It didn’t take Ryan Eardley long to uncover the inefficiencies in his job duties during a summer internship at an accounting firm.
Working in the forensic accounting department at the audit, consulting, tax and advisory services company Deloitte, Eardley was tasked with investigating someone who had stolen $10 million.
His work included analyzing years’ worth of bank statements, categorizing transactions and tracing transfers between accounts. He used Microsoft Excel, a platform and process that involves considerable risk for human error. Furthermore, a computer could easily perform such a task, Eardley says.
“I left that internship kind of with this frustration in my experience and that manual process,” he says.
That frustration led to action.
When Eardley returned to Lawrence University that fall, he took a computer science course and set about devising a way to automate the asset tracing process. Eardley tapped his Lawrence hockey teammates Felix Henriksson and Mattias Soderqvist to help develop Tracr, a product designed to save companies time, money and effort.
Processes that used to take days or hours can take minutes with Tracr.
The trio worked with the university’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program to develop a proof of concept, eventually discovering a way to automate the asset tracing process. The team took Tracr to the first-ever “The Pitch,” an entrepreneurial competition for college students held at Fox Cities Stadium, winning first place and $10,000 in cash and an additional $15,000 in professional services.
“I’m very proud of them,” says Gary Vaughan, coordinator of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program at Lawrence. “They represented themselves and the university in a mature and professional manner.”
Today, Eardley, 24, works as director of innovation at Nicolet National Bank while continuing to develop Tracr with new team member Mahmoud Shaar, the company’s chief technology officer. The two are working toward readying the product for beta testing.
Eardley says the industry is just on the cusp of understanding what capabilities lie in store. “When you consider where we are in terms of technology, I think we’re just at the beginning of where these things can be automated.”