Founder of Inc. 500 #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Chicago Leaving to Start Next Big Thing

Written by Beth Santos
Published on May. 07, 2015
Founder of Inc. 500 #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Chicago Leaving to Start Next Big Thing

Many of us wait with bated breath for the annual Inc. 500 rankings to see who’s rising through the ranks faster than the rest – and how many of them are coming from the city we love. Chicago (and Illinois)'s #1 Inc. 500 company was also the #3 fastest-growing software company in the entire U.S., MAX Digital.

Then, not long after being honored at the annual Inc. 500 conference, founder Pat Ryan turned over the reins to his management team and left in order to start something he expects to be even bigger.

The Rise of MAX Digital


Pat Ryan with Inc. Editor Eric Schurenberg

MAX Digital is Chicago’s #1 fastest-growing company. It develops cloud-based digital marketing and retailing software for the automotive industry, changing the way people buy and sell cars. The company, founded in late 2010, did $6.6M in revenue in 2013 according to Inc magazine (the company reportedly did over $20M in revenue in 2014)

MAX was created out of INCISENT Labs, which builds companies that fundamentally reimagine and reengineer conventional business practices and develop groundbreaking new products that transform industries. INCISENT is no stranger  to the Inc. 500: In 2008, its company, FirstLook, was named the #4 fastest-growing software company in the U.S. (MAX Digital is #3 this year).

What's bigger than being #1 on Inc. 500?

During 2014, Pat split his time between MAX Digital and a small team at INCISENT Labs working on what Pat calls an even bigger opportunity than MAX. The team is spinning out the new company in May 2015 and is creating next generation product search technologies for the mobile world leveraging machine learning and the Amazon cloud.

The new company's ambitions sound more like a Silicon Valley "moonshot" - change the world or die trying - than a typical Chicago startup. With $2.5M of seed funding secured, Pat is recruiting an elite team of engineers, including many he's worked with before (if you're interested, click here to learn more). 

Why does the founder leave a company at one of its most exciting times?

Pat describes himself as a "product founder" focused on creating/building innovative products. Innovative products have been at the root of MAX Digital's early success. The next stage for MAX is about scaling B2B sales and marketing, an area that's not as close to Pat’s heart. 

He's leaving MAX Digital in the hands of its new Executive Chairman, SAVO Founder John Aiello and longtime INCISENT Labs COO and former Navy SEAL commander Steve Fitzgerald, who Pat expects to take MAX to new levels.

Who is Pat Ryan?


Pat Ryan talks with Sam Yagan of OkCupid at Chicago Founders’ Stories


Pat Ryan may be the most famous Chicago entrepreneur you don’t know.

He is a two-time technology and three-time social entrepreneur, Chairman and co-lead investor at Chicago Ventures, a member of the Executive Committee of 1871, and the creator and host of the popular Chicago Founders’ Stories series. Each month, he sits down with some of Chicago’s best founders (Sam Yagan of OkCupid, Chuck Templeton of OpenTable and Andrew Sieja of kCura, to name a few) and shares their stories with the Chicago community.

He also shares videos of the conversations and riveting commentary on his blog, Cooler by the Lake, and on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.


Beth Santos is founder and CEO of Wanderful, a global community for women who travel. She is the digital marketing coordinator for Chicago Founders’ Stories, which showcases conversations with the most interesting and accomplished founders in Chicago. Come stop by and say “hi” at their monthly events at 1871.

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