By Jerod Jarvis
If siblings are supposed to be rivals, apparently no one told the Edwards brothers.
Far from being rivals, these brothers – Tyler, '09, Elliott, '01, and Caleb, '03 – have combined their efforts in a synergy of geek professionalism to start a software company, Hachisoft.
The brothers know that working with family can be a risky proposition. What if something doesn't work out? Sour business deals can taint relationships for years. A bad business experience is not something most people want between them and their siblings.
But you can't argue with success. Hachisoft now has four full-time employees, and a handful of part-time workers and interns. The company is based in Colville, Wash., and serves clients from all over the United States. Locally, they help businesses like Itron meet their software needs.
Hachisoft was officially born in 2001. The word "hachi" can mean "eight," "bee," or "bowl" in Japanese – but that's entirely beside the point, Elliott said during an e-mail interview with the three brothers.
"We just made up the 'hachi' part," he said. "It's a bit different, but we embrace it as part of our company heritage."
When they were boys, the brothers' parents gave their children a computer. At the time, PCs were relatively new, and the boys' imaginations were captured by the device.
"We devoured that machine and taught ourselves to program," Elliott said.
Caleb echoed his brother's sentiments.
"I can still recall the colorful moving screen-saver-like wormhole I created," he said.
The brothers originally wanted to make computer games, but shifted their vision to professional software when they started Hachisoft. The company now makes computer aided design (CAD) software and server maintenance applications. They also do custom software to meet their clients' needs.
"Hachisoft was always the plan," Elliott said. "What we do on a daily basis grew more organically after college."
The Edwards brothers realize their situation is unique, but prize the inherent benefits their circumstances deliver.
"We are quite different [as individuals]," said Caleb. "The diversity helps us in the day-to-day workings of our business."
Tyler agrees. "There is a lot of value in diversity of interests and skills. We have that."
Growing up together has other benefits as well.
"We know each other very well, and can avoid most of the time-wasting politics of business," Elliott said.
The brothers credit Whitworth as being instrumental in shaping their careers.
"We grew up with the fledgling computer science program at Whitworth," Elliott said. "[The program was] fundamental to my education and personal growth."
The other brothers agree.
"I'm not only thankful for [our professors'] knowledge and teaching ability, but also for the model they set every day."
Each of the brothers graduated from Whitworth with at least a B.S. in computer science. Tyler also received a B.A. in math. Caleb minored in art and math, and Elliott minored in art and went on to receive a master's degree in computer science from the University of Oklahoma.
Hachisoft was a concept in the back of the brothers' minds all through their time at Whitworth but, as one after the other graduated, they realized that their dream could be a reality.
"We were young and flexible and had good skills," Caleb said. "It was a good time to give it a shot."
The company began as a simple partnership between the brothers in 2001, and incorporated in 2002. Elliott was the first official employee.
"As we were able to make payroll we just kept adding brothers on," said Tyler.
In classic software development fashion, the business started in a basement – Tyler's, to be exact.
"I have some fond memories of the early days," said Elliott. "There's something cool about blurring the line between work and play. We would finish work for the day and then fire up gaming sessions."
The business hasn't shaken their commitment to family. Each of the brothers married a Whitworth grad.
Tyler's wife, Kerri Horter, received her graduate degree in teaching from Whitworth; Elliott's wife, Whitney Baird, (daughter of Dr. Forrest Baird, of the philosophy department) double majored in philosophy and English. And Caleb's wife, Naomi Barkley, double majored in math and computer science and also received a graduate degree in teaching from Whitworth.
As children are beginning to enter their lives, the blessings of having family nearby are becoming apparent.
"My wife has really enjoyed the closeness our business provides," Caleb said. "She enjoys knowing that our children get to grow up intertwined in family."
Perhaps what has contributed most to the Edwards' success story is their Christian perspective on business.
"[We all have] a strong sense of family and community, as well as a love of God," Caleb said.
Elliott expounds on this. "I believe very strongly in doing things well and in a manner that glorifies God," he said. "It's a bit of a stretch to see the construction of software as 'kingdom work,' but my interactions with my family, clients, customers, co-workers, and community certainly can be."
The Edwards brothers have tapped into a level of success that many don't realize exists. Not only are they succeeding in the world of business, but they have done so while remaining committed husbands, fathers, Christians, and brothers.
"Some people cannot imagine working with their siblings on a daily basis," Elliott said. "I cannot imagine working with just unrelated co-workers."