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Something significant is happening in the world of global finance. A new socioeconomic development model has emerged, whereby, seed capital for small business start-ups is provided directly from shareholder-investors rather than multilateral aid or official development assistance (ODA). The new model co-opts the language of microfinance, the success of small lending programs for the poor, and the good-will associated with the notion of small business development to create a new microcredit financial industry and financial asset class. The phenomenon has the potential to alter our fundamental notion of global socioeconomic development. This article explores the proprietary nature of financing from wealthy investors such as family philanthropists, venture capitalists, private equity firms, insurers, and commercial banks. The rebranding of microfinance technology provides a useful case study to understand how proprietary financing works and what the changes portend for investors and people with low incomes trying to work their way out of poverty.

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