5 Chicago CTOs You Should Know, Part 2: Ryan Unger, Punchkick Interactive

Written by Maura Gaughan
Published on Apr. 24, 2014
5 Chicago CTOs You Should Know, Part 2: Ryan Unger, Punchkick Interactive


Ryan is a Chicago CTO who has been working and developing in the city for over 15 years. About 10 years ago, he co-founded Punchkick Interactive (which was recently named the best place to work by Chicago Business Journal) and has been leading the mobile marketing industry ever since.

Ryan said he realized the potential of the mobile space back in 2006 at a conference powered by Adobe: "it's hugely important to not underestimate the power of networking," he said.

What technologies power your business?

At Punchkick we do a ton of iOS. We're using a lot of open source technology like PHP postgres. From a framework's perspective, we use Zend for PHP. But we definitely always try to stay in front of the wave. Coming out of last year and especially into this year, we started doing development on Google Glass, as well as more touch screen interfaces and just getting into more tools that will help take our clients to the next level.

What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?

We're working on an app that's really for the core business. It's for iOS smartphone and tablet as well as Android smartphone and tablet. We're really coming at it and working with the client to say, "Let's not just solve this specific problem or specific need, but let's also change the industry."

And we're also getting into a lot more emerging tech projects like being able to track where users are going. Imagine if you could walk into an environment and be prompted with coupons that are relevant, contextually, based off of what you were shopping for at the time or how long you spent in certain parts of the store. It's the idea of thinking about a sales goal as less of a funnel and more of a spiderweb, building up data about people's buying behavior then actually making their lives a little more convenient.

What trends do you see happening in mobile and UX over the next few years?

Some of the biggest ones in mobile are more sensors and more tracking. I saw a campaign for a music service that basically puts tags on a bunch of clothes in boutique stores. As you are going into the dressing room, depending on what kind of clothing you wanted to try on, different songs would play. So if you were wearing hipster clothes, you would hear some hipster music. And from there you would be prompted to listen to that song and download a copy of it for free. Another case that I thought was really telling was that, if you came within a certain vicinity of these stores, you get a push alert to your phone and you would open it up and see a timer that says: "run to the store right now and when you get to the store this timer will stop." Wherever it stops, that's the discount you get on your purchase. We'll see more things like that, more sensor innovation.

Why is investing in your team and constantly improving it so important in Punchkick's case?

I think our company is great because of the people in it. Our culture and our team is absolutely our competitive advantage. We really care about everyone here. "Never stop learning" is another one of our core values. At Punchkick, we have the type of culture where people can change roles very easily. There's no negative connotation to coming out and saying, "Hey, I want to take my career in a different direction." I'd rather have people learning the skills that align with their passions, within our walls, then having them feel like they can't have that conversation then going and interviewing somewhere else. It also goes back to the idea that more people should wake up in the morning and feel like they're not going to work, but feel like they're just following their passions and happen to be doing it in a fun environment with their friends.

What else do you want the Chicago startup community to know about Punchkick?

Don't hesitate to reach out. I feel like we have a really remarkable culture. We were recently named "best small place to work" and the Governor of Illinois highlighted us as an example of a growing technology company in the state. Right now we're about 56 people and we're moving into a 22,000 square-foot office and, so with that said, we're hiring constantly. We love the city and love the region, so if there is any way we can help, whether it's a networking or advice, just reach out to me. I'm on Twitter at @RyanUnger and my e-mail is [email protected].


View 5 Chicago CTOs You Should Know, Part 1 Here

View 5 Chicago CTOs You Should Know, Part 2 Here

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