5 min read

The Tao of Rob Frohwein

Sam Maule

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Frohwein, the CEO and co-founder of Kabbage, for the 11:FS Connection Interrupted podcast. Rob has plenty of stories to fall back on when discussing how his co-founders and he were able to start a company in the midst of the 2008 financial crash (great timing by the way Rob). They were able to successfully implement their concept of providing funding to small businesses and consumers online. As of the beginning of 2018 Kabbage has served 125k customers and made over $3.5 billion in loans.

You can listen to the full interview here, and I highly recommend you do. Rob is hilarious, brilliant, opinionated, and honest; everything you could ask for when interviewing a successful fintech founder. If there’s one thing Rob is guaranteed to provide you during an interview, it’s a ton of quotable comments. I’ve gone ahead and captured some of the best of his quips from my interview. I like to call these “The Tao of Rob Frohwein”. Enjoy.

On Company Culture

Why the free lunches, pinball, arcade games, ping pong, pool tables, etc are in the Kabbage office. - “You build a culture where people actually like each other and care about each other then they will want to spend time with each other.” "We believe in a strong laughter quotient. Laughter is a good measure whether or not you’ve created an authentic culture.”
“You build a culture where people actually like each other and care about each other then they will want to spend time with each other.”
On hiring only those with a strong cultural fit: “Our final hire interviews are panel interviews that both co-founders participate in. We look to determine culture fit in this interview. We look for:
    • People who are self aware. People who know what they are good at and what they suck at.
    • People who genuinely care about other people.
    • People who know both when to ask for help and when to give help to others.
    • People who embrace diversity.”
“During the culture fit interview we ask “What one word would you put on your tombstone?””. When asked the same question Rob chose “curious” because “Curiosity is the most important trait somebody can have.” “Don’t be desperate to fill holes on your team. Worst thing you can do is fill it with someone who isn’t a culture fit.” “Early on try to find out how someone receives feedback. This is a good indicator of culture fit.” “At Kabbage, when you have a baby we send a shitload of food. Because we actually care.” “My pet peeve is when someone on LinkedIn calls themselves a “visionary”. You don’t get to call yourself that.”
“My pet peeve is when someone on LinkedIn calls themselves a “visionary”. You don’t get to call yourself that.”
“You need people who are willing to push ideas further." “When you put strange bedfellows together you come out with great ideas.”

On Kabbage

“I believe that open data is the other side of the privacy coin.” “Getting easy access to your data allows you to see your data and know if someone has compromised it." “A company has to go through multiple iterations before it finds out who they really are.” “I really admire Amazon. Bezos made decisions that put himself into position to make the right decisions in the future.” “We always ask ourselves “What’s Kabbage’s AWS?” What’s our future product winner?” “We want Kabbage to be the financial nerve center for small businesses.”
“We want Kabbage to be the financial nerve center for small businesses.”
“We want a chef to be able to focus on cooking, not on the books.” “You always have to plan for your company to be obsolete. Find those points and plan accordingly.” “Do the right thing and you’ll get lucky along the way when it comes to your product.” “Every company that succeeds dies six or seven times along the way.”
“Every company that succeeds dies six or seven times along the way.”
“Make sure you address the pebble in the shoe during your funding pitch. Don’t assume the VC is all knowing about your market segment.” “One of our goals is to make it more advantageous to be a small business than a large business." “Another one of our goals is to move from transactional to relational with our customers. A real relationship requires multiple products, daily interactions, and the right kind of interaction - one that provides real value.” "There’s literally nothing special about online applications.” “Design for the customer and solve for everything else. Everyone seems to be designing for the problem and not focusing on the customer." “I hate the word “pivot”. It should be a natural evolution of the company where the business reveals itself if you do it in the right way." "The most important thing you do when you start a business is to figure out what you are trying to solve for and make damn sure you don’t solve for something else.” And my two personal favorite quotes: "Blockchain is the shit." "I’m extremely quotable.” Yes, you are Rob. Yes, you are.
"I’m extremely quotable.”
Listen to my 11:FS Connection Interrupted interview with Rob in full here. Don't forget to subscribe to the show so you never miss an episode, more great guests and conversation coming very soon!

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 Sam Maule
About the author

Sam Maule

Sam (or Uncle Sam as he is known internally - and appropriately at 11:FS) is responsible for the 11:FS overall strategy and rollout in the US, Canada and Mexico.

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