Last week, fintech unicorn Kabbage announced the hiring of a new CTO, their first since 2016. James Chou, formerly of Shutterstock and WorkMarket, has a long history of growing scaling technology companies’ product portfolio and capabilities.
Chou most recently served as CTO at WorkMarket, a cloud-based workforce management solution provider that sold to software giant ADP in January 2018. Immediately before that he was CTO at Shutterstock, the stock image company.
Chou was at Shutterstock during the company’s highly-successful IPO in 2012 — the IPO raised an initial $76.5 million, far exceeding projections. He also worked on Wall Street for many years, specifically JP Morgan, and says his financial services experience will benefit him in his first role with a fintech company such as Kabbage.
“What’s really interesting is you have the ability to compare and contrast what used to be, to what is now — the traditional loan model where you go to a bank, submit your application, wait, this very long drawn out process,” says Chou. “With Kabbage, now literally in under 7 minutes you will be able to see the results right there and then, and access the funds you need.”
Kabbage facilitates technology-driven loans for small businesses through their platform that evaluates loan applicants based on a machine learning algorithm. They crunch an applicants’ financial history, social media presence, overall market and more to come up with their loan decision, and also license their technology to banks and financial institutions.
As of December 2017, Kabbage had extended over $4 billion to more than 130,000 small businesses, the largest customer base of any online small business lender. That represented a 30 percent increase in total customers served since April 2017.
Chou says the company’s growth mirrors what he went through at Shutterstock.
“When I first joined, Shutterstock was a company with about 100 people. We grew that company to the point where, when I left, I was running 30 agile teams servicing customers across 130 countries.” Chou says they also moved from a single product — a platform providing stock images — to multiple products and platforms.
Their success, Chou explained, lay in preserving a simple user experience for the customer, something that will also be key at Kabbage.
“We’re looking to build the next-generation of the Kabbage products and platforms, while ensuring those SMBs can utilize Kabbage in a simple manner,” says Chou.
Chou joins Kabbage as they plan to extend their data capabilities through integration — they also recently announced their intent to acquire Orchard, a provider of data on the marketplace lending sector.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for Kabbage, because they have such an enormous amount of data capabilities, as well as technology and great people,” says Chou.
Kabbage will integrate those robust data capabilities into its own platform, and bring the New York-based Orchard team under the Kabbage umbrella.