ITHACA, N.Y. -- Rob Ryan, a Cornell University alumnus and founder of Ascend Communications Inc. and Entrepreneur America, will be honored by the university Sept. 26 and 27 as the 2002 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year.
Ryan earned national attention when he grew Ascend to more than $500 million in sales between 1989 and 1995. The company is a leading manufacturer of Point of Presence boxes (POP) for Internet providers. A POP is an online service provider's access point to the web, and it usually includes routers, call aggregators, servers and, frequently, relays or switches. Lucent Technologies acquired Ascend in 1999 for $23 billion in one of the nation's largest technology mergers.
Back surgery sidelined Ryan, who stepped down from Ascend in June 1995. But soon after his recovery, he reinvented himself as what he calls a "boot-camp mentor" to budding high-tech entrepreneurs at his Montana ranch, helping them formulate winning business plans and teaching them how to sell their ideas. He named that venture Entrepreneur America.
"I wanted to give something back to America, to the fellowship of entrepreneurs, to my community and to Cornell," Ryan said. "I have been lecturing at Cornell and mentoring entrepreneurs from Boston to Silicon Valley with whistle stops in Chicago and Bozeman, Montana."
Since Entrepreneur America began, Ryan has counseled dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs and, as a result, 18 companies have been founded and mentored by his organization. Three of those companies rose to billion-dollar valuations.
Ryan received his B.A. in 1969 from Cornell and began his career as a systems analyst with Burroughs, then worked at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory on the first non-military extension of ARPANet, the precursor to the Internet. In the late 1970s, he was the principal architect of DecNet and the Intel portion of the Ethernet specification while working at Digital Equipment Corp. in the Boston area. He founded Softcom Inc. in the early 1980s, sold it in two years to Hayes Microcomputer Products Inc. and worked there as director of research and development until the late 1980s.Ryan is a member of the Cornell University Council and the university-wide Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise (EPE) Program advisory council. He is the vision behind the Cornell Entrepreneur Network (CEN), a program that brings Cornellians together for networking events in cities across the country and offers a web site (www.cen.cornell.edu) to help alumni connect for career advancement. He is a frequent guest lecturer and current Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management and is one of the advisers of the student-run Big Red Venture Fund and its Business Idea Competition.
Cornell University Press is the publisher of Ryan's book Smartups: Lessons from Rob Ryan's Entrepreneur America Boot Camp, which helps entrepreneurs "become street-smart startups instead of 'bubbleups,'" Ryan said.
The Entrepreneur of the Year award is given annually to a Cornellian who best exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement, community service and high ethical standards. The award was established in 1984 by Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management and now is managed by the EPE program. Founded in 1992 as a combined initiative of the Johnson School and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, EPE supports instruction, internships, student groups and an alumni network. It is governed by the deans of nine participating Cornell schools and colleges.
This year's Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year celebration will begin with an award presentation dinner and reception Sept. 26, hosted by Cornell President Hunter Rawlings. It also will include a public address by Ryan on Sept. 27 in the Statler Auditorium, on campus.
For further information about the celebration or the EPE Program, contact John Jaquette, the program's director, at (607) 255-9675, or visit this web site: http://epe.cornell.edu .