SM: What is your educational background?
RL: I went to school at Stanford and ended up with a Masters in electrical engineering and an undergraduate in economics. When I was looking for a job, a lot of consulting firms came calling. They were saying “Come work with us. You will work 80 hours a week and you will consult.” It never made sense to me how someone who was 21 years old could consult and add value.
The only person who made sense to me was someone from Price Waterhouse, who said “Given your background, it sounds like you want to start your own business”. I responded that I did want to start a business eventually. He replied, “The language of business is accounting, so you need to learn that. Why don’t you work at Price Waterhouse for a couple of years and learn accounting? You will get exposed to lots of different businesses so you will understand what type of business you want to start.”
That is exactly what I did – I went and worked at PWC for three years and received great training. The accounting was interesting. While I did have great training there, perhaps the most important experience was management. As an auditor you get really involved, even when you are junior, in the management of these different companies. There were client companies ranging from Campbell Soup to small startup companies. I learned a ton and decided how I wanted to manage when I had my own company.
Afterwards I ended up working for my dad and his payroll company in Florida. When I moved out here, something came up at Intuit so I joined them and learned a different side of business. I had learned the informal manner of running a business, and they showed me the more formal aspects of running a business.
SM: How long did you stay at Intuit?
RL: I was there for 5 years. I did things such as running their bill payment business to doing their online payroll. I was the one who started the online payroll connection with Martin from PayCycle.
SM: Afterwards you started PayCycle?
RL: I started PayCycle in 1999. It was an interesting time to say the least. It was a hot market, but we did not take venture funding at the time because we did not want to deal with the expectations. The market was too insane at the time, and understanding how complicated payroll processes can be, I felt it would take some time to get a repeatable process going and that it would be a mistake to take venture funding. The first money we took was in 2000, after the bubble had burst.