It’s a Chimed Life: Meet Ryan King, our Co-Founder and CTO

Talent at Chime
Life at Chime
Published in
5 min readNov 25, 2020

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When Ryan King was applying to college, he flipped a coin to decide between a degree in music or computer science. He had been interested in both from a young age, but when he landed on software development, it set him on a path that would define his future.

Since then, Ryan has always been driven by impact — he’s a self-proclaimed “impact junkie” — and loves building products that were used by many. For him, the process of building a product and taking it to market is not unlike the plot of a movie or oft-cited drama: you build something, people use it, you figure out your business model, and succeed. But in his earliest startup ventures, the final two chapters seemed to elude him.

So after a career at a startup that was then acquired by Comcast (he jokingly became his near and dearest’s ‘cable guy’), Ryan was looking for his next thing. “But the demand for someone like me — a head of engineering — was more prominent at later-stage startups, where I’d be building and leading a team, not building and laying the groundwork for a product,” he says. “I wanted to be building something — I knew my time for growing teams would come later.”

Swinging for the fences

When Chris Britt — a neighbor and friend who lived on the other side of a park in their shared San Francisco neighborhood — started to talk to him about banking and payments, and the opportunities the space represented, Ryan was curious.

“I could have gone to an existing startup and grown an already large team, but instead, I was looking to swing for the fences,” Ryan says.

And when he thought more about his proclivity to have an impact, Ryan was drawn to the idea of changing the banking industry. “I have lived my entire life within the bubble of technology and Silicon Valley,” he says. “I wanted to have an impact on something outside of that bubble, and the more I learned about financial health from Chris, the more I saw how we could really change something for lots of people.”

What’s more, Ryan also saw how the final chapters of the story could unfold: “I saw how we could make our idea into a viable business,” he says. “That said, I fully anticipated that we’d fail — after all, the odds were against us.”

Today, Chime has over 500 employees — we call ourselves Chimers — and the technology organization is over 250 employees (up from twelve just two and a half years ago) Turns out, swinging for the fences wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.

Ryan is the co-founder and CTO of Chime — and we’re America’s largest and fastest-growing player in the challenger bank* space.

Engineering at Chime

As our company’s CTO, Ryan oversees our engineering organization, whose mission isn’t that much different from Chime’s as a whole. “We’re here to ultimately improve the financial health of and provide financial peace of mind for Americans,” Ryan says. “Within engineering, our mission is about enabling our teams to build the services, platforms, and technology to provide the experiences that help our members.”

For Ryan, a core tenet to achieving that mission is to understand that much of our engineering organization is building a product that isn’t for people like them. “Most people who work in tech don’t make an average salary, so in order to succeed at what we’re doing, we must have a lot of empathy for the people we’re serving.”

One of the ways he helps our engineering organization have empathy for our members is through our core values: “Our main value is to be member-obsessed: fostering that value and keeping our members in mind as we run code ultimately contributes hugely to our success as a company,” he says.

Part of that success comes from overcoming challenges — and there have been plenty of those since Ryan and Chris started the company.

The number one challenge Ryan cites is keeping up with growth. “Everyone tells me that it’s a good problem to have, which is true,” he says. “The thing is, growth translates into problems of scale when every metric doubles every four or five months. You have to get pretty far ahead of things like capacity and architecting for scale — which isn’t usually something you consider on day one.”

When Ryan and Chris started Chime, they weren’t exactly thinking of when they’d get to ten million members. “We didn’t know that we’d have any users, so our first priority was to find product-market fit,” Ryan says.

“But then, all of a sudden, everything clicked — it’s like we struck a nerve in the country and in financial services, and we saw a ton of signups. That’s where the bulk of our challenges have come from — keeping up with our growth.”

Growth looks different for various parts of the business, too: there’s technology scale as well as operational scale, like customer service and risk. We use immense amounts of automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence — we just can’t hire humans fast enough to keep up with our members’ needs.

The future

While the company keeps ahead of scaling, Ryan can’t stop thinking about the future. For him, that involves reflecting on Chime’s reliance on third-party platforms.

“When we started Chime, we built all of our products on top of a third-party payments platform,” he explains. “Now that we’ve reached a certain scale and size, it’s advantageous that we no longer depend on any single third-party technology vendor.”

So he and the engineering organization came up with a strategy to insource more parts of the tech stack, allowing Chime to eventually control our own destiny.

“This shift will help us reduce third-party dependencies and single points of failure. In our early stages, third-party technology was a huge enabler and helped us grow to our current scale — it was an accelerant,” Ryan explains. “But at our current stage, it can limit our growth and reliability for members. To de-risk that, the solution is to build more parts of it ourselves and to source from multiple providers.”

Ryan and the organization’s approach to scaling and the future of Chime comes down to why he started the company with Chris: impact on our members. “Because we’re member-obsessed, what matters to the member is what matters to us,” Ryan explains. “And that is almost always that Chime is available for them to use.”

Availability at scale is the most important priority for Chime as it grows. After all, for many of our members, Chime is their primary, and in many cases, their only spending account. “It can’t not work,” Ryan says.

So creating our own systems that Chime controls is our next big step. We’re building the team that will help to architect the next chapter for Chime — will you join Ryan and our growing organization?

*Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.

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