When the Dow Jones industrial average started falling off the charts last week, financial advisers told chief executive Nelson Carbonell Jr. that it wasn't the most opportune time for Cysive Inc. to launch an initial public offering.

"The conventional wisdom was 'you guys should hold off,' " recalled the founder of the Reston Internet software company. "We had a history of bucking conventional wisdom. We felt strongly our business has really bright prospects. We just felt that we could still do it."

The Dow was avalanching toward its biggest one-week loss ever when Cysive stock started trading at $17 a share last Friday morning, but Cysive soared to $37.75 on the first day, closing up 120 percent--a better debut than Martha Stewart's IPO.

Up to a high of $40 a share yesterday, the Cysive IPO is the Washington region's hottest new technology offering in months, outdoing even the early run-up of its Reston rival, Proxicom Inc. Proxicom stock jumped from $13 to $19.50 on its first day of trading April 20 and closed yesterday at $74.37 1/2--up 281 percent in six months.

Both companies build highly complex Internet commerce Web sites for large corporate clients. They're not the companies that design the flashy graphics, they're the ones whose software starts to work when you click on a button to buy something. They don't construct simple systems that sell books or bathroom fixtures, but business-to-business electronic commerce sites that handle a million orders as routinely as Amazon.com ships bestsellers.

Cysive's biggest client is Cisco Systems Inc., the Internet hardware maker, which generates $32 million in revenue a day from its Cysive-built site.

Since Cisco is an Internet icon, dropping that name opened doors on Wall Street. Other A-list clients include DaimlerChrysler AG, Cars.com (the online classified advertising venture launched by The Washington Post Co. and other newspapers), credit bureau Equifax Secure Inc., and First Union Corp.

First Union and Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. of Arlington were co-underwriters of the offering, which was led by Thomas Weisel Partners of San Francisco. The 3.35-million-share offering brought in $46 million in expansion capital for Cysive. The stock sold to the public is roughly 25 percent of the company, giving Cysive a market capitalization of $445 million, according to Bloomberg.

Virtually all the shares not sold to the public are owned by Cysive's 135 employees because Carbonell built the company without outside investors. At yesterday's closing price, the 36-year-old chairman's 6.94 million shares were worth more than $277 million. Co-founder Eric Magleby, 38, sold 350,000 shares, worth $5.95 million in the offering, and still owns just under 2 million shares worth almost $80 million.

Like most high-tech companies, Cysive uses stock options to lure employees and has given them rights to buy 6.2 million shares at an average price of $1.36 a share. That leaves the staff with paper profits of just under $240 million.

Recent options grants required Cysive to take a $13.3 million write-off in the first half of this year, producing a loss of about $11.5 million for the firm, which otherwise would have reported a profit of $1.9 million. Revenue totaled $9.1 million last year, but the company's sales rate has doubled; it took in $9.4 million in the first half of 1999.

CAPTION: Cysive (This chart was not available)