Young Ryan helps executives cut through the numbers

September 4, 2006


If you buy a car this Labor Day weekend, technology provided by Pat Ryan Jr. might help you get a better deal.

Ryan's convinced too many executives make seat-of-the-pants decisions. His software company, Incisent Technologies, supplies software tools that help car dealers better run their business. Ryan's First Look software incorporates appraisal tools, search engines, inventory management and business management modules that improve decision making.

Using First Look, dealers have all the information to make a proper appraisal and offer the best deal. Ryan integrates information from the Internet, wholesale car auctions, dealership transactions and regional sales patterns.

The software doesn't tell the dealership what to offer for your trade-in, but it assures they know the realistic value of your transaction. That's good for buyers and sellers. It makes dealerships more efficient.

"We saw an opportunity to help businesses use data to drive decision making," said the 39-year-old Ryan. "Executives are overwhelmed with data. Data is like a foreign language. Some people aren't fluent. They look at a numeric report like it's Latin."

How to turn data into insight

Ryan is focusing on an important issue. Today's computing technology puts hundreds of parameters at a decision maker's fingertips. How do you process all the information and turn data into actionable insight? Ryan believes he's found the key.

"Our software puts critical information into a natural language format that's easy to understand," Ryan says. For today's auto dealer, Ryan's software is as important to business success as the power tools used by the mechanics. It gives the dealer an edge, enabling consistent, high quality decision making.

Ryan is the son of legendary Chicago insurance industry entrepreneur and Aon Corp. founder Pat Ryan Sr. Growing up in Chicago, the younger Ryan didn't ride a chauffeured limousine. He took the Sheridan Road No. 151 bus to high school. Graduating from Georgetown University, he pursued a passion for public service before embarking on a career as an entrepreneur.

Ryan taught school in the inner city, and then graduated from the Chicago Police Academy. He worked for the Cook County state's attorney, assigned to the Chicago police gang unit as a narcotics detective.

Ryan never told his law enforcement buddies about his famous father. "One day, the other detectives saw a newspaper picture of my father and the president of the United States," Ryan quips. "They asked if I was related. The detective was surprised, 'I thought your father was a union guy named Ryan,' he said."

Ryan earned a law degree and an MBA from Northwestern, and joined his family's private equity business. He met the leading tech entrepreneurs of the dot-com boom. Ryan knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, not an investment analyst. Yet, he marveled at the analytic tools he used as an investment analyst. That gave him the idea for Incisent.

"I realized data drives decision making," Ryan says, "but the data revolution stopped short." Ryan launched Incisent in the summer of 2001 to put the power of data analysis in the hands of executives who never had such tools. His first target is auto dealers, and it looks like the right decision. He's signed up nearly 700 dealers in 43 states. His West Van Buren Street office is bustling with 50 employees.

Successful Chicago tech entrepreneur Michael Ferro, CEO of Click Commerce, is a big advocate. "Pat Ryan Jr. practices enlightened leadership, which will be a differentiator as he grows," Ferro says. "Pat will have great success."

Ryan believes that success will emerge right here in Chicago. He sees Chicago's diverse economy providing opportunities for him to take his business model into new industries beyond retail automotive.

Ryan sees Chicago as a tech entrepreneur's kind of town. But he urges, "We have to focus more on our tech mojo in Chicago. We have great tech entrepreneurship, but we don't celebrate it."

Spirrison steps up

After nearly three years, this is my last "Tech Matters" column. I hope you've enjoyed reading about Chicago's vibrant tech community.

Starting Monday, the face at the top of the column will be Brad Spirrison. Brad's reported on Chicago's tech and venture capital community for nearly seven years in ePrairie, the on-line newsletter. Brad will do a terrific job keeping you informed.

Thanks for reading "Tech Matters" and special thanks to Darcy Evon, Howard Wolinsky and Dan Miller. Darcy wrote the column before me, and was a great model. Howard Wolinsky showed me how much fun tech reporting can be.

SunTimes Business Editor Dan Miller is a terrific adviser, coach and mentor. He always improves readability and reminds me this column is about you, the reader.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and president of Market Strategy Group. He also serves as president of the Business Marketing Association, and is co-chairman of the Mayor's Council of Technology Advisers. He can be reached at



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