Rob Ryan (entrepreneur)

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Rob Ryan
Robert J. Ryan

1948 (age 75–76)
EducationCornell University (BA)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (MS)
Known forFounder and CEO of Ascend Communications
Terry Ryan
(m. 1969)

Rob Ryan is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He is best known as a co-founder and former CEO of Ascend Communications,[2] which was ultimately acquired by Lucent Technologies.[3][4] Ryan has authored two books with his lessons about startup companies.


Raised in the Bronx, New York, Ryan received a scholarship to attend Cornell University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969.[5][6] He married his Cornell classmate, Terry Wehe Ryan the same year.


Early career[edit]

Ryan began his career as a systems analyst with Burroughs Corporation.[5] He then worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory a Federally funded research facility.[6] Ryan subsequently worked at Digital Equipment Corporation and Intel[1] where he worked on Ethernet protocols including the "blue book" which would form the basis for IEEE 802.3[7][8] His final job before founding his first company was a stint at Ungermann-Bass another pioneer in computer networking.[7]

Entrepreneur and Ascend Communications[edit]

In 1983, Ryan founded Softcom, Inc. to make Ethernet cards.[1][5] When the company faced cash flow problems, Ryan sold Softcom to Hayes Microcomputer Products in 1984[9][10] and worked there as head of their West Coast division until 1988.[1][7]

Ryan departed Hayes Micro along with Jennette Symons, Jay Duncanson, and Steven Speckenbach. With $3 million in venture capital funding the four of them founded Aria Communication Inc. in 1989, with Ryan as CEO, to make ISDN equipment.[2] The name was changed to Ascend Communications the next year[2] as the company transitioned to focus on equipment for Internet providers.[7] By 1994, profits reached $8.7 million on sales of $39.3 million.[2]

Ascend had its initial public offering in May 1994 raising further funds for growth.[2] Ascend became the leading manufacturer of PoP boxes for Internet providers.[1][2] In 1995, Ryan's final year, Ascend was called the "top small public stock of the year" by Newsweek.[1][11]



  • Entrepreneur America: Lessons from Inside Rob Ryan's High-Tech Start-Up Boot Camp (2001 Harper Business ISBN 978-0066620664)[15]
  • Smartups: Lessons from Rob Ryan's Entrepreneur America Boot Camp for Start-Ups (2002 Cornell University Press ISBN 978-0801488313)[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Beck, Susan (May 1, 1997). "Out of Business". Inc. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Ascend Communications, Inc. History". FundingUniverse. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  3. ^ Holson, Laura M. (January 16, 1999). "Lucent Is Expected to Acquire Ascend for About $20 Billion". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  4. ^ Niccolai, James (June 29, 1999). "Lucent completes acquisition of Ascend". Computer World. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Kwon, Beth (October 1, 2000). "You Call This Work? Yup. But here in the hills of Montana, Rob Ryan's business boot camp is more about survival than great fun". Fortune Small Business. via CNN Money. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Rob Ryan '69" (Entrepreneur Advisory Council Profile). Cornell University. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Olsen, Alan (April 4, 2013). "How To Build A Billion Dollar Company". American Dreams (Interview). GROCO via YouTube. Event occurs at 1:20. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "Intel and Ethernet" (PDF). Intel. p. 2. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  9. ^ Scarborough, Norman; Zimmerer, Thomas (August 7, 2002). Effective Small Business Management: A Entrepreneurial Approach. Prentice Hall. p. 160. ISBN 978-0130081162. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  10. ^ "Hayes Corporation History". FundingUniverse. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  11. ^ Business Week. December 25, 1995. pp. 126–127. ISSN 0007-7135. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Hall of Fame - EY Entrepreneur of the Year" (User must search for 1995 and Northern California). Ernst & Young. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  13. ^ Rider, Jane (October 16, 2019). "Building a better business". Missoulian. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  14. ^ "Rob Ryan, Ascend Communications founder, is named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year". Cornell University. May 17, 2002. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  15. ^ "Entrepreneur America". Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  16. ^ Ryan, Rob (2002). Smartups: Lessons from Rob Ryan's Entrepreneur America Boot Camp for Start-Ups. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8831-3.