Less than five months after Scott Thompson resigned as chief executive officer of Yahoo! amid revelations that he’d embellished his college credentials, he’s landed a spot on the board of Kabbage, an Atlanta-based company that offers capital to small companies.
Like ShopRunner, the online retail network he now runs as CEO, Kabbage is a model that’s well-suited to his résumé’s strong points. In particular, Thompson’s history of leading PayPal through a period of turbulent growth should come in handy as Kabbage expands its reach.
“It’s a fascinating company,” says Thompson. “These are really good people that I’ve known a long time. They’re working on things that need to be done. I know how we did this at PayPal on the consumer side,” he says. “I think I know how they do it on the small business side, so I know I’m going to learn a lot. I’m just honored and privileged that they’d ask me to help them at this stage of growth.”
While it’s easy to cast Thompson’s move from leading a global Internet giant to working with smaller private players as a step back in his career, both ShopRunner and Kabbage do play to his strengths of understanding payment models, tapping new markets, and managing growth. That helps explain why the Kabbage board was willing to overlook the scandal that made headlines in May, when activist Dan Loeb accused Thompson of misstating that he had a computer science and accounting degree when he had only the latter.
As for taking on board work when he’s spent barely two months at the helm of ShopRunner, Thompson says such appointments have always been helpful in leading companies. “You get better in your life and better in your job by interacting with really smart people with a different point of view,” he says. “Really great boards can add meaningful values to a business. I’ve learned an awful lot during those years about what works and what doesn’t. We were on a blistering pace of growth in my seven years at PayPal. The board helped a lot.”
Thompson says he aims to add value wherever he can. “One of the most fascinating things about Kabbage is that small business lending has been around a long time. What they’re trying to do is rethink it in a way to make it substantially better. If done correctly, the decisions made today will determine if this is a big business like PayPal.”
While Thompson declined to comment on Yahoo or on the decisions being made by new CEO Marissa Mayer, he doesn’t seem to miss the challenges of managing a troubled business in cost-cutting mode.
“ShopRunner is 20 months old, and we’re making good progress. Kabbage is a little further along,” Thompson says. “It’s much different than what you’d ever get in a really big business. I’m just loving it,” he says. “It’s a new experience at this scale, but I couldn’t ask for anything more. Every day when I wake up, I’m happy that I’m here. We have an opportunity to build something really big. I am who I am. It’s a fascinating time in my life.”