Unicorn Founder, English Buff: Kathryn Petralia, Kabbage President, Is Shaking Things Up In FinTech
Kathryn Petralia is not your typical FinTech founder. She’s a woman, she lives in Atlanta, she’s an English major, and her Twitter handle is @Kabbitch— and it’s pronounced exactly how you think it is.
She also shies away from the spotlight, so the media tour that has her on the road speaking about the billion dollar company she cofounded, Kabbage, is not her natural position. Petralia knows part of her job as President is to promote the company, but also understands the value of representation on stage, and knows there is a benefit in young women seeing others who look like them in the public eye as leaders, to make them believe they can do it, too.
Petralia remembers a founders’ event at J.P. Morgan that had so few women that the host company planted women from their organization in the crowd. This was surprising, since she also learned that 40% of CEO Jamie Dimon’s management team are women. “The founders of these venture backed companies were almost all men. Venture capitalists are often dudes, so there can be selection bias,” she mentioned.
“We met with so many venture capitalists before I even realized there were no women. Finally a woman walked into the room and was not there to bring me water, she was there for the meeting. I didn’t notice it until then,” Petralia said reflectively, “I notice it more now.”
As a kid in the 1970’s, the executive had seen the huge supercomputers with punch cards her mom and stepdad used as professors, but was first personally exposed to technology when her father brought home a TRS 80 computer. Still, she did her work on typewriters in high school and college, a time she refers to as her own personal “technology dark age.”
Though she was slow to pick up tech, Petralia has always been comfortable figuring things out, from fixing light sockets to putting up drywall in a house. When a family friend asked her to be involved in a tech company he had invested in, she realized technology could be used to give people what they need faster and better than before. She ditched her graduate degree program in English to jump at the opportunity to join the tech industry.
“Importantly, I’m not afraid to say yes, a lot. Many people spend a lot of time figuring out why they should say no. Say yes! ” she advises.
Petralia spent close to 15 years working in the credit, payments and e-commerce industries, leading strategy and corporate development, as well as founding multiple companies.
Read the full article on Forbes here.