Clay, Water, Brick: The Story of Kiva
Podcast #65 — Aired June 22, 2015

What if you could make a difference in someone’s life from your own computer? This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we are talking with Jessica Jackley. Jackley is the cofounder of Kiva, a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect people worldwide through a lending network, and co-founder and CEO of ProFounder, a crowdfunding platform that helped entrepreneurs raise funding from friends, family, and the community. Jackley will discuss her book, Clay, Water, Brick, and tell her personal story of how she learned to make a difference in people’s lives, and how you can make a difference too.

 

 

Donate $5 to Support our Podcast!

 

 Prev Episode Next Episode

Sign Up for New Shows & Updates!

Jessica Jackley
Co-founder, Kiva
Co-founder, ProFounder

Jessica is an award-winning social entrepreneur focused on financial inclusion, the sharing economy, and social justice. She is best known as a co-founder of Kiva, the world’s first and largest person to person microlending website. She also co-founded ProFounder, a pioneering crowdfunding platform for U.S. entrepreneurs, and Kin & Co., a consultancy helping organizations support women and working families. She is an investor and advisor with Collaborative Fund, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Jackley holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a BA from Bucknell University.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
This week on BetterWorldians Radio were talking Jessica Jackley, author of a brand new book Clay, Water, Brick. Jessica is an award-winning social entrepreneur focused on financial inclusion, the sharing economy, and social justice. She is best known as a co-founder of Kiva, the worlds first and largest person-to-person microlending website. She also co-founded ProFounder, a pioneering crowdfunding platform for U.S. entrepreneurs, and Kin & Co., a consultancy helping organizations support women and working families. She is an investor and advisor with Collaborative Fund, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Jackley holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a BA from Bucknell University. Hi Jessica welcome to BetterWorldians Radio.

Jessica
Hi thank you so much for having me.

Raymond Hansell
Oh youre very, very welcome, were very pleased that youre joining us today, youre certainly one of our better BetterWorldians thats for sure.

Jessica
Thank you.

Raymond Hansell
Youre welcome. You know your book has a very interesting title for our listeners that havent heard it, its just coming out now is Clay, Water, Brick. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about where that title came from?

Jessica
Absolutely. So the book is about my own entrepreneurial journey, and my thoughts on entrepreneurship, and it also, I think the best part of it, it highlights the stories of entrepreneurs that I met along the way. One of those entrepreneurs is the first person that I highlight in the book, a brick maker from Uganda. And this person has just an incredibly inspiring story. Part of it includes, you know, how he began, which really just entails reaching into, you know, reaching down into the earth with his bare hands, mixing clay that he found there with water, and forming those, forming what he had in his hands, that mixture into bricks. And that the idea that clay, water, and brick just that was enough to start a business that ended up supporting him, his family, and changing his life, I felt was a good, a good image to name, you know, to use for the book title. So its one of my favorite stories.

Raymond Hansell
It is a great story, its a great story. Really compels you to want to read more and more in the book by the way, great way to begin the book. Now your book tells the story

Jessica
Right.

Raymond Hansell
Now your book, of course, beyond that tells the whole story of the founding of Kiva. So for our listeners, what is the mission at Kiva?

Jessica
Yeah, Kivas mission is to connect people through lending for poverty alleviation and its been amazing, because its just about to turn ten years old. And over the last ten years, approximately Im closing in on three quarters of a billion dollars, almost seven hundred fifty million at this point that has been facilitated through twenty-five dollars at a time. The user experience is basically people come to the website www dot Kiva dot org, they browse profiles of entrepreneurs who need a small loan, and then they loan twenty-five dollars or more to those individuals, and over time they get repaid. And I would just make a note, my newest, my infant son is near by so I apologize if you hear little squeaks in the background.

Raymond Hansell
Okay. Those were not sound effects, thats the real thing. Okay.

Jessica
Hes quit quiet, he just woke up, I was hoping hed sleep through it.

Raymond Hansell
Alright, thats okay. Now you were very interested in giving back as a child, but you often found that experience somewhat unsatisfying. Why was that?

Jessica
Yeah, I felt that the stories I was told about people in need all over the world, it really gave me this picture, this image of them as people who only have sadness, suffering, desperation and hopelessness at the core of their stories. And when I gave, it made me still feel sort of, I dont know, disconnected and guilty, maybe even shameful about my own relative wealth. And the way that I gave was usually just to throw money in a jar, so to speak, or you know, send in a small donation somewhere. And maybe Id get a thank you note written by a computer, but I didnt have a connected experience, I didnt get to know those individuals more and more over time. If anything, it just perpetuated these feelings that I had as like I said, guilt and feeling overwhelmed. Like maybe what I was doing wasnt even going to make that big of a difference. And I think, to be able to feel that connection, that relationship, between the haves and the have nots is one of the secrets, one of the things that if we do that properly a lot of problems will actually fade away, because well be able to really, truly understand and value people out there that weve just put in a position of the other for so long.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, you really welcome people into this world so that they can experience some of the great things of entrepreneurship as a result of this entire initiative at Kiva. So how did you begin to discover the power of entrepreneurship as a, if you will, a force for good?

Jessica
I started to see, so I learned about microloan finance for the first time in the fall of 2003, when Doctor Muhammad Eunice came to the Stanford Graduate School of Business to speak. I saw him in that lecture and I heard from him how the power of a small loan, even just often a few dollars, you know, twenty-five dollars, maybe even a hundred dollars at most could really change the trajectory of someones life. Because it could help them continue to build on their existing business activities, and to create businesses that would allow them to have a more sustainable life, able to support their family. So the idea that a marriage of businesses, even small businesses, microenterprises, could eventually help people lift themselves out of poverty really is what started to change my world view.

Raymond Hansell
And speaking about the world, you then traveled to Africa to interview entrepreneurs in their world and learn more about what they actually want and what they need. And it seems that you learned that they really didnt want donations, they didnt want gifts, they wanted loans. So what did that teach you?

Jessica
Thats absolutely right, it taught me that, while its a clean and easy way, and my goodness its a wonderful way for people to contribute to bettering someone elses life by a donation a wonderful organization thats going to, in the end, serve that person, its not always whats wanted or needed on the other side of things. It doesnt always translate directly to a donation to that individual, again, it shouldnt. People that I met wanted a loan so that they could have autonomy, and responsibility, and really ownership over what they were building. So it really opened my eyes to this idea that not only was it, you know, an okay thing to consider providing a loan directly to a person, but maybe it was even a better fit, and a better way to honor that individual, those individuals desires to build something on their own and not feel endlessly dependent or reliant on another individual, or another, or an organization.

Raymond Hansell
Is that what you found when you actually interviewed them, the ones that actually had received some of these experiences when you first went over there, that they were validating that the loan made a difference versus a gift?

Jessica
Thats absolutely right, they did. I mean a lot of individuals Ive met with have received them at least in the very, very first round of interviews that I did ten years ago, my goodness, over ten years ago at this point. They, some of them have received a donation, and they really appreciated that, and it really primed them to be ready for a loan, and thats what I heard at the beginning, thats what they desired next. And for those who had received the loan, it was just proof of this, proof that it allowed them to really have the best of so many worlds. To be able to have this opportunity to use their business as capital, and then repaying it, and going through often some business training, along with their experience, allowed them to really feel independent, and to grow in ways that they couldnt otherwise.

Raymond Hansell
Thats great, thats really wonderful. Now another lesson that came from you from a simple cup of tea, why dont you share that experience, that by the way, included a bit of sugar, so maybe you can share that with our listeners as well.

Jessica
Thats right, thats right. One of the most important lessons that I learned during my first real experience in the field ten years ago throughout Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania was sitting with a woman who had received a hundred dollars to grow her business, and I had asked her what the biggest change that she had made, or the first change she had made in her life was. And she very matter-of-factly told me that the first thing she did was to start to buy sugar to put in her tea. And I remember thinking, what? Thats not a, what about all the other answers that I had been hearing up to that point. Why was that the very first thing she did? Why wasnt it, oh Im going to send my daughters to school? Or Im going to, you know, find more healthier food, or mosquito nets or something like that. And she explained to me that basically. My baby likes the story. Im sorry. She explained to me that basically having sugar for her tea, allowed her to change her whole role in her community. It allowed her to finally for the first time invite people into her home and to offer them tea, to be a hostess to them, because she could feel proud that when she offered them tea, they would have sugar as well. So it was sort of part and parcel of the experience. As she did that, she became more confident, more of a leader in her community, that translated into her kind of putting herself out there more with her business, selling more far and wide. It just, it was the beginning of a whole identity shift for her. The way that she, and of course she made lots of the others changes as well, but the very first thing to her that felt important was sugar in her tea. And I learned through that, not only the importance of sugar in tea, in that particular culture, but to always prioritize the way that the person youre trying to help, sees their own needs, sees their own priorities and sees the way that life is going to get better for them. You always need to make that be what you defer to. So it was a real, good, much needed dose of humility at an important point in time.

Raymond Hansell
Something that we might take for granted here in the, in our part of the world has made a huge difference in that persons self-esteem, self-confidence, and actually kind of propelled them to the next step. Is that?

Jessica
Thats right.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, thats amazing. Were going to take a short break right now, but when we return well talk more with Jessica Jackley, author of Clay, Water, Brick. In the meantime, if youre a fan of BetterWorldians Radio, I urge you to check out our social enterprise A Better World whose mission is to make uplifting games and apps to brighten the world. Our goal with everything we do here is do good, have fun, change the world, and were committed to creating awesome digital products designed with the purpose of making a difference through optimism, altruism, and charity. So far we have had our players perform over thirty-three million good deeds by more than three million people. When we come back MarySue will talk more with Jessica Jackley. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Youre listening to BetterWorldians Radio. Were speaking with Jessica Jackley, author of Clay, Water, Brick. And now let me welcome back Jessica and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Jessica.

Jessica
Hi, thanks again for having me.

MarySue Hansell
How are you and that cute little one that I hear in the background?

Jessica
Yes, Im great, Im great. My infant son, Asa, my third boy is with me today. He wanted to participate so he might squeak his opinion in the background as we proceed here.

MarySue Hansell
Well I love hearing that little sound. Anyway, okay. By the time you returned from Africa, you had a clear vision, a very clear vision of what you wanted to do. But you found that starting an online micro lending organization wouldnt be very simple, legally speaking that is. What were some of the challenges that you faced?

Jessica
Well we had an idea, my co-founder Matt and I, to lend, that allowed us as a family to lend small amounts of money to some of the people that I had met during my time in East Africa. To entrepreneurs who had microenterprises, people who were doing, you know, farming activity, buying and selling or trading things in the market, raising different animals, all sorts of simple things like that. And we wanted to allow individuals back where we lived in California, our friends and family, to lend money to them. Sounds kind of simple, but it actually wasnt. One thing you have to take into consideration is whatevers been exchanged of money, and its going to be repaid, the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission might have to be involved, particularly if theres going to be, well only if theres actually going to be financial gain. We didnt know at the very beginning we didnt know if that would be the case, if there would be a small amount of profit or not, turns out that not providing interest out of two lenders makes things a lot cleaner and simpler. And the truth is, it was a better product all around for everybody. So we, we just started with that, and we found out, not just by doing some research and giving the SEC a phone call, but also working with a number of wonderful pro bono legal teams at the very beginning, that a zero percent loan wouldnt actually be categorized as a security, or probably not, and it also wasnt a tax deductible donation either. So it was this funny new product that no one had really put out there yet that we wanted to see if it worked, see if there was a market for it, see if it was a valuable offering. And it turns out that it was.

MarySue Hansell
Yes, it was a wonderful, wonderful idea.

Jessica
So thats what weve done since the beginning, yeah.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, it was just a great idea. Now you overcame all of these challenges, and began Kiva with just seven entrepreneurs. What was the response that you had from friends and families and supporters? Tell everybody about that.

Jessica
You know, the truth is Im not sure what the breakdown was in terms of what percentage were excited about the actual idea versus just wanting to support us. But God bless them, over night, after we sort of spammed our closest friends and family, we had the thirty-one hundred dollars total that those seven entrepreneurs needed, and we sent it over to Uganda.

MarySue Hansell
Wow.

Jessica
And we allowed entrepreneurs to use it, to invest in their businesses, and they started to pay back almost immediately. So the response initially was really incredible, and that was all we needed to get started.

MarySue Hansell
Well thats great. You know, what were the early days like? I read in your book that you started getting lots of positive press and loans came rolling in.

Jessica
Thats absolutely right. So that, the first round of private loans, lets see, that was in March of 2005. Over the next six months folks were paid. By October 2005 we decided to sort of take the word data off of the site and put Kiva out into the world for real, and do another round of loans, maybe even beyond our initial friends and family, you know, including anyone else that we could, even inviting others to spread the word. So that was the goal, that was the goal. And in November of 2005, bizarrely we had about three hundred different blogs write about what we were doing. Somehow word started to spread, and so we at that point in time, Ill be totally honest, I hadnt even read many blogs. And so to have blogs write about us and start to drive major traffic was a big deal, was a huge learning curve for me. But that actually ended up leading to the site being so, I guess, so inundated with people who were interested in participating in a loan that we started to run out of loans. The site started to actually, people loaned more quickly than we could find

MarySue Hansell
Entrepreneurs?

Jessica
Well because we were off to an incredible start.

MarySue Hansell
Neat. Now as you were building Kiva, you were also attending graduate school. I dont know how you did all that, but at Stanford, where you helped create water storage to be used in Myanmar. What did you learn from that whole thing?

Jessica
That was a wonderful, the outcome of an incredible class I took through the design school at Stanford in conjunction with the business school. During that class, students from all different backgrounds, business students, engineering students, and students who you know, maybe they were a theology student or an anthropology student, who were all getting together and formed these diverse teams to solve particular problems in some areas where people were living in extreme poverty. Part of, the course is actually called Design for Extreme Affordability, so the goal is to make products that will be affordable to individuals even at the bottom of the pyramid. We designed a water storage bag that was made out of just a single piece of fabric. The competitor product at that point were, was a rather big hard heavy kind of, not oil drums, but big heavy kind of water storage containers, or people would just dig a hole in the ground, but the water would leech into the ground and get absorbed, and they werent very effective. What I learned through that experience, because part of the class, you know, its a design thinking class, I learned about, I learned so much, that the main takeaways were really around rapid prototyping and rapid iteration of ones design and ones ideas. What that looks like practically is kind of like with an idea, testing it out, making improvements as quickly as you can, and putting another version out there. And again, repeating that process, test, you know, iterate, test, learn, make your improvements and repeat until, theres not really an end point necessarily. I mean you can always learn, you can always make improvements as you go along. They may not be major improvements over, after some time, but thats sort of the process that we went through to produced what we did, and its just been such a valuable lesson in life for me. To, you know, do your best, get something out there sooner than later, improve upon it, and then just get better every day. Dont worry about feedback that tells you things arent perfect, its actually great and allows you a chance to improve.

MarySue Hansell
But, you know, youre right, theres a lot of lessons, and you shared these lessons and stories in your book, Clay, Water, Brick. Can you tell some of the stories? Lets start with Raj, I love that one the rickshaw driver.

Jessica
Yes, I love that one too. This was, I dont know, I think many travelers maybe particularly young women, I dont know, I dont want to make a generalization too much, but I definitely have been in situations a lot traveling where I thought, oh boy, have I got myself into a dangerous or precarious situation by traveling alone as a woman in a country where I dont speak the language very well. Raj is basically a rickshaw driver, I hopped into his vehicle, I was on my way going to my destination I thought, for a while, but then I started to doubt actually that that was true because he started taking sort of side streets, started to meander around, and I thought maybe even had bad intentions, and was you know, of course in my crazy imagination running away with itself like that, oh no hes trying to kidnap me. What do I do? It was a little bit ridiculous looking back. But I, you know, I was just curious and if not suspicious at certain points. It turns out that as traffic was building up he knew how to get there, how to get to where we needed to go more quickly by taking side streets, and by kind of going what looked like, you know, the wrong way at certain moments. But really he was the expert, he knew where we were going, and he totally had a plan. And by not just taking the main route, you know, I guess the analogy here in business and in life, is not just thinking like everyone else, and doing what everyone else is doing, he ended up getting ahead and I ended up getting to my destination much more quickly than other people who even had left right at the same time that I had. So he was just one of so many people who, you know, whose ability to get things done and have the wisdom in the midst of their entrepreneurial journeys as, you know, as humble as they may be at times. The wisdom is real, the wisdom is powerful, and it applies above and beyond just those situations.

MarySue Hansell
That was a great story about Raj. You know you have so many interesting stories in the book. How about the one about Shona McDonald? What happened with that?

Jessica
Ill tell you Shona is, its funny, I actually spoke with Shona just last week believe it or not.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, okay.

Jessica
We hadnt been in super close touch, but I had an excuse to basically call on her for her wisdom once again, and it was such a joy to see her face and talk to her. Shona is, I guess, shes the mother of three and her second daughter Shelly was born with a severe disability. Now at the time, where she lived in South Africa, the doctors tried to write off Shelly and really urged Shona not to have too high, you know, very high expectations for what her daughter would ever be able to do and achieve. But Shona as a loving mother knew that her daughter had great potential, worked really hard at doing anything that Shelly needed to help her succeed. One of those things, because Shellys disabilities were so severe, was to design equipment, chairs and different pieces of foam to help prop up her body, because she had trouble sitting up straight and being able to, you know, look straight ahead at a person sitting across from her, who could teach her things or read books to her, or interact with her. Shona found that these supports, the chair and the supports that she could build had a huge difference on Shellys ability to learn and grow and develop. She also realized that a lot of people out there, she was not only constructing these things for her child, but in places she knew that a lot of people around her had no where near the kind of resources needed, certainly the knowledge even needed to get the support system that their children and loved ones needed. So she started to make, she had background in sculpture by the way, just a fascinating little detail there, so she started to make equipment not just for her, you know, for her own daughter, but for friends and for others who would just show up at her door. I remember one particularly moving story that she talked to me about was of a woman, and this happened more than once, but the first time that a woman showed up, was a grandmother with a child strapped to her back just tied to her with a bed sheet. Sort of the way you see, yeah, the way you see babies being carried with a sling or strap of fabric. This was a much bigger child, I dont remember the age exactly, but who was strapped to this persons back with a bed sheet. But people were making it work, figuring it out however they could, but of course better systems and better equipment was needed. So Shona poured her life into doing that, and is still doing that today. Her organization has grown greatly, has served so many people, and I just think shes such a shining example of you know one dedicated person with a huge passion to help at first her daughter, and then others who suffered with similar disabilities. Shes just made such a difference in their lives and in their families lives.

MarySue Hansell
Well that was an ingenious idea. Just out of curiosity Jessica, do you remember how much her starting loan was?

Jessica
You know what, I do not remember.

MarySue Hansell
Okay.

Jessica
She was not, some of the entrepreneurs that I met, obviously that Ive met along the way and are written about in the book were some were Kiva entrepreneurs, some were through Profounder, my second startup. But others I met through writing case studies at Stanford Graduate School of Business. I believe that Shona worked with Endeavor, and possibly Acumen. But those are two wonderful organizations that also support entrepreneurship that you may have heard of. And Shona had been supported I think through one of those. So I dont remember the information about her financial support. But in the spirit of the others, she just really took this project, this task in front of her and applied entrepreneurial thinking to it, and you know, grew an incredible, really impactful organization.

MarySue Hansell
You know Kiva was very successful, and it grew very quickly. But there were some setbacks as all organizations have, and in this case you had a case of fraud in Uganda. Why dont you share that with us what happened there?

Jessica
Yeah, we grew so quickly in the beginning, it put a lot of pressure both on us and on, and its a great problem to have, right? But it put a lot of pressure on us, and on the individuals and the organizations that we had been working with at the time. One of those individuals, to solve the problem more or less, decided that it would, it was, you know, a good decision and of course it was not to take more money than he could responsibly distribute to needy entrepreneurs who could use it and grow their businesses. So unfortunately we discovered that a lot of the money had not gone to individuals as promised, and as intended. So we of course immediately stopped that partnership and dealt with the situation. The bigger lesson there, I mean theres lessons on how to deal with fraud in Uganda, and those are very specific, and theres lessons on how to do that in other countries too, when that comes up, or other problems not as extreme as fraud.

MarySue Hansell
Right, right.

Jessica
But the biggest lesson to us was how to deal with that in a transparent way with all our lenders, and to, it was incredible to watch how we were rewarded for that transparency with increased trust and loyalty and people just sort of turning and saying, well I get it, this is a difficult thing to do, thanks for letting us know and kind of bringing us into the inner circle and making all of us your inner circle, and were going to lend again. So we also made structural improvements, organizational improvements at that time, providing, you know, more insight, more transparency before people would make a loan, with risk rating systems so people would understand, lenders can understand how risky a lender and an organization, Im sorry, how risky an organization and potential borrower in a particular country might be, versus another institution. So ideally, you know, when those types of situations come up, you learn everything you can in the moment, and also change things so that over time the same mistakes dont, arent repeated.

MarySue Hansell
Well Id like to end my segment with a really positive story about the story of Blessing, the shopkeeper.

Jessica
Absolutely. I was excited I thought you were going to dive into it and tell me. Blessing was a shopkeeper I met outside of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. She was just such a, had such a personality and was really wise about where she positioned and how she positioned herself and her shop. She knew that being close to the people that she wanted to serve was the best way to understand them, the best way to provide what they needed. And so fittingly she built her little shop smack in the middle of the street of a kind of a thorough fair, not a paved road, but not just a little path either. So other people of course had built at intersections and on the side of the road at you know, trading centers, etc. Blessing just decided to put things right smack in the middle of this path outside of her village, and that way she saw people as they came and went to their jobs, or to you know, where they needed to go every day. And if you looked inside her shop, you could sort of see that each and every product, you know, it was not your usual assortment of, oh Ill have you know, some soap and some cooking oil and some vegetables and some batteries or whatever shops in that area would have. But instead every little item, you know, she had several different kinds of soap for example because she knew that her neighbors wanted that particular type. She really specialized and gotten what her particular customers needed, because she knew that (unintelligible). And I love, the reminder of that is to me, as being specific about, and being intentional and getting close to people that you want to serve well so that you can have exactly what they need thats a general fix for their problems.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, she really used her common sense, you know. You would think that people want to go to the market, but she said no Im going to be near my people. So there you go.

Jessica
Exactly.

Raymond Hansell
Well were going to take another break, but before we do we want to congratulate our players in our game on Facebook called A Better World. Last month as I mentioned earlier, we partnered with Northern Childrens Services, a nonprofit that helps the development of children, while stabilizing their families to build stronger communities. And in the previous month our players completed three hundred thousand good deeds and so we released the funds to a program they call Mothers Fresh Start to fill suitcases, welcome home suitcases for new moms in need with personal care and baby necessities including clothes for mom and baby. So great job BetterWorldians, keep up the great work. You can join the BetterWorldians and find out more at A Better World dot com. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Were back now with Jessica Jackley, author of Clay, Water, Brick.

Gregory Hansell
Hi Jessica, its Greg.

Jessica
Hey Greg.

Gregory Hansell
So I know as a child, you were talking to Ray about this earlier, you know, you were confused about poverty and whether you could even make a difference. You know, what convinces you now after all of your experiences that real change is actually possible?

Jessica
I mean Ive gotten to see it first hand, Ive gotten to, I think we all know when we interact with somebody, you know, God forbid real time in real life, somebody we might know who lives close to us, somebody we see who needs something, maybe begging on the street. We can see that certain exchanges of time and sometimes financial support or other needs really do change someones life. And I think Ive just seen enough of those cases, far and near, to know that while not every solution is the silver bullet, I dont think there is a silver bullet, every little bit we do does, can make a difference, can help.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think thats inspiring for people to hear, I think a lot of people have that idea that, you know, and weve discussed this a lot on this show in the past, where people think its, the problems are too big, theyre too bad, theres nothing we can do. Its like no, we are making a difference, you know, and in some ways now more than ever.

Jessica
Yeah, yeah.

Gregory Hansell
You know?

Jessica
I agree, I totally agree.

Gregory Hansell
So what are you most proud of when you look back at your time at Kiva and what the organization continues to accomplish today?

Jessica
I think I get most excited thinking about, not just the obvious change, but changes made in the lives of borrowers, but I get really excited about thinking about how perhaps Kivas giving lenders an opportunity to see a new story of potential and of entrepreneurship. Not just a story of need and sadness in the life of somebody else. I think to be able to change the way we believe in each other, to change the way a lender might believe that its possible for somebody else that they may never even meet I think is a really beautiful thing and I get excited about that.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, that is really magical. Thats incredible. So you know, I read in the book that you transitioned away eventually from Kiva and you called that painful. And but you came to learn that there was adventures on the other side, and actually first of all I want to tell you how much I loved the story of you surfing in Mexico as way of kind of like decompress from the whole experience.

Jessica
Oh thank you.

Gregory Hansell
But given that experience what would your advice be for someone going through a transition they find scary or intimidating? Whats the first thing you would tell them to do?

Jessica
First thing I would tell them to do is create space for yourself to reflect and kind of go inward and understand really what youre feeling and what, just give yourself time and space to process if you can as much as you can. I know, you know, not always such a luxury just to be able to go get time away from, you know, from the rat race I guess, and have a few months to really recalibrate. But you can do that day to day in little ways, even if its just a few minutes of meditation at the beginning of each day, give yourself the space to do that. Dont underestimate the power of those moments of reflection to kind of sort through what youre feeling and if you dont follow the feelings through, if you dont entertain them and give them the space they deserve now, theyll come back, theyre not going to go away, theyll come back and youll have to do it later and it will be a lot more complicated. So that would be one piece. I think the other thing that I would do is to talk to people that have a little more perspective than you might in that moment, because theyll be able to let, theyll be able to I think ground you differently, help you to see maybe the other side of the story, and help you really see the reality that you know, every transition has the potential to turn into I guess to change our lives for the better. It can always be an opportunity for positive change, even the ones that are most painful.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, you know, I think that is great advice. Even for entrepreneurs that are still in the throws of what theyre working on, or for people that arent entrepreneurs. I think I read recently that Bill Gates used to take a week off every year from Microsoft, where he wouldnt check email, he wouldnt do anything but think about the future of where the company was heading. And that hed come back really reenergized and engaged with, you know, what to bring, what to bring back to Microsoft. I think its a good habit of getting away from the day to day, and kind of decompressing and saying, hey what can we do differently, you know?

Jessica
I love that, yeah.

Gregory Hansell
So after your time with Kiva, you decided, speaking of entrepreneurs, to find a way to help those entrepreneurs closer to home. Tell us about Profounder.

Jessica
Sure, Profounder was an answer to a pretty simple question that my, that I and my co-founder Dana started to ask ourselves, we thought, why is it so difficult and confusing and sort of, you know, weve never been, yeah, why is it so difficult to basically support entrepreneurs that we know and love? Whether its small, a local small business that we love, or a classmate that had a startup, you know, we didnt have, neither of us and most people that we knew didnt have piles of money sitting around who could invest tens of thousands of dollars, but would have loved to support the local café, or local yoga studio, or whatever, by either getting, having an agreement based on revenue share, or maybe even equity. Just to know that they were participating in that small businesses story and in that entrepreneurs story. So we started to look into what it takes in the U.S. to do that, and this was a few years before the JOBS Act was even a twinkle in legislations eyes. So unfortunately the crowd funding exemption wasnt available to us. What we did instead was to build our own engine, our own compliance engine and a set of mind tools to make it possible for anybody to sort of in a do it yourself way, raise funding for friends, family, and community. Its as close to crowd funding as you could do at that time in 2009, 2010. So thats what we did.

Gregory Hansell
Thats amazing. You know, I also ready that you were pretty involved right? With the passage of the JOBS Act, you, I think you told me your founder, told me, told us in the book that your founder spoke to Congress and you answered a lot of calls at the time, and both of you were really pushing, I think you were even at the White House for the signing of the Act, is that right?

Jessica
Thats right. So my co-founder, so we both started the company, but Dana Moriello was able to, I was super pregnant with my twins, so I couldnt, I couldnt travel. She was able to go to Washington and speak to Congress about the benefits of crowd funding and it was an incredible moment. And then we both, I had the baby, once (unintelligible), we were both able to go to the Rose Garden and watch the JOBS Act being signed into law. It was really a phenomenal experience.

Gregory Hansell
That must have felt like a big success for you too, to know that things were headed in that direction you wanted them to go.

Jessica
It felt really good. I mean obviously we were a tiny part of it, but to be any part of it, to be part of, you know, on the right side of a trend and to be heard on the issues that we really cared about. It just felt really special to get to do that. It also felt like what we had done with Profounder, while the company itself we chose not to continue it because things had changed so rapidly and now the JOBS Act, you know, the crowd funding exemption was a way better option for people than what we had built, and we felt anyway. We felt it was a victory for the greater good. So while it wasnt just our organization that continued on, we were excited to see how the world had shifted and it was a good thing.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, thats a great thing I think. So youve helped so many entrepreneurs back home and abroad and youve written in your book that you really view them as your role models. Tell us why that is?

Jessica
Entrepreneurs who truly embody the spirit of what in fact is special about entrepreneurship, this idea that, while theres a definition by Howard Stanson that I talk about in the book of entrepreneurship, and its the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled. This idea that its about the pursuit, its about a decision every day to keep moving forward regardless of the things we lose or the things we lack, or the mistakes that we think weve made in the past, or just the barriers that come up in front of us. To choose to keep moving forward, pursuing an opportunity, that spirit is just I think the most optimistic, hopeful, inventive kind of way to live. And so I find it incredibly and endlessly inspiring to get to know entrepreneurs that are doing that, and to support them feels like such an honor.

Gregory Hansell
And it also seems like in the book that you really talk about entrepreneurialism not just as something about starting organizations, but as a whole kind of life philosophy.

Jessica
Thats right, thats right. I just think that, you know, everything that I just said, the choice to keep going to push forward despite barriers or setbacks, thats a way to lives, thats a way that I want to live. Not just a way that I want to work and build a career and build businesses, build organizations. In fact I think its easier to picture and easier to apply that kind of spirit more broadly to life. We all have been, we may not all have experienced an entrepreneurial, like a business or organizational set back, but we all know what it feels like to you know, have something come up that we didnt expect, and to have to push forward anyway, and have to figure it out. So thats how I want to live.

Gregory Hansell
Thats great.

Jessica
I just wish there was a shorter more concise way to talk about it to live entrepreneurially. I know thats a mouthful, but the best way that I can think about it.

Gregory Hansell
Sure, no, I think thats perfect. So, you know, I mentioned during the break to you how much I loved the book and really enjoyed it, but you know, one moment for me that was really powerful, I got goose bumps when reading it were actually the ending of the book, the words, the world needs you that you say to your readers. Tell us why the world, you know, needs us.

Jessica
Well I believe that we all are born into the world with great gifts and with different abilities, unique abilities. And maybe most importantly were all born with a unique perspective and no one gave you that, were all born, Asa was getting excited here, I was just born I know what thats like. Were all born into a particular moment in time and in a particular place, a particular family, and we all see the world in our own way. That perspective can be, that perspective alone can be a very powerful thing, and we need all of those perspectives to have not just, you know, full information, but I think to understand and to appreciate in the most full way whats happening around us, and what people are experiencing around us. So I guess to put it concisely, I think the world needs each one of us in a way to fully express ourselves, to fully sort of contribute to what it means to be a human being on this planet. And I think we can all contribute too, not just by voicing those perspectives, but by contributing to, I mean thats what this shows all about, right? To

Gregory Hansell
Absolutely.

Jessica
To make the world better for ourselves and for the people around us. It could be a really, simple, simple thing, and I think we all have the ability to do that.

Gregory Hansell
No I think thats exactly right. We believe that strongly here at BetterWorldians Radio, you know, we always talk about how our goal with the show is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everybody, and hopefully through airing these amazing stories of people like yourself and what youve been able to do with Kiva and Profounder and other things, inspires them to go out and do something themselves to kind of use their unique talents and make something happen.

Jessica
Thank you.

Gregory Hansell
No, sure, sure. So I have just one last question before we have to wrap up the show.

Jessica
Yes.

Gregory Hansell
But I ask this every week actually to every one of our guests, in your case how do you hope your work giving a hand up to those in need is helping to make the world a better place?

Jessica
I really like to see, I like to see things through the lens of providing opportunities. In fact, Nick Kristofs latest book, A Path Appears really takes this perspective as well. I think empowered entrepreneurs who are, who want to create value for themselves and other people, that they often can open up opportunities for others. So investing in entrepreneurs is sort of an opportunity amplifier. You not only give that individual opportunity to go do something of value in the world, but ideally when they do those things of value, theyre providing something for lots of other people too, providing opportunities for them not just through jobs, but through the product or services they offer maybe thats going to open up opportunities for other people as well. So thats what I hope in my work can contribute and make the world a better place.

Raymond Hansell
Well, youre certainly doing a great job of that. We really appreciate your involvement with the show. For our listeners

Jessica
Thank you.

Raymond Hansell
Youre very, very welcome. For our listeners you can learn more about Jessica Jackleys work by checking out her brand new book, Clay, Water, Brick. Jessica thanks again for joining us on BetterWorldians Radio.

Jessica
Thank you, its been such a pleasure.

Raymond Hansell
It has indeed been our pleasure as well. As we end our show each week we like to share our BetterWorldians mission. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. And until next time everybody, please be a BetterWorldian.