Contributed by Kimberly Badtke
“Be the entrepreneur of your life,” encouraged Julie Hanna, Chair of the Board at Kiva and keynote speaker for OPEN Silicon Valley: 4th Annual Women Leadership Forum. “Think about aligning your greatest passion and your natural talents with the world’s greatest needs.”
Ms. Hanna’s inspirational journey from childhood through the business world kicked off the event held February 11, 2012 at the Computer History Museum and mirrored the forum’s theme: inspire, impact, and win. She is a serial entrepreneur who is driven by her belief in information technology as a democratizing force for social, political, and business disruption. Early on, she set out to change attitudes.
As a 12-year-old, Julie loved baseball. One problem: girls were not allowed to register for the baseball league in her hometown. Not easily deterred, she mustered her courage, went down to the city office where registration was occurring, and explained, “I’m here to register for baseball.”
“Well, bless your heart, hon,” kindly replied the city worker. “Girls don’t play baseball.”
“Oh, yes they do, “ bravely stated Julie, “and Title IX says you have to let me play.”
As Ms. Hanna reflected on this story, she reminded us ‘how we respond when someone tells us no’ is very important. In this situation, her mission had been to prove girls can do anything boys can do and she eventually was allowed to play baseball in a boy’s league.
“Small acts do have a big impact,” shared Ms. Hanna. “When I see someone struggling financially, I wonder how lack of fair access has determined their fate. People living in poverty are not victims. Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.”
The internet has helped far-flung and domestic entrepreneurs capitalize on opportunities by using Kiva’s micro-lending resources. Co-founded by Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley in 2005, Kiva has grown from funding $1 million in loans per year to funding $1 million in 5 days. The non-profit is closing in on funding $300 million in 2012. Eighty percent of borrowers are women and Kiva has focused on depressed areas in the US as well as abroad. In Pakistan, $5 million in loans was awarded to a total of 20,000 entrepreneurs.
Further sparking the aspirations of the attendees, Ms. Hanna shared a quote from Dr. Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: “All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in a cave we were all self-employed…finding our food, feeding ourselves. As civilization came, we suppressed it. We became labor, because they stamped us ‘you are labor.’ We forgot that we are entrepreneurs.”
When asked how to leverage our resources, Ms. Hanna advised, “Take an idea you are obsessed about, get started and ‘throw yourself off the cliff.’ Try to run experiments as quickly and cheaply as possible. Be sure to pick the part of your hypothesis that is the most risky and remember, persistence is 90% of what makes an entrepreneur successful.”