- A graduate of Stanford University, Premal’s first degree was in Economics rather than in Computing unlike several of his peers. He would also go on to study microfinancing at the London School of Economics.
- Following his graduation, he worked at PayPal (after a brief period at Oliver Wyman) from 2000 to 2006 as its Product Manager.
- Shah is considered to be a member of the PayPal Mafia, a group of men who continued to impact Silicone Valley by founding, developing, or funding tech companies.
- Premal eventually left to found Kiva to aid entrepreneurs in developing countries. He would also go on to launch Renewables.com.
Premal Shah is an Indian-American entrepreneur who is best known for being a member of the PayPal Mafia. His business endeavors, including Kiva, Branch.co, and Renewables.org, have all been driven by Shah’s desire to empower poor people through micro-lending.
Who Is Premal Shah?
Premal Shah is an Indian-American businessman. An experienced tech entrepreneur and non-profit leader, Shah first cut his teeth at PayPal and eBay, where he started his career. He then transitioned to the non-profit sector, where he founded Kiva, one of the most successful micro-lending institutions in the world.
- Full Name
- Premal Shah
- October 5, 1975
- Net Worth
- Approximately $2 million
- 40 Under 40 (Fortune 500)
- White House Champion of Change
- 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs (Goldman Sachs)
- 2 (both with his current wife)
- Indian American
- Place of Birth
- Ahmedabad, India
- Fields of Expertise
- PayPal, Kiva, Stanford, London School of Economics
- Founder of Kiva, Founder of renewables.org, Member of the PayPal Mafia
Shah is also a member of the so-called PayPal Mafia. This is the nickname given to the group of individuals who started their business careers at PayPal, using the experiences and connections they built to launch their careers.
Shah was born in India but immigrated to Minnesota with his family as a young boy. Shah was one of the only non-white children in his school and has said that he was called the “N-word” because of the color of his skin. He felt disenfranchised and wanted desperately to fit in, so he ran for student council president because he thought that doing so would make him more popular with the other students.
He showed exceptional academic talent and leveraged that into a successful college and graduate career. In 1994, he attended Stanford University, where he graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Economics. He also spent time at the London School of Economics, where he studied microfinancing — an interest that would unquestionably serve him later in his career.
PayPal and eBay
After a brief sting as an analyst for Oliver Wyman, Shah left and joined PayPal. He would be with the company from 2000 — 2006, a truly momentous time in the company’s history. He saw the company make its Initial Public Offering and was there when it was eventually purchased by eBay.
Unlike many other members of the PayPal Mafia, Shah stayed after the eBay acquisition. He worked there until 2006, serving as a Product Manager. Shah loved his work at PayPal, but was obsessed with helping disadvantaged individuals through microcredit. So he took some time off to develop a micro-lending product that would later serve as the starting point for Kiva.
Shah co-founded Kiva, the first online lending platform that connects entrepreneurs to lenders, with Jessica Jackley and Matt Flannery. Kiva utilized some of the technological experience that Shah had developed during his time with PayPal and eBay. The goal of Kiva was simple: help entrepreneurs in developing nations earn business investment. Shah set out to create the business in order to reduce the barriers that existed towards the creation of new businesses in these areas. By the time Shah stepped down as President of Kiva, the company had lent out more than $1 billion to 75 different countries. Shah remains a part of the organization today.
One of the first investors in Kiva was Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn. This is another way in which Shah’s membership of the PayPal Mafia helped him, as it is unlikely that he would have had connections to LinkedIn without having worked with LinkedIn’s founder. Indeed, many PayPal Mafia members would eventually contribute to the company and sit on its board.
Shah partnered with another Kiva co-founder to launch Branch.co in 2015. This finance app, which has been downloaded over 40 million times throughout Africa and Inda, is among the most popular finance apps in the world. It’s designed to provide loans to customers who have little to no credit history or savings.
In February 2021, Shah co-founded renewables.org. According to Shah’s LinkedIn profile, the company is seeking to speed up the development of renewable energy in Africa and India. The website is also built as a platform in which other individuals and businesses can make investments in this sector of the economy.
Like Kiva, the site uses multiple incentives which allow users to lend money to build clean energy facilities in a variety of developing nations. It offers a 6% APY and says that it will guarantee the first $100 of any investment. The project seems to combine some of Shah’s best-known strengths: Leveraging business assets and encouraging non-profit investment.
What Is Premal Shah Known For?
Shah is one of the two dozen or so individuals who is known as a member of the PayPal Mafia. This refers to the group of Silicon Valley men and women who were with PayPal when it first started. It is an impressive collection of entrepreneurs who have since gone on to form a variety of highly successful businesses. Some of the members of this group include some of Silicon Valley’s biggest successes, including Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Max Levchin, David O. Sacks, and more.
Shah is notable in the PayPal Mafia for multiple reasons. First, he is one of the few members of the group to have been born out of the United States, having been born in India. Second, unlike most of the members of the group, Shah turned his considerable talents to the non-profit world, creating one wildly successful non-profit and starting another in 2019.
Shah took the skills he learned in Silicon Valley and applied them to the non-profit world. With this expertise, he was successfully able to apply Silicon Valley lessons to a slew of important non-profits. This applies to the two companies he founded: Kiva and Renewables.org. It also has applies to the other organizations he has helped.
Shah also has sat or is an active member of the boards of numerous other non-profit organizations. This includes Change.org, VolunteerMatch, Watsi, and more.
Unlike other PayPal Mafia members — and despite personal connections to the medium — Shah does not have an actively used Twitter profile. While he does have a Twitter page, he has not used Twitter for tweeting since 2018.
Premal Shah: Marriage, Children, and Personal Life
Shah’s net worth is not exactly known, as he has not had to sign any documents that have confirmed how much he is worth. Numerous estimates have placed his net worth at around the $2 million range.
This would be significantly less than many other members of the PayPal Mafia. However, Shah’s interest has never really been focused around his net worth, instead of focusing on expanding his non-profit presence and impact.
Shah is married, although his wife tends to stay out of the spotlight.
Shah and his wife have two children together.
Premal Shah: Awards and Achievements
Shah’s extensive business and non-profit success have earned him many awards. These include:
- 40 Under 40 (Fortune 500, 2009)
- Champion of Change (President Obama)
- Young Global Leader (World Economic Forum, 2009)
- Most Intruiging Entrepreneurs (2012, Goldman Sachs)
Premal Shah: Published Works and Books
At the moment, Shah has not published any books.
Premal Shah: Quotes
“Our fates, our futures, and our liberation are indeed bound together. Only by fully honoring everyone’s dignity do we ourselves become truly free.”
“If you take just a real long view on why you’re here, I’ve been thinking if everything you do, you do for yourself in your career, then when you die your body of work dies with you, but if everything you do, you do for other people then when you die it lives on.”
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Intel Free Press, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.