Zopa (re)launches now its bigger than Basildon?

Zopa, the peer-to-peer borrowing and lending exchange, has just (re)launched its website. The most interesting change is the new system of visualisation for members using custom avatars which seems very Habbohotel to me.

Try it out for yourself on their home page. Click on the “I’D LIKE TO MEET” filter and select your options. The site then highlights and circles those users who fit your chosen criteria. You can then click on any of the people in the circle to find out more about them. The potential and possibilities for this user interface within a social networking sites certainly intrigues me the most.

The relaunch of the site, created by Poke London, has coincided with the company’s launch in the US as well as it having now over 100,000 members in the UK since its original launch in March last year, making it officially “Bigger than Basildon” which was the quote made infamous by John Lennon when describing The Beatles.

James Alexander, co-founder and COO of Zopa said: “Attracting more than 100,000 members in just 18 months is a sign that this new idea has captured the public’s imagination and is tapping into their desire to find a better deal by cutting out the banks and their excessive profits. Our members also tell us how much they like borrowing from real people – not faceless institutions with ‘computers that say no.’ And those lending like to help others while also getting much better returns on their money. The ability to see who is borrowing their money and for what purpose is a very popular aspect of the Zopa experience for lenders.”

To mark the occasion, Zopa’s 100,000th member was given 100,000 pence and all Zopa members have been invited to enter a competition in which they can win limited edition ‘Bigger than Basildon’ T-shirts, mugs and badges. But behind the light-hearted fun is a much more significant fact that Zopa’s rapid growth is proving that the concept of person-to-person borrowing and lending is indeed taking off.

Mr 100,000 himself, going by the username Zopalender99, said: “I first heard about Zopa from the popular website moneyexpert.com, the main appeal being the flexibility and the new (to me) way of ‘investing’. Zopa offers an interesting and fun way to invest, and so far I have found the website very straightforward to use. I intend to use the £1000 I have just won for future lending with Zopa, and will probably re-lend the interest received. I intend to stay with Zopa for the foreseeable future and will certainly recommend it to friends.”

[sad note: taken from the Zopa Blog dated 17th Oct.]

“It is with enormous sadness and regret that I write these words on behalf of everyone at Zopa. Richard Duvall, our co-founder and CEO quietly passed away early on Monday morning, with his family by his side, after a short battle with cancer. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family.”