Carl Ryden: Andi is every relationship manager’s dream analyst. She’s there with you in every deal. She sees what you’re doing. She sees your entire portfolio. She’s there with you to help you find ways to make that work better for the customer and the bank. How it came to be is, we had a great customer. The guy who bought our stuff and rolled it out is a guy called Andy Max. We were building functions and features and we would often find ourselves asking, “What would Andy tell the relationship manager?” One day, somebody said, “It would be great if we could just give everybody an Andy.”
So we built Andi. It seems silly, but it’s not. That idea was born a year ago. I can’t tell you how valuable that has been in the sales process, marketing, delivery, even in the interactions that we have in the way we think about the product. The way we built it is, Andi has skills and the skills are pluggable. You can have a machine learning model to predict the utilization on the line of credit. It has just been fantastic. Customers would ask us, “Can you put a button here? Can you put a button there?” What they do is, “Can Andi do this for me?” What they ask you to do is so much more powerful.
Sramana Mitra: I love AI. I have a Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT as well. I’ve done AI companies before. We also have a series on the 1M/1M blog called Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence. This is exciting stuff.
Let me ask you a different question. What do you want to do with this company? What is your goal? Do you want to sell this company at some point?
Carl Ryden: We talk about that a lot. Remember how I talked about how we took the time. It was a hard slog and a lot of work. If you write down your values and stand behind them, it attracts all the right people and repels all the wrong people. That’s the purpose that they serve. I can’t tell you how much that happened for us. We also invest a lot in the hiring process. We have well over a hundred applicants for every job that we actually hire. We’re very picky and we have a real scientific process on how we do this.
Sramana Mitra: How many people do you have in total now?
Carl Ryden: 75.
Sramana Mitra: They’re all in North Carolina?
Carl Ryden: We have a few people who are remote but the vast majority of them are here in Raleigh. We probably have 50 here in Raleigh, 20 in Charlotte, and 5 who work remote.
Sramana Mitra: Fabulous story.
Carl Ryden: This is something for entrepreneurs. The reason people sell a business is due to some combination of fear and tiredness. You’re either scared of being scared, scared of being tired, tired of being tired, or tired of being scared. The number one thing that makes you scared and tired is the wrong people.
Sramana Mitra: You’re neither scared nor tired. You’re having a great time and you just want to continue building the company.
Carl Ryden: Absolutely.
Sramana Mitra: Last question, what is your involvement with the Raleigh entrepreneurship community?
Carl Ryden: There’s the North Carolina Center for Entrepreneurial Development. I’m not really involved with it that much. I’m still venture-averse. I don’t do any PR. If you look at top startups in North Carolina, you won’t see our name. That’s just how we are. I do care a lot about that.
One of the things that I do is I teach an entrepreneurship class at the North Carolina School of Science and Math. Then we have several of them coming over here as interns. They do some amazing stuff. The one community that has been incredibly valuable to our company is the conference that they put on in Boston called the Business of Software. We take probably 10 people there every year.
Sramana Mitra: Fantastic. Thank you for your time.