The Journey of an Endeavor Entrepreneur: George Azih

George Azih, CEO of Atlanta company LeaseQuery, reflects on how Endeavor has impacted his company’s growth and factored into his own entrepreneurial journey. This post was written by Azih and originally published on LeaseQuery’s blog.

George Azih (left) interviews at Endeavor’s 79th International Selection Panel in Louisville, where he was selected into the Endeavor network in 2018. | Photography by Jess Amburgey

George Azih (left) interviews at Endeavor’s 79th International Selection Panel in Louisville, where he was selected into the Endeavor network in 2018. | Photography by Jess Amburgey

Endeavor’s Impact on LeaseQuery’s Growth

This May, I had the pleasure of attending the Endeavor Catalyst Investor meeting in San Francisco, CA. During my time there, I was able to attend a fireside chat led by Reid Hoffman (founder, LinkedIn), Patrick Collison (founder, Stripe), and Eric S. Yuan (Founder, Zoom). I came away from the event feeling humbled and more determined than ever to pay back the kindness that Endeavor has bestowed upon us.

If you’re an entrepreneur and haven’t heard of Endeavor, they are a twenty-two year old nonprofit leading the global high-impact entrepreneurship movement. To me, Endeavor is dedicated to helping companies grow quicker and rise to their fullest potential — without a catch! Endeavor doesn’t take equity in your company but instead works off of a pay-it-forward donation model. Though the selection process is difficult, it’s also rewarding — whether you are accepted into the program or not.

I’ve learned a lot in the year that I’ve been an Endeavor Entrepreneur, both as a person and a CEO of one of Atlanta’s fastest-growing companies.Endeavor and its Atlanta affiliate has been a critical part of LeaseQuery’s journey and success, continue reading to learn how.

1. Variety of Thought is Crucial to Success

As leaders of companies, we can get so consumed with running the company that we rarely step back sometimes to take a second look at the canvas we are painting. There have been times when I made a decision, talked it over with some Endeavor Entrepreneurs, and came away feeling like I had just dodged a bullet.

Through Endeavor, we’ve gotten advice that truly matters, which was invaluable for LeaseQuery. We are a bootstrapped company and as such do not have a formal board of directors. One of the best things about being bootstrapped is that you have no one to answer to. One of the worst things about being bootstrapped is that you have no one to answer to. Endeavor hand-selected an advisory board for us, filled with talented individuals who’ve built successful companies of their own and are simply looking to give back. These individuals are truly altruistic, and they will forever have our gratitude.

2. Staying Humble

There is a certain amount of vanity that comes with establishing your own company, especially if you are bootstrapped. After each Endeavor event I attend, I come away humbled. No matter how big or good you think you are, there is a bigger or better Endeavor Entrepreneur. For instance, Endeavor Entrepreneur Sergio Furio, CEO of Brazilian based Creditas just raised 231M dollars. See the story here.

Given that LeaseQuery is based in Atlanta rather than Silicon Valley, it can sometimes feel as though we are a big fish in a small pond. Once we were accepted to the Endeavor program, however, I realized just how big the Endeavor pond really is. Not only are you networking with people at Fortune 500 companies, but you’re surrounded by other entrepreneurs across industries.

3. Some of the Best Thoughts Happen Outside of the Office

I’ve always been a believer that inspiration can happen while you’re doing some of the most mundane tasks. During the Endeavor Outliers event, we took a long hike during which I spoke with fellow CEOs, company founders, board members, and more about their roads to success.

I also got to speak with Todd Ehrlich, Endeavor Atlanta Entrepreneur and Founder of BAMFi, Kill Cliff, and Triserv.Todd also recently took some time out of his schedule to come and speak with the LeaseQuery team. It’s been enlightening to meet with people who have experienced the same struggles that I have and have found unique ways to solve those struggles.

4. Pay it Forward

You might think that you are good enough, but Endeavor knows you can be better. They provide access and advice to entrepreneurs and startups with a simple goal in mind — that companies will give back to their communities and pay it forward. We are huge advocates of Endeavor because we truly feel that they are an asset for companies no matter the size or industry.

5. Go Through the Selection Process

As I mentioned, the application process is intensive. At first, I was uncertain that we would be accepted. Thankfully we were, but even if we hadn’t been, I still feel that going through the process was also helpful.

During the selection process, Endeavor asked questions about our business, product offerings, and practices that I hadn’t even thought of. Once we were accepted, the team at Endeavor helped us implement structures and processes I didn’t know we needed.

I firmly believe that LeaseQuery would not be where it is today if it was not for Endeavor. The level of access we’ve gained, along with the advice we’ve been given, has been invaluable in our journey to scale LeaseQuery.

Rob Frohwein, Co-founder at Kabbage Discusses Lessons Learned Over the Past Decade

“Just give me the chance to show that this idea can work,” says Rob Frohwein, co-founder of Atlanta-based financial company Kabbage, as he reflects on the company’s early days. Ten years ago, Rob and his co-founders Marc Gorlin and Kathryn Petralia were hustling to raise a Series A round for their early stage start-up. Today, Kabbage has raised nearly $500 million.

On June 26, Endeavor Atlanta hosted Rob Frohwein at its latest quarterly Scale-Up Breakfast, a closed-door interview where founders and CEOs of scaling companies can hear firsthand from top local entrepreneurs. During the conversation, Rob Frohwein was candid about what it took to build Kabbage over the past decade of his career. He spoke about the process of acquiring Kabbage’s first customers and lessons learned during his first time raising capital. He spoke on his fierce dedication to metrics and growth, and authenticity baked into Kabbage’s company culture. Rob ended the conversation with advice for communicating with your board, his views on company exists and words of wisdom to all entrepreneurs scaling a company.

Kabbage and eBay

Many of Kabbage’s first customers were eBay users. Rob recalled the “eBay: On Location” event, which is where Kabbage acquired many early adopters. “We went down to the event and we walked into this room of people who sold products on eBay. There was a cash bar and we would go up to these small business owners and say, “Hey, can we buy you a beer and talk to you about your business?” They thought we were literally taking them out for a steak dinner. I mean nobody had ever treated them like they were an actual business.”

Rob’s informal relationship with eBay became more formal in May 2011. eBay agreed to put a blurb about Kabbage in one of its newsletters to eBay sellers. Rob still remembers the time, “At 8:37 p.m. on a Thursday evening this newsletter goes out. I used to get an email every time an account came in. I got one at 8:37 p.m., 8:39 p.m., two at 8:41 p.m. and I remember saying, “$*%! it's happening!” I told my wife and kids and called the Kabbage team.  We all went to the office. We basically stayed the night and just watched the accounts come in.”

“Nobody wants to be the first sucker in a deal”

Raising capital wasn't an easy feat for Kabbage. Rob estimates they spoke with over one hundred venture firms. Rob’s advice, “Talk to everyone who is willing to talk with you and realize that you’re always raising money - for years. Even when you're done raising a round, start talking to investors again to position yourself for the next round.”

Rob’s views on company growth and metrics

After raising a round, it’s a founders job to guarantee the money invested in the company ensures growth. In order to ensure consistent growth and customer acquisition, Rob believes in excelling at all channels, not just one or two. “I think people look for a silver bullet in terms of (customer) acquisition. You've got to always be willing to try a new way. You've got to assume that channels are going to deteriorate and you have to also assume that competition is going to come in.”

Rob is relentless when it comes to studying the metrics of his business. He’s hyper-aware of how Kabbage’s metrics affect the overall company and has even been able to identify when the company site is down just by reviewing the metrics. “I know if the site is not working right. I'll say, “We haven't put out a loan in 47 seconds and it's normally 38 seconds, what's going on with the system?” That's the addiction that you need to have with your business.” Rob is particularly aware of one metric: CAC to LTV. Rob says, “CAC to LTV is an important concept to me. You've got to make sure you understand these metrics and determine a ratio that will enable scale and profit.  This can also help you figure out early if the business idea you have is viable.”


“I set very high goals and we almost never hit them”

Not only is Rob relentless in studying the metrics of his business, but he’s also relentless in goal-setting. Rob says, “I set very high goals and we almost never hit them. I don't really know if that's a good thing or not, because it can be frustrating to some. I would say I prefer to shoot for the moon and stars above, and if you get close, you've done pretty well.” 

“We take our sh*t seriously but we don't take ourselves seriously”

Kabbage has six core values: Care Deeply, Inspire Innovation, Win, Stay Connected, Unconditional Commitment, and Create Holy Sh*t Moments. Rob believes Kabbage’s company values were created before they were ever written down on paper. 

Rob says, “We built a culture and I'm not sure that we even knew that we were building a culture. One day we went, “Hey, this is a pretty cool place to work.” Kathryn, Marc and I wanted to have a culture where we got excited to go into work every morning.” 

He advised, “As soon as you start thinking that your company is about you and not about the company and the people, that’s a real problem. Rob mentioned that culture is actually a lot easier than people think. “It's about not being a jackass. It's about actually caring about people.”

Authentic Culture

Many start-ups have built a culture around employee perks like arcade games, beer, ping-pong tables, and company provided lunch. However, as many early-stage companies are figuring out, perks don’t equal company culture. Rob described a time when a Kabbage visitor identified Kabbage’s perks as culture. 

“Somebody came in a few years ago and said to me, “I noticed you have a pool table, ping pong table, arcade games, your company provides employee lunch, and you've got beer. You really need that.” He literally said to me, “For the young people out there. That's the culture,” and I go, “That's not culture.” 

“We wanted to create an authentic culture. We wanted to be the same person at work that we were at home. That's what we've created. At Kabbage, you can hear laughter, you can hear people get upset, you can hear crying and sometimes expletives. It's just people being themselves and when you do that, people form real bonds. When you form a real bond you might actually want to grab a beer, or play a game of pool, or use an arcade game and hang out. All of these things [arcade games, etc] are outgrowths of culture, they're not culture themselves and I think that's really important. I would recommend that you create an authentic culture because the stress of feeling like you're somebody at work and you're a different person at home is too much. You really want your folks to feel like they can be who they are when they're at work.”

“I feel like my job is to make sure my board members can sleep well at night”

As early-stage companies begin to scale, communication with the board becomes a high priority. Rob advised to maintain a positive and supportive relationship with board members. “I believe in communication with the board. Surprises are the number one problem that you will ever have running a company. I feel like my job is to make sure my board members can sleep well at night and the way they can sleep well at night is if they know that I have my finger on the pulse of the company. I will notice when things are not going the way they should go and I am probably in the best position to be able to figure out how to fix them.”

If you could put any piece of advice to entrepreneurs on a billboard, what would it be?

Rob advises, “You owe it to your company and you owe it to your employees to do everything you possibly can to make the company successful. I really think it's super important not to be executing on the company because it brings you some personal gratification or some ego boost from doing it. You've got to do it because of the absolute passion and love you have for growing that business. Every decision you make has to be a decision that is based on the best interest of the business and not your own personal best interest. If you do that you're going to create a business where people really care about the business too. That's going to be the culture of the company. People are going to realize there's a bigger purpose, a bigger mission. I think the reality is it's a huge, huge effort and grind, and you have to do it for the right reasons.”

The Endeavor Atlanta team and founders in attendance learned a ton from our conversation with Rob. We’d love to learn your favorite takeaways from the conversation in the comments below.

One Size Doesn't Fit All: Andrew McConnell Shares His Journey from Harvard Law to McKinsey to Startup

One Size Doesn't Fit All: Andrew McConnell Shares His Journey from Harvard Law to McKinsey to Startup

The May blog interview is with Rented.com CEO and Founder and Endeavor Entrepreneur, Andrew McConnell. Rented.com helps owners make the most of their vacation properties by combining guaranteed income with certified local property care. Andrew sat down with Alaysia from the Endeavor team to talk about why he participated in the Endeavor selection process, previous roles in his career that shaped the leader he is today, and philosophies that he lives by. Check out the conversation below.

ONE YEAR POST-IPO, CARDLYTICS CO-FOUNDER LYNNE LAUBE SHARES WHAT SHE KNOWS NOW

ONE YEAR POST-IPO, CARDLYTICS CO-FOUNDER LYNNE LAUBE SHARES WHAT SHE KNOWS NOW

The rash of recent tech IPOs — Lyft going first last month, then PagerDuty, Zoom, Pinterest, and more to come— has startup enthusiasts and investors eagerly watching the markets. But beyond the headlines and listing prices, the road to an IPO is a long and laborious one. “Arduous,” is how Lynne Laube, co-founder and COO of Atlanta-based adtech company Cardlytics, describes the IPO process. One year ago, Laube and her partner, CEO Scott Grimesrang the Nasdaq bell in the first tech IPO of 2018. Cardlytics sold 5.4 million shares for $13 a share, raising $70 million.

Six Lessons to Go from Zero to IPO

Six Lessons to Go from Zero to IPO

Endeavor Atlanta held a Scale-Up Breakfast moderated by David Cummings in conversation with Mark Gilreath. During the Scale-Up Breakfast, Gilreath spoke with a group of entrepreneurs about his career, entrepreneurial journey and the lessons learned from his experiences scaling Given Imaging and EndoChoice. Below are highlights from the conversation and some of Mark’s biggest learnings as an entrepreneur.

Endeavor Breakfast and Blog 2018 Greatest Hits

Endeavor Breakfast and Blog 2018 Greatest Hits

2018 has been an exciting year of growth for Endeavor Atlanta. In our second year of operations we added 5 high-impact entrepreneurs to the portfolio, screened dozens of others and began building a strong community of scale-stage founders through quarterly breakfasts and monthly interviews. We thought it would be fun to grab our favorite snippets of information from each of our previous blogs and events and share them in a single post.