Julia Kurnia is the founder and director of Zidisha.org, the world's first crowdfunding platform to eliminate intermediaries and connect individual web users and entrepreneurs across the international wealth divide.
Internet-savvy, low-income small business owners in the world's poorest countries use Zidisha.org to raise capital in the form of tiny loans directly from individual web users worldwide. They negotiate credit terms and chat directly with their financial backers using village smartphones and solar-powered laptops.
Zidisha.org's most important contribution has been to eliminate the local intermediary institutions that have traditionally managed loans on the ground and charged borrowers interest rates of 40% or more for microlending sites such as Kiva or Microplace. Instead of paying interest to intermediaries, Zidisha entrepreneurs (who must pass a thorough background check) post their own loan applications online, offering any interest rate they consider reasonable. Web users then bid to fund the business plans they find compelling, at or below the offered rates. Lenders are repaid in monthly installments and can withdraw the capital or allow the financial and social returns to compound by recycling it into new businesses.
In almost three years of operation, Zidisha entreprenurs have maintained a 97-percent repayment rate, disproving the notion that disadvantaged people in developing countries need to be supervised by expensive local bureaucracies in order to ensure that they participate responsibly in a lending community. Along the way, the entrepreneurs have transformed their prospects for a better quality of life, earning profits that have financed children's education, life-saving medical care for parents, new homes, and countless other benefits that are impossible to quantify.
Prior to Zidisha, Julia served for four years with the United States African Development Foundation, a federal government agency in Washington, D.C., where she worked to develop and manage a portfolio of approximately $10 million in grants to small businesses in West Africa. She holds a master's degree in International Economics from the George Washington University and is proficient in multiple languages, including French, German, Indonesian, Japanese and Spanish. Julia lives with her husband and son in northern Virginia. When not managing Zidisha, Julia enjoys practicing Indonesian martial arts.