总部位于亚特兰大的小企业在线贷款服务商Kabbage联合创始人兼总裁Kathryn Petralia表示，"我们把这项技术叫做全区块链加密技术（AI-blockchain-crypto tech），反响还不错。"
CB Insights 今年4月发布的报告显示，借贷对于关注金融科技的风险资本家来说依然有巨大吸引力，第一季度借贷市场累计获得融资9亿美元。 然而报告也发现，尽管全球金融科技整体投资"再创新高"，但风险资本家对初创借贷公司的投资却"再创新低"。与之相反的是，投资者对财富管理或智能投顾、保险和区块链或加密货币方面的创业公司兴趣更高。
2009年，Petralia、Rob Frohwein和Marc Gorlin共同创立了Kabbage，过去三年，公司一直位列美国发展最快的私人公司500强名单。2016年公司收入为1.72亿美元，一部分用于购买其他初创公司的再投资，一部分用于开发其他金融产品。
Kabbage最近还收购了纽约创业公司Orchard，该公司分析贷款数据并为贷方提供其他幕后技术。 Petralia表示，她之所以想收购Orchard，是因为Kabbage已经使用了Orchard的技术，而且Orchard的创始人Matt Burton和David Snitkof也加入了Kabbage。 Petralia表示，这笔交易还将帮助Kabbage拓展其纽约办事处，"从文化角度来看，收购让我们的纽约办事处迅速扩充，就像搬进一个家具齐全的家，而不用自己一点点建设。"
然而，这些进展并不会直接推动公司上市。这一决策是审慎的：公开市场对在线贷款提供商OnDeck和Lending Club并不友好，这两家银行首次公开募股之后股价都出现了下跌。（Lending Club创始CEO Renaud Laplanche在2016年因贷款不当行为被揭发而突然离职。）
Online lending may seem like a less-exciting corner of the fintech world these days, but some startups are still finding plenty of opportunities within it.
"We just call it 'AI-blockchain-crypto tech,' and then people get very excited about it," cracks Kathryn Petralia, co-founder and president of small-business online lender Kabbage.
Petralia was discussing her Atlanta-based company's ambitious expansion plans this year, which include buying other startups and rolling out new payments products. But she was also joking about what's shiny and new in the world of financial technology startups: everything and anything involving cryptocurrency, relating to the blockchain, or connected to artificial intelligence. Such startups were heavy on the ground in mid-June, when I interviewed Petralia and her co-founder, Rob Frohwein, at the annual MoneyConf event in Dublin, a 5,000-person gathering of entrepreneurs and established companies in every corner of the fintech ecosystem.
Lending remains a large draw for fintech-focused venture capitalists, who put $900 million into the sector in the first quarter of 2018, according to an April CB Insights report. However, venture capitalists are "on pace for a new low" of money spent on lending startups, even while overall global fintech investment is "on pace for a new high," the report found. Instead, investors are increasingly willing to bet on startups working in wealth management or robo-advising, insurance and blockchain or cryptocurrency.
Yet lending startups are gradually gaining more business from other entrepreneurs. According to a recent Federal Reserve survey, 24 percent of small business owners sought financing from an online lender in 2017, up from 20 percent in 2015.
That's created opportunities for some online lenders--including Kabbage, which specializes in funding small businesses. The company last week announced that it's lent a total of $5 billion to its customers, including $1 billion that entrepreneurs have applied for on nights and weekends--when traditional banks are closed.
Kabbage, which Petralia and Rob Frohwein co-founded with Marc Gorlin in 2009, has spent the last three years on the Inc. 500 list of America's fastest-growing private companies. It reported $172 million in 2016 revenue, some of which it's reinvesting into buying other startups, and some of which it's using to develop other financial products.
The company is developing payments processing that could potentially rival products offered by PayPal and Square. It's also contemplating deposit accounts that could resemble checking accounts at traditional banks. Frohwein, the CEO, says Kabbage wants to use these new products to create a full "cashflow as a service" product suite within the next 12 months, or sooner. ("Granted," he acknowledges, "it might not be the sexiest line in history.")
Kabbage also recently purchased New York startup Orchard, which analyzes loan data and provides other behind-the-scenes technology for lenders. Petralia said she wanted to buy Orchard for its technology, which Kabbage already uses, and for founders Matt Burton and David Snitkof, who are joining Kabbage. The deal will also help Kabbage expand its New York office: "From a culture perspective, it allowed us to get to critical mass in our New York office really fast," Petralia says. "It almost was like when you get to move into a home that's fully furnished, as opposed to having to go pick it all out yourself."
All of this growth, however, isn't immediately leading to an IPO. Which may be prudent: The public markets haven't been kind to online lenders OnDeck and Lending Club, both of which have seen their share prices suffer since their IPOs. (Lending Club's founding CEO, Renaud Laplanche, also abruptly left in 2016 amidst revelations of loan malpractices.)
Kabbage has raised almost $500 million in equity financing, including $250 million last year from Japanese tech super-funder SoftBank. But "we are not under extensive pressure from our existing investors to get out of the business," Petralia says. "They're excited about what we have to do ... and they see this amazing opportunity."
Moreover, "an IPO is a huge distraction. It's not just any fundraising event, it's a really, really complicated transparent fundraising event that brings with it a lot of extra work--forever," Petralia adds. "There's going to be a time for that, I suspect. But right now ... it just doesn't make sense."