The High-Profile Investors Who See Digital Jobs as a Path Out of Poverty

Describing its founding mission as helping "underprivileged youth escape the poverty trap by providing livelihoods through the creation of digital jobs," the India-based digital services company iMerit recently gained the investment attentions of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF), Khosla Impact, and the Omidyar Network.

While this is the first time MSDF and Khosla have invested in the company, the Omidyar Network previously provided $1 million to iMerit a few years back.  

In what was iMerit’s second round of funding, the investment trio reportedly put up a collective $3.5 million to back the company’s plans to boost its recruitment, training, and development of underprivileged youth, with an emphasis on young women. The money will also fund the expansion of iMerit service centers over the next five years.  

Dell, Khosla, and Omidyar aren’t the first funders addressing employment for the burgeoning global youth population. The Clinton Global Initiative addressed the issue at length at its latest Middle East and Africa meeting. And deep-pocketed funders like the Coca-Cola Africa and Rockefeller foundations have pledged millions to tackle the challenge posed by large swaths of young people who can’t find jobs.  

Related: Rockefeller Pushes for Success Skills Building for South African Youth

The consequences of this unemployment crisis are severe and getting worse. According to an article in the Harvard International Review, mass joblessness among young people can lead to increased drug use, violent activity, and social upheaval. This is already happening in some cities across the developing world.

Employment is just a piece of the global youth bulge puzzle, but it’s an important piece. And solutions exist. While back office scut work like image categorization for shopping websites and data verification isn’t glamorous, there’s a huge global demand for it. Young people who are able and more than willing to do the work are perfectly poised to meet that global demand. And outfits like iMerit want to make that happen.

Related: Millions to Tackle the Alarming Youth Unemployment in Africa

Pierre Omidyar and his Omidyar Network, along with Vinod Khosla and his Khosla Impact, have some serious stakes in the ground when it comes to impact investments. Khosla Impact is strictly focused on backing for-profit enterprises working in a wide range of fields to benefit “people at the bottom half of the world’s economic pyramid.” At Omidyar, of course, that's a longstanding focusalthough the network participates in traditional grantmaking, as well.

Funding by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation remains predominantly focused on traditional grantmaking. Dell obviously makes impact investments, but on a much smaller scale compared to the number of grants the foundation awards annually. According to MSDF, it’s pretty selective in its investments, working with “social entrepreneurs seeking to meet poverty-related market needs within our key areas of focus.”