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The Download, Shannon Henry
The Loyal Sons of MicroStrategy


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By Shannon Henry
Thursday, July 15, 2004; Page E01

The offspring of MicroStrategy are coming of age.

Most of the McLean-based company's earliest hires were straight out of Ivy League colleges when they started at MicroStrategy. MicroStrategy eventually came to be lauded for clever software that sifts through huge amounts of computer data -- and reviled for an accounting scandal that showed the company was erroneously claiming profitability.

They made enough money at MicroStrategy to launch their own businesses and brought to those ventures lessons learned in the technology boom and bust.

Now they are starting to get some recognition on their own. Matt Calkins, chief executive of Appian, was named this year's winner of the local Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Another former MicroStrategist, Sid Banerjee, chief executive of Claraview, was a runner-up. MicroStrategy's chief executive and chairman, Michael Saylor, won the award in 1997.

An outsider might assume an accounting problem such as MicroStrategy's could make alumni leave its name off their résumés, but these early employees are extremely loyal in defending their former employer. In fact, some acknowledge they have designed their new companies in MicroStrategy's image.

"We share DNA," says Calkins, 31, who spent five years at MicroStrategy, leaving in 1999 to start Appian. The Vienna firm builds internal computer "portals" for the likes of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Home Depot and General Motors. Calkins, who named his company after the Appian Way in ancient Rome, agrees that he talks a bit like Saylor, known for his penchant for historical references and a sweeping vision.

"I like to think big, like Mike does," says Calkins. "I want to create a better solution than what the world has now."

Calkins recalls that when he left MicroStrategy he quoted Nietzsche to Saylor: "One repays his teacher poorly who stays a student always."

Appian hosts annual company cruises to locales such as the Caribbean, just as MicroStrategy did before its troubles. Calkins says his company's culture is tightknit but not nearly as much as was MicroStrategy's. MicroStrategy became involved in its employees' social life and even their dining, as the company brought catered lunch and dinner into its offices.

Banerjee, 38, one of the first 10 MicroStrategy employees, was an MIT fraternity brother of Saylor and of MicroStrategy co-founder and chief operating officer Sanju Bansal. He left MicroStrategy in 2001. Banerjee says he works hard now on building a social environment and a corporate culture at Claraview, based in Falls Church. Banerjee copied MicroStrategy's quarterly "company days," when workers from around the country gather for two days of feel-good meetings and family events; his most recent event was held in Miami. Claraview's work, known as data mining, is very close to what MicroStrategy does, although the companies say they do not compete directly.

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