It is taken for granted in today’s world, but back in the early to mid 1980’s, I’m sure the idea of wireless modems was truly revolutionary.

Tom Kirchner, the founder and still-CEO of Electronic Systems Technology (ELST.OB) saw the future of telephone modems and struck out on his own.

Kirchner set up shop with 2 colleagues (Kirchner was the only full-time employee at the start), and joined with a local manufacturer who offered the group free office space.

As with all start-ups, the new company eventually needed more capital to test their prototypes:

“So they had office space and a manufacturer, but they still lacked the capital they needed to test their prototypes as they went through development, which is not inexpensive, Kirchner said.

In addition, at the time Hanford was shuttering N-Reactor, people were being laid off and the outlook in the Tri-Cities was not rosy. That’s when Kelso Gillenwater, who was the Tri-City Herald publisher at the time, contacted the men. Kirchner said Gillenwater was looking for positive stories for the newspaper, and felt that three men striking out on their own fit the bill.

Kirchner said the stories the newspaper did on the trio helped the men attract the attention of a group that would ultimately help them raise the money to make a go of it. The people in charge of the Spokane Stock Exchange, which at the time focused mainly on mining stocks, were looking to diversify their offerings and felt the wireless modem was a good fit.

The two-year-old company went public and was able to raise nearly $1 million through their investors. That money was instantly put into buying test equipment and helped pay for the creation of the company’s prototypes, which took about a year.”

After four long years, in 1986 the company launched their first offering, a wireless modem that retailed for $1,100, a serious chunk of money back in the late 1980s.

Eventually, ELST found a niche market selling to certain large companies, municipalities, and government agencies who need to create their own wireless networks, and continues to offer the ESTeem wireless modem product lines direct from the Kennewick facility.

A great story – read the rest of the article.




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