With experience leading engineering efforts at institutions such as Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Dr. Ryan Carr’s areas of expertise include large-scale analytical systems, distributed algorithms, AI, game theory, and social learning, as well as the application of cloud computational techniques for simulating and analyzing complex interactions between large numbers of autonomous agents.
His research in these areas has been published in highly competitive venues such as Proceedings of the Royal Society, AAAI and AAMAS. Ryan has a PhD/BA in Computer Science.
Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities?
I oversee Enveil’s engineering department and am responsible for ensuring that the technical strategy is executed in a way that supports our business goals. I’ve learned that my role as CTO of a startup requires fostering a wide range of skills, including technical visionary, strategic advocate, team leader, delegator, motivator, trainer, company spokesperson, and recruiter. It was difficult but necessary for me to realize that I wouldn’t always spend my day doing what drew me to the field in the first place: working with interesting technologies to solve difficult problems. There is still time for this from time to time, but I usually have to spread my duties between a much wider range of responsibilities.
I also consider training and knowledge transfer a critical aspect of my role as CTO. This is something that can be easily overlooked, especially when you’re moving at the pace of a startup, but it’s critical to ensure that new technical staff can onboard quickly and contribute quickly. This means a strong onboarding process, good technical documentation, and investing time in building personal relationships with the wider team so that everyone is comfortable asking for help.
What is your difference as a business?
From a big picture perspective, we help our customers overcome the barriers that prevent them from using data most effectively. The ability to securely and privately use the data you need enables organizations to make better and more efficient decisions across a wide range of verticals. We enable our customers to share and collaborate across legal entities, jurisdictions and other data silos in ways not otherwise possible due to regulatory or security constraints.
It’s been really interesting to drive the formation of a new category around the use of privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs), because I think we’re just scratching the surface in terms of the value that the technology can provide. I would say that we are not only solving direct customer needs, but also helping to drive digital transformation.
Which technology are you most looking forward to using more?
The most exciting development, in my opinion, has to do with the use of homomorphic encryption (HE) and secure multiparty computation (SMPC). Both are accelerating at incredibly fast rates, allowing people to work with multiple data sets that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to use. That means we’re constantly seeing new use cases and ways to help people across industries.
When I started at Enveil in 2016, the promise of IT sounded impossible to me: imagine being able to ask a database a question and get an answer, but the database can’t see what you’re asking or what the answer is. The fact that this technology was at the heart of the company was a big draw for me – I wanted to understand it. After seeing what he can do, I am confident that HE will be everywhere in 20 years. I often compare it to working with databases in the 1980s: people were just starting to use them, but now they are central to most business processes. I truly believe that this kind of cryptography will have a similar impact.
What is your highlight in your current role?
I’m really proud of the work I’m doing today. I like being at the forefront of a new category and working with technologies that only a few teams in the world are using for commercial applications. It was also a privilege to help build something from scratch. The progress we’ve seen both in terms of technology and the wider market over the last six years has been amazing to watch.
What exciting plans do you have as an organization?
We recently focused on an encrypted learning capability for our ZeroReveal Machine Learning product, the first version of which was released in June. This capability allows our customers to train machine learning models on data sets that reside in environments they would not normally trust to see the model, and allows data owners to let outside parties train on their data. without exposing the underlying data. This provides an unparalleled ability to extract insights from data without the need to trust other parties during computation. This is a capability that our customers have been demanding, so I’m excited to see the ways it will add business value to machine learning and data science use cases.