In a world of corporations and big banks, the American dream of starting a business from the ground up is becoming harder to achieve. Getting loans and documentation of credit takes a long time and it is easy to lose steam and become discouraged when banks keep saying no. Meet Kabbage, a unique fintech company that sets out to help small businesses and start-ups get the funding they need to be successful. We talked to Co-founder and President, Kathryn Petralia, to get the inside scoop on what separates Kabbage from the rest of the financial world.
1. Where do things stand in the lending marketplace for small businesses to obtain funding?
Small business lending is accelerating largely due to the customer experience and easy access to funding. It's not that banks don't want to serve small businesses. They do, but it's difficult to do so in a cost-effective way. It costs a bank the same to underwrite a $5K loan or a $5M loan. Because of this, small businesses have been widely underserved. Kabbage is unique in that it provides an entirely automated lending service. Using big data and real-time connections with its customers, small businesses can apply, qualify and access a line of credit up to $150,000 in under ten minutes, without having to visit a bank or reapply for future funding. New approaches like this are super-charging the small business lending world, as well as small businesses, with growth and new possibilities.
2. How does Kabbage work?
Small businesses connect basic business data to Kabbage, allowing us to assess credit worthiness in minutes without requiring elaborate documentation, long-approval times or costly manual processes. Customers receive a decision right away, and qualified small businesses have access to an ongoing line of credit up to $150,000. They can take the amount they need whenever they need it, without additional fees, hidden fees, and there are no pre-payment penalties.
3. What kind of businesses are you looking for and why?
Kabbage helps any small business in any industry, from restaurants to construction, salons and spas, auto dealers and retailers. To qualify with Kabbage, a business needs to have been operating for at least one year and have a minimum of $50,000 in annual revenue or $4,200 per month over the last three months. Customers use Kabbage funding to manage cash flow, hiring and marketing as well as long-term needs such as business expansion or strategic investments.
4. What are the advantages of receiving funding through Kabbage rather than a bank?
The first advantage is time. Time is precious to small business owners. With Kabbage they can receive access funding in minutes, not weeks. The second advantage is a data-driven, ongoing partnership. We have a persistent connection to our customers and their business data, allowing us to provide them the capital they need whenever they need it. They never have to walk into a bank or reapply for funding. It allows our customers to focus on building their business and not on banking.
5. What is “alternative lending" and how is it changing small business lending?
Aside from what's provided above, it also helps remove any bias in the lending process. As it's entirely online, automated and analyzes objective business data, the process is 100 percent blind to age, race, gender and background. It removes any discouragement to apply for funding, freeing small businesses to have a chance to grow.
6. What is the future of small business lending now that alternative lenders are growing?
You'll see banks continually adopt these processes. Because it's entirely online, banks don't need to have brick-and-mortar locations to serve their customers. They only need an internet connection. It allows them to expand and reach new customers without heavily investing in new locations or operational costs. Kabbage partners with top global banks such as ING, Santander and Scotia Bank, allowing their small business customers to access funding in a more streamlined manner and have a significantly better customer experience.
7. How did you get involved in this industry?
I have over twenty years of experience working with large and small companies focused on credit, payments and commerce. It was the late 90s when I began to work in alternative lending so when co-founder Rob Frohwein approached me with his idea for Kabbage I immediately saw the value in using technology to reexamine the lending landscape. I could see that the lengthy, manual process that was used for funding decisions could be automated based on access to real-time data generated by numerous business operation.
8. What are the challenges facing women in the tech and banking world?
In recent weeks and months news of sexual harassment has spread across tech and fintech. The reactions I've seen by male VCs and leaders have included plans to “avoid meeting 1:1 with women". This is a massive step backwards and doesn't address the issue of culture in these organizations. It is incumbent upon both men and women to be beyond reproach in this regard, and creating distance between the genders is bad for women and it's bad for business.
9. What advice do you have for girls and young women looking to break into fields that have been traditionally dominated by men?
Although I haven't always been able to seek out a mentor, taking the time to find other women in these fields for advice and gain a new perspective on career paths is a great way to learn and network. There are some wonderful organizations out there for both girls and women that are really helping to break down barriers that previously stood in the way for women to have successful careers traditionally dominated by men.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.