CEO Carl Ryden and his co-founders have bootstrapped Precision Lender to over $10 million from North Carolina. This is a superb story, including how the company has formulated an AI agent, Andi.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your
personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what
kind of background?
Carl Ryden: I was born in North Carolina. I grew up
in eastern North Carolina in a little town called Goldsboro. Folks
don’t know where that is. It’s about halfway between Raleigh and the
coast. For folks who do know, I would later confess that I’m not really from
Goldsboro. I’m from an area of a county that’s closest to Goldsboro, deep in
the rural part of North Carolina.
working with computers when I was about 10 years old. I grew up in a
single-parent household. Early in my life, we were not well off. I was a
free-lunch kid at school. I had a knack and a gift for science and math. I was
lucky enough to be admitted to a school here in North Carolina called the North
Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, which is a public residential high
school. I went there. I met an amazing set of people and the smartest folks
I’ve ever been around in my life. It was a whole new world for me.
changed the trajectory of my life. I ended up going to NC State for undergrad
in Electrical Engineering. While I was there, I got a part-time job. I needed
to pay the rent. I applied to Jiffy Lube, K-Mart, and IBM. Jiffy Lube never
called back. K-Mart said they’d pay me minimum wage, which at that time was
$4.25 an hour. I had to wear a K-Mart tie and go through two days of training. I
day, IBM called me and said, “We’d like you to work on our programming for our
manufacturing line. We’ll pay you $11 an hour.” It was a job I would work at
nights and weekends. I got pulled over to a group at IBM. There was a guy there
who had gone to the senior management at IBM and told them to make a
notebook computer, which didn’t exist at that time. They told him, “We
just spent a billion dollars to build this luggable suitcase thing.”
them and started putting folks in the corner of the warehouse to build it.
Because I was an hourly employee, I could be snuck through the budget without
much notice. We built the first notebook computer IBM ever created, which was
called the PS Note and later turned into the Thinkpad brand. That guy who was
my third-line manager was Tim Cook, who’s now the CEO of Apple.