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P2P Lender Zopa Eyes U.S. Expansion

The Britain-based peer-to-peer lending company secures $12.9 million of investment for brand marketing and a U.S. launch

Zopa, the peer-to-peer lending and borrowing marketplace, has secured an additional $12.9m of investment to expand its business in the UK and to launch in the US.

The company has also appointed Douglas Dolton as its new global CEO. Dolton succeeds co-founder Richard Duvall, who passed away last year.

Zopa specialises in social lending, enabling people to borrow and lend money without the need for a bank. This means better returns for lenders and low cost loans for borrowers, using the same kind of disintermediation associated with companies such as eBay and Betfair.

In the UK, Zopa plans to use the investment to drive awareness of the brand. James Alexander, UK CEO of Zopa, admitted to "No one's heard of Zopa."

The company will also develop the community feel of its service to make it a more social lending experience - allowing members to deal with particular groups, for example.

Alexander said: "We want to give it [the service] more 'zazz'."

The company is also planning to launch in the US later in 2007. Alexander said it is a very ripe market with favourable existing attitudes to online money exchange. "Our intention is to really take the idea behind Zopa and get that out to the most people," he said.

Alexander said Zopa uses a slightly different model to US social lending rival Prosper. He said Zopa takes a lot of care to help lenders understand who they are lending to, whereas Prosper focuses on the borrowers.

Global CEO Dolton was previously CEO at two internet-based consumer lending organisations.

Phillip Riese, chairman of Zopa, said Dolton's experience and leadership skills, combined with the additional investment, will be extremely important for the next stage of Zopa's growth.

Zopa has been running for just over two years and has recruited 135,000 members. It was launched by some of the team behind internet bank Egg and has some backers in common with Betfair, eBay and Skype.

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