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New CTO Plants Product Innovation to Grow Kabbage

by Muriel Vega

Chief Technology Officer Amala Duggirala joins lending startup, Kabbage at a great time. The Atlanta unicorn company has experienced astronomical growth over the past year, priming itself for technology advancements in processing direct loans to small businesses across the country. (To-date, Kabbage has issued over 2 billion dollars in small business loans throughout the United States.)

Duggirala has two decades of experience in building large-scale systems and growing enterprises. Her history of transforming corporations, including ACI Worldwide, which she helped boomed from $260 million in revenue to $1 billion, will lend itself to taking the Kabbage platform to the next level.

The promise of scaling automation to increasing key hires, has us excited for what’s to come for our hometown Fintech hero. Learn about Kabbage’s product development pipeline, how Duggirala plans to hire the right people, and thoughts on Atlanta’s financial technology industry.

It’s been about two months since you started your position as Kabbage’s CTO. How’s it going?

I love the environment, I love the autonomy. I love the free spirit. What it used to take six months to get done in my last job takes here a few weeks to get done because the pace at which the engineers double up. The talent of the people that we have here and the environment make you think outside of the box. It makes you think about the customer and what we can do better every day rather than doing it once a month or once every six months. I just love my peers, the environment and the bureaucracy of the large organizations is completely gone, but what I’ve learned in the large organizations to scale is the right skill set that I’m able to bring to the table.

What was your experience prior to Kabbage? What kind of skills are you bringing into the C-suite and how are you going to apply them?

Over the last 15 to 16 years, I have been in large corporations where I’ve built software to a larger scale — from the number of transactions to the customer base. I’ve also been part of organizations where transformation has been a big part of growing. For example, if you look at ACI Worldwide when I joined the company, the company was at $260 million and then when I exited the company, it was at about 1 billion dollars in revenue.

There are two major skills that I am planning on applying to Kabbage. One is building technology to scale and grow into different partner markets and providing bigger landing platforms for major brands across the world. Building a technology platform to a greater scale is one of the key necessities. Then, building the organization to scale, people-wise, processors, methodologies and then deployment practices, release practices, and road maps. The transformation needed to scale the business is a secondary skill I’m trying to bring to the table.

kabbage_culture-image-ii kabbage_culture-image-iAs you scale Kabbage, what are some things you’re trying to keep in mind as far as product development and hiring?

I’m investing quite a bit of time into mentoring and coaching how to hire the right people, how to ensure that you bring accountability through empowerment rather than accountability through processes at every step. I’m very conscious about making sure that there’s just right process so the bureaucracy of the process does not take away skills fro, the engineers.

I’m very cognizant of educating them off the application designs and patterns that scale. Many companies are able to build applications and only some companies are able to build applications to scale. Understanding the difference between those two is critical as well as introducing the architectural capabilities to start thinking how to scale. I’m also cautious of not losing the innovative spirit of Kabbage or the free spirit that lies in the company.

What are your immediate goals as far as the product itself?

There are a couple things we are really strongly focusing on. We are trying to build some lender loyalty programs. You will start seeing us provide many more functionalities within to support the entire small business ecosystem. For example, we have a strong presence in lending right now and we have a decent presence in customer service. But there are several other features within the ecosystem of a small business that we are trying to focus on so you will see quite a bit of those show up in the next few road maps here.

You have been in Fintech for a while. How have you seen the Atlanta financial market grow?

I sense that it’s growing pretty quickly, especially in the Fintech space. I’m seeing quite a number of startups and people who have interest in the Fintech market pinpointing Atlanta as the place to start your company versus other big cities. It used to be Boston, San Francisco, or New York. where now I have seen quite a number of people moving toward Atlanta being one of the options. I would say in the last three years especially, I have seen a considerable amount of growth in the Atlanta market.

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