If you're one of the 100+ million people who currently use Credit Karma's consumer finance services, then you can thank Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer Ryan Graciano.
Graciano's fingerprints are all over the multi-billion dollar company, which is best known for its pioneering free credit scores. Along with Ken Lin and Nichole Mustard, in 2007 Graciano launched Credit Karma with less than $1 million in funding. This was during a period when the financial industry lacked transparency and there were only three credit bureaus, all of them forcing people to pay for credit scores or reports.
However, the timing couldn't have been more unfavorable for a fledgling company. Unbeknownst to Graciano and his co-founders, a financial crisis was just over the horizon. Nonetheless, as testament to the company's vision, not only did Credit Karma manage to weather the Great Recession, but it gained instant traction, scaling aggressively to become a major disruptor of the consumer finance industry.
At Credit Karma’s inception, Graciano served as the company’s sole engineer, which meant fulfilling a wide variety of roles early on: building the minimum viable product (MVP), running member support, and even scouring Craigslist for engineering talent. Now, those days are long gone. Thanks to Graciano's gifts as a technologist, the company’s engineering department has grown from a one-man band into a team of hundreds of engineers working across product, platform, security, data, and operations. As a result, Graciano’s company has transformed into an agile technology company powered by a modern technical infrastructure.
But Graciano has not let go of the technology steering wheel, so to speak. As CTO, he is still responsible for Credit Karma’s entire technology strategy and infrastructure, overseeing the company’s engineering, data science, data analytics, and core product teams. As someone with a passion for innovation, he has previously overseen major investments in cloud and machine learning in order to keep his company at the vanguard of the fintech space.
Graciano's enthusiasm for emerging technology can be traced back to his early childhood, when he was first introduced to computers by a neighbor. Writing in the GW-BASIC language, the neighbor showed Graciano how to draw a circle on a Tandy 100 computer. Young Graciano was "blown away" by his friend's ability to "make the computer do something." This led to him working with computers as a hobbyist through his years as a junior high and high school student. He went on to earn a bachelor's in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
After graduating, he worked for a small specialized software company called Venetica, which was based in Charlotte, North Carolina. When that company was later acquired by IBM, Graciano suddenly found himself among 330,000 employees programming banking software that would only be used by a few people. Wanting to make a "bigger impact," he began looking for more opportunities, which led to his meeting with Kenneth Lin. The pair, as it turned out, went on to make fintech history.