When it comes to lending and borrowing money, banks have long been at the center of the equation. However, with the proliferation of new information technologies, mobile devices and the good old Web, new methods of borrowing and lending have emerged that are slowly toppling the bank-centric model. The best and most promising example is peer-to-peer lending, which leverages technology to directly match those who need money with those who have money to invest, while cutting out the middle man.

By enabling the efficient flow of capital across international boundaries and wealth divisions, and by allowing lenders to connect with and send money directly to borrowers, peer-to-peer micro-lending has the ability to have an enormous impact — on a global scale. However, while a handful of organizations and institutions have attempted it, direct P2P lending across international wealth divides has never been done before at scale, says Julia Kurnia.

So Kurnia decided to change that. In 2009, she founded Zidisha, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing direct, P2P lending to low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries. Without much of a roadmap to follow, Zidisha has spent the intervening years plotting its course, slowing developing a micro-finance model that could work at scale — through good old-fashioned trial and error.