Edenholm had neither knowledge of nor interest in computer products. "I was more intrigued with getting my hands in the business. Radu had the underlying interest in the product, but I was mostly asked to help with the business aspects."
At that time, Edenholm was still working toward his law degree and economics doctorate. A summer job clerking at a high-tech law office in Palo Alto, however, helped confirm his interest in self-employment.
"Working in a large law firm was dreadful," he said. "However, the clients had interesting careers, and I realized that what they were doing was much more fun." As his disillusionment with working for a big law firm grew, so did his ambivalence in an economics doctorate; Edenholm dropped out of the doctorate program. In 1992 he graduated from law school, and later that year he and Tomescu began Net Systems and Technologies in Fresno, on a part-time basis. Edenholm also accepted a job with a law firm in Silicon Valley.
A third event then steered him definitively onto the entrepreneurial track.
"A week before I was supposed to start my new job, the University of Washington in Seattle offered Valerie a faculty position in the department of medicinal chemistry," he said. "I decided to go ahead and do computer networking full time."
Patrik and Valerie moved to Woodinville, within commuting distance of Redmond and the University of Washington, and Net Systems and Technologies went into full-time operation. Two years later, Net Systems purchased one of its customers, Ansel Communications.
"We ended up stepping into a company that was formed, that had a customer list. And it had a lot of built-up possibilities," Edenholm said. "It really just picked up steam. Everything started going places."
Today Ansel has 20 employees and does business with affiliates in Mexico City, Santiago, and the United Kingdom. Edenholm said he expects further expansion into Brazil and Argentina.
It's the best of jobs; it's the worst of jobs
The good part of having your own business is the freedom it gives you, explains Edenholm. "To be able to create something of your own. Not being dependent on a large organization. Being in an environment where we can take risks and move quickly.
"Another thing that's very important to me is the people I work with. I get along well with the people in the company, and that makes it very enjoyable."
The worst part is the stress, the hours, and the hectic pace. Mostly it's the stress.
"It all falls on your shoulders," Edenholm said. "When things are going well, it's great. But when things are tough, it can be very difficult. There are a lot of people dependent on you. You not only worry about yourself, but what happens to the people you work with. Emotionally, it goes in cycles."
The lack of fiscal security is also inherent in running a small business.
"In a small company you're dependent on large forces that you don't control," Edenholm said. "Any company that's small can only withstand so much of a shock. You don't have the resources, you don't have a billion dollars in the bank to live through bad times."
Three young Reedies have contributed to Ansel's stellar rise. Alyson Robin '95 was director of marketing and European sales, and Dan Gilbert '94 created Ansel's web presence. While both have since moved on to other jobs, a third Reedie, Paulo Gomes '94, is one of Ansel's newest regional sales managers.
Edenholm said that Reedies tend to be independent, creative, smart, self-confident, and capable of managing on their own--characteristics that were essential at Ansel, especially in its salad days. He said that Gomes was sent on a sales trip to South Africa just two weeks after he joined the firm.
"At Reed there's not a lot of structure to mold you in any certain direction," Edenholm said. That lack of structure may have nurtured an entrepreneurial independent streak in him. "You certainly don't get trained by Reed to fit into any large corporate structure," he said. "You learn to make your own rules, and that really helps you to set up your own business."
Going to school helps, too, he said. "Education helps you organize your thoughts and ideas. I don't think it's the technical know-how that matters. A broad education is much more important than specific knowledge."
And stubbornness can work for you. "Things don't always go your way," he said, "and you have to keep pushing and pushing and not give up. You have to be willing to take a fair amount of risk and jump fairly quickly."
Then again, "That could also be your pitfall," he warned, "because you could jump in the wrong direction."
Beth Grubb is editor at Seattle University.