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Reid Hoffman Leads $13 Million Bet on Anti-Poverty Software

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Reid Hoffman Leads $13 Million Bet on Anti-Poverty Software

  • Segovia Technology targeting nonprofit, government agencies
  • Humanitarian groups `amazingly 20th Century' in modern world

LinkedIn Corp. co-founder Reid Hoffman is leading a $13 million initial funding round for Segovia Technology Co., an enterprise software startup that aims to be the Inc. for governments and institutions running anti-poverty programs.

Hoffman is joined in the funding round by investors including Abraaj Capital Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Arif Naqvi, Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation and the Omidyar Network Fund Inc., the New York-based company said Thursday in a statement. Christopher Schroeder, an angel investor and former technology executive, will become a board member representing the new investors, Segovia said.

LinkedIn’s chairman is “investing in an individual capacity” independent of his role at venture-capital firm Greylock Partners, where he is a partner, according to the statement.

Segovia develops software to identify and deliver assistance to people in bulk in emerging markets. It seeks to provide the multitrillion-dollar humanitarian and development industry with modern technological tools to ensure the money being spent on aid more effectively reaches the world’s poor.

Enterprise Technology

“Social programs, especially cash transfer programs, are critical to the fight against extreme poverty, but currently they don’t have access to the kind of enterprise software that modern businesses need to function effectively,” Hoffman said in the statement. “This is a problem that needs a solution at scale, and Segovia has the vision and the team to create that solution.”

The humanitarian and development system is “amazingly 20th Century in a world of 21st Century opportunity,” Schroeder said in the statement.

Segovia was founded in 2014 by Harvard-educated economists Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus, who said they saw the need for such software through their academic research and charity work. Their nonprofit organization GiveDirectly showed that providing cash grants directly to the poor is a more cost-effective way than sending goods or in-kind assistance in helping them live on more than $1.25 a day.

African Projects

Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee and GiveDirectly have hired Segovia for projects in Liberia, Kenya, Uganda and Pakistan, the company said.

“We have not brought our best technology to the bottom billions,” said Faye, Segovia’s CEO. “With world-class engineering talent, and a group of investors that have built some of the leading technology and emerging market businesses in the world, we think we have a unique opportunity to change that.”

(Updates with details on nature of Hoffman's investment in third paragraph.)