Making It: Wireless Networking That's Environmentally Friendly

IT'S ALL ABOUT NETWORKING: Ken Carnesi, left, and Jonathan Rust of Anaptyx aim to make wireless networking environmentally friendly.
IT'S ALL ABOUT NETWORKING: Ken Carnesi, left, and Jonathan Rust of Anaptyx aim to make wireless networking environmentally friendly. (D.A. Peterson)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Vanesssa M. Gezari
Sunday, March 29, 2009

ONE SUMMER DAY IN 2007, two 20-something computer geeks set out to test a new brand of wireless Internet router in an apartment building in Brookline, Mass.

Convinced that most commercially available routers were costly and ineffi cient, Ken Carnesi and Jonathan Rust had discovered an equipment line manufactured by the California startup Meraki. With a few strategically placed Meraki routers and a little experimentation, they built an ad hoc network that enabled them to get online from just about anywhere in Jonathan's 20-unit building.

That success was crucial to the genesis of Anaptyx, the environmentally friendly wireless networking company that Ken and Jonathan launched a few weeks later. With wireless technology expanding quickly, the two set out to help large customers, such as cities and major apartment complexes, create fast, reliable wireless networks that cost less, conserve energy and reduce e-waste, the vast amount of electronic equipment left to rot in landfills. Based in Arlington and Boston, Anaptyx builds "mesh" networks that can replace expensive individual Internet connections.

"We cover four or five apartments with a single wireless router that uses less electricity than any router you can buy," says Ken, 24. In a 100-unit apartment complex in Boston, the networks save about $2,500 a year in electricity costs, he says, and conserve about 21 tons of carbon, the amount an average American produces in a year.

Ken and Jonathan, who is 27, met in 2007, when Jonathan hired Ken as a summer intern at A.G. Edwards in Boston, where Jonathan managed offi ce staff and worked as a broker. They had both studied business as undergraduates at Boston College and designed Web sites for cash, and they shared a desire to build their own tech company.

In August 2007, they quit the brokerage firm and started Anaptyx with $6,000 each in savings and $30,000 from a private investor. They've since built free public WiFi networks in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., and in Nashua, N.H., and are working on another in Dorchester, a low-income Boston neighborhood. Their networks serve about 2,100 apartment and condo units in New England and Arlington, and in Maryland they're building a network at a 300-slip marina in Pasadena.

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, hired Anaptyx last year to set up a 24-acre outdoor WiFi network and has raved about the company to anyone who calls for networking advice. Since June 2008, about 41,000 users have accessed the network, which has run beautifully, Jillson says, and remained aff ordable. "Other municipalities have spent millions to bring outside wireless access, and to date we've spent less than $20,000." Anaptyx also provides tech support.

The company broke even last summer and now has four full-time employees in addition to its co-founders. Th e company grossed about $250,000 last year, Jonathan says, with a net of about $70,000 after hardware, employee salaries and other expenses. Th e company takes its name from the Greek word "anaptyxi," which, according to the company Web site, means expansion, or the fostering of expansion. That concept is key for Ken, who lives in Boston, and Jonathan, a Crystal City resident who's fi nishing his MBA at the University of Maryland.

"We pay ourselves based on how well we've done over the month or over two months," Jonathan says. "For us, it's not about the money. It's really about growing the company."

Have you recently found a creative new way to make a living? E-mail

© 2009 The Washington Post Company