

In the Omidyar Network’s “Call to Reimagine Capitalism,” the group advocates building an “explicitly anti-racist and inclusive economy,” introducing more regulations to prohibit corporate consolidation, strengthening labor unions, and to enhance the power of governments to regulate markets since “markets do not self-regulate” and “we cannot leave markets to do government’s work.” [17]

In 2020, the Omidyar Network published a “Roadmap for an Antitrust Case Against Facebook.” [18]

Responsible Technology

The Omidyar Network makes investments in companies which are working toward developing technologies which improve global wellbeing. [19]

Pluralism

The Omidyar Network supports efforts to cultivate a pluralistic global society by encouraging democracy and combatting racism. [20]

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Omidyar Network is committed to left-of-center diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles. It has declared its intention to establish itself as an anti-racist organization, embed anti-racist measures into its investment and grantmaking process, fund more organizations working to support black communities, and hire more “underrepresented minorities, especially in senior management.” [21]

Media Influence

Fact Checking and Fake News

The Omidyar Network has funded various “fact-checking” groups, like the Poynter Institute of Media Studies’s International Fact-Checking Network. [22]

2017, the Omidyar Network pledged to spend $100 million to strengthen investigative journalism and combat fake news, starting with a $4.5 million donation to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the group responsible for  the Panama Papers. Other recipients included the Anti-Defamation League and the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology. [23]

Support for Whistleblowers

Omidyar has supported American whistleblowers, through the Omidyar Network and his other organizations, including granting generous financial support to the Guardian, which published the findings of Edward Snowden. In 2021, the Omidyar Network published a post on its blog and Medium declaring its support for whistleblowers in major American tech companies which have allegedly lacked transparency as their influence has grown. [24]

Criticisms

The Omidyar Network has been criticized for its secrecy. According to New York Magazine, the Omidyar Network Fund is a significant donor to Guidestar, a nonprofit dedicated to philanthropic transparency, which has unusually little information on the Omidyar Network. [25]

The Omidyar Network has been criticized for funneling money through tax havens like the Cayman Islands. [26] The Omidyar Network was mentioned in the Paradise Papers, a collection of confidential documents which revealed instances of offshore financial concealment by individuals, corporations, and nonprofits throughout the world. The Paradise Papers indicated numerous previously undisclosed investments by the Omidyar Network in Indian media companies. The Paradise Papers were leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists not long after it received significant funding from the Omidyar Network Fund. [27]

The Omidyar Network has been criticized for delegating work to unreliable institutions. For instance, in 2008, SKS, an Indian micro-lender, went public. As the indirect owners of 22% of SKS through Unitus Inc., a subsidiary based in the Cayman Islands, the Omidyar Network could have benefited from the IPO and expanded the lending operations. However, the convoluted structure of Unitus Inc. created conflicts of interest, and after SKS’s IPO, Unitus Inc. disbanded the microfinance operations at SKS to focus on more profitable lending. SKS would later suffer financial troubles due to political backlash resulting from a string of suicides connected to its “harsh collection tactics.” [28]

The Omidyar Network and Omidyar Network Fund have been accused of helping “lay the groundwork for today’s data surveillance society” by developing companies and infrastructure which integrates industries like education and finance with technology and permits closer monitoring of private activity by governments. [29]

References

  1. “Omidyar Network.” Coutts. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://philanthropy.coutts.com/en/reports/2016/united-states/case-studies/omidyar-network.html#:~:text=Omidyar%20Network%20was%20established%20in,catalyze%20economic%20and%20social%20change ^
  2. “Omidyar Network.” Coutts. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://philanthropy.coutts.com/en/reports/2016/united-states/case-studies/omidyar-network.html#:~:text=Omidyar%20Network%20was%20established%20in,catalyze%20economic%20and%20social%20change ^
  3. “Omidyar Network’s Journey.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/omidyar-networks-journey/. ^
  4. [1] “Omidyar Network.” Coutts. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://philanthropy.coutts.com/en/reports/2016/united-states/case-studies/omidyar-network.html#:~:text=Omidyar%20Network%20was%20established%20in,catalyze%20economic%20and%20social%20change ^
  5. Rice, Andrew. “The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency.” New York Magazine. November 2, 2014. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2014/10/pierre-omidyar-first-look-media.html. ^
  6. “Omidyar Network.” Coutts. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://philanthropy.coutts.com/en/reports/2016/united-states/case-studies/omidyar-network.html#:~:text=Omidyar%20Network%20was%20established%20in,catalyze%20economic%20and%20social%20change ^
  7. “Omidyar Network’s Journey.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/omidyar-networks-journey/. ^
  8. “Omidyar Network’s Journey.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/omidyar-networks-journey/. ^
  9. “Omidyar Network’s Journey.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/omidyar-networks-journey/. ^
  10. “Omidyar Network’s Journey.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/omidyar-networks-journey/. ^
  11. Rice, Andrew. “The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency.” New York Magazine. November 2, 2014. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2014/10/pierre-omidyar-first-look-media.html. ^
  12. “Omidyar Network.” Coutts. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://philanthropy.coutts.com/en/reports/2016/united-states/case-studies/omidyar-network.html#:~:text=Omidyar%20Network%20was%20established%20in,catalyze%20economic%20and%20social%20change ^
  13. “Pluralism.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/pluralism-partners/. ^
  14. “Omidyar Network.” Coutts. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://philanthropy.coutts.com/en/reports/2016/united-states/case-studies/omidyar-network.html#:~:text=Omidyar%20Network%20was%20established%20in,catalyze%20economic%20and%20social%20change ^
  15. “Omidyar Network’s Journey.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/omidyar-networks-journey/. ^
  16. “Reimagining Capitalism.” Omidyar Network. September 2020. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/reimagining-capitalism-4. ^
  17. [1] “Our Call to Reimagine Capitalism in America.” Omidyar Network. September 2020. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Guide-Design_V12_JTB05_interactive-1.pdf. ^
  18. “Roadmap for an Antitrust Case Against Facebook.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://omidyar.com/news/roadmap-for-an-antitrust-case-against-facebook/. ^
  19. “Responsible Technology.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/responsible-technology-2/. ^
  20. “Pluralism.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/pluralism/ ^
  21.  “Diversity & Belonging.” Omidyar Network. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://omidyar.com/diversity-and-belonging/. ^
  22. Rubinstein, Alexander; Blumenthal, Max. “How tech oligarch Pierre Omidyar funds regime-change networks and partners with CIA cutouts.” The Gray Zone. February 20, 2019. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://thegrayzone.com/2019/02/20/pierre-omidyar-regime-change-cia-cutouts/. ^
  23.  [1] Sullivan, Margaret. “Omidyar network gives $100 million to boost journalism and fight hate speech.” The Washington Post. April 4, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:CD09vTwVTNwJ:https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/omidyar-charity-gives-100-million-to-boost-journalism-and-fight-hate-speech/2017/04/04/aebb013c-193d-11e7-855e-4824bbb5d748_story.html+&cd=12&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us. ^
  24. “In Support of Tech Whistleblowers Who are Holding Tech to Account.” Medium. October 20, 2021. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://medium.com/omidyar-network/in-support-of-tech-whistleblowers-who-are-holding-tech-to-account-7fa5f66eac1c. ^
  25. Rice, Andrew. “The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency.” New York Magazine. November 2, 2014. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2014/10/pierre-omidyar-first-look-media.html ^
  26. Rice, Andrew. “The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency.” New York Magazine. November 2, 2014. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2014/10/pierre-omidyar-first-look-media.html. ^
  27. Dhingra, Sanya. “The Omidyar Network: ‘Committed to a free media’, via two Indian companies too.” The Print. November 7, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://theprint.in/report/omidyar-network-two-indian-companies/14889/. ^
  28. Rice, Andrew. “The Pierre Omidyar Insurgency.” New York Magazine. November 2, 2014. Accessed March 16, 2022. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2014/10/pierre-omidyar-first-look-media.html. ^
  29. “Omidyar Network and National Education Standards in Brazil.” Wrench in the Gears. January 21, 2022. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://wrenchinthegears.com/2022/01/21/omidyar-network-and-national-education-standards-in-brazil/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Pierre Omidyar
    Philanthropist

Associated Organizations

  1. Omidyar Network Fund (Non-profit)
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Omidyar Network


Redwood City, CA