Billionaire Beat: Appian CEO Matt Calkins Emphasizes Innovation And Strategy Professionally And Personally

For businesses across America, the COVID-19 rebound is just beginning, but the race to restart can be challenging for businesses of all sizes. After a year of stasis and instability, some playing fields have been leveled, but the advantage remains in the hands of developers—the creators of the future. Enter Appian, the veteran enterprise software and cloud computing company based in the Washington D.C.-area, and authority on low-code development. Appian’s platform enables companies to simplify app development and workflow automation, helping them achieve digital transformation without relying on internal developers. For Matt Calkins, CEO and Founder, fueling the post-COVID return is business as usual.

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Overconfidence has been a virtue for Calkins since founding Appian in 1999, on the verge of the dot-com bubble burst. He started the company with three other friends, an informal coding language study group. Calkins was the top economics graduate of his class at Dartmouth University, but he was not a coder. He is a master of gamesmanship—a skill that serves him well in business—shaped by a lifelong obsession with board games. Not only is he a world-renowned board game champion, he is also a board game developer. The parallels between business and gaming are evident to Calkins. Both require strict concentration and pinpoint focus, involve variable scenarios with clear outcomes, and rely on an ability to play everything out mentally. He approaches Appian as a solution to a puzzle that delivers positive outcomes for both clients and the community.

While the coronavirus pandemic sidelined many businesses, Appian proved to be a lifeboat to many, helping them hurry to transform in a world where it’s easy to fall behind. One major customer that has relied on Calkins’ company is the U.S. government, which was handed a big digital infrastructure stress test in 2020. With a shortage of top-of-the-line programmers eager to enter public service, many agencies utilize Appian’s tools to keep the country running behind the digital scenes.

Appian’s low-code solutions have not yet sparked a programming revolution, as Calkins may have hoped, but his employee empowerment strategy is pretty revolutionary. Within the company, employees are encouraged to bring forth new ideas and voice their consent at will, and collaboration is considered essential. The CEO knows the value of an original idea, like making digital transformation easier for everybody. With a significant stake in his company, over 20 years since Appian’s creation, Calkins is worth $3.4 billion. If he can’t beat the game, he’ll create his own, whether in the board room or at board game championships.