While much of the Class of 1985 was scrambling around in grey suits and brushing up on their business lingo, Marc A. Elvy and Alan B. Langerman '85 were no doubt sitting back laughing at the entire scene. And next year when others go off to New York to work for big business, Elvy and Langerman will be working for themselves, running their computer consulting company.
Together, they represent two-thirds of the board of directors of Marble Associates. The third is their lawyer--"Shows you how much he believes in us," their boast. They gave birth to MARBLE Associates, a computer consulting firm with their ex-partner Robert E. Brown '85, who has since left the company.
Now, the Cambridge-based outfit boasts clients the likes of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and AT&T, and the pair are courting the likes of the Internal Revenue Service for future deals.
How did it happen?
Elvy and Langerman met in what they call their "psycho singles" in Hurlbut. They got along well, despite their different backgrounds, Elvy grew up on a farm in Maryland with his mother, a race car-drive Langerman grew up in the suburbs of Cambridge.
Elvy did the normal things a teenager is expected to do. He had fun and played a bit with modems. Langerman was even less of the quintessential teenager. Four or five years before he came to Harvard, he ran what he terms two "small--we're talkin' real small" consulting companies which had him writing mailing programs for which he charged a little over a hundred dollars, but which ended up taking a couple of hundred hours. "I learned the hard way," he said. When his parents offered him the usual car or computer, he took the computer.
I didn't really know anything about computers before I met Langerman," Elvy readily points out. "It all started when he talked me into taking AM 110," he adds, almost in an accusatory tone.
"Unscrupulous as Hell"
So what really made the combination work? "He knows everything about computers," Elvy says of Langerman. "And he's as unscrupulous as all hill," Langerman retorts.
Their collective brainchild, MARBLE, helps companies design and implement computer networks; simulates potentially devastating reactions--such as a nuclear reaction; designs software and hardware; and designs languages. "We market a service, not a product," the two say.
The firm is based in Cambridge and has branches in Washington, D.C. and Santa Clara, California. The physical plant of the Cambridge branch is limited to their dorm room in Leverett House, but this poses few serious problems; if they want to meet with clients, they pay a visit in their Cadillac limousine.
Langerman quickly defends the purchase: "We didn't think about it that much. Mare's mom just saw it at a car-dealers in Annapolis and bought it on our behalf. I mean, we paid for it. It was a choice between a limo and a hearse. We were tempted to get a hearse for offensive clients."
"This is not an egalitarian society," he adds. "I mean, just look at which cars get ticketed. Policemen see little economy cars and know that their owners will be able to pay the parking ticket. But I mean, people look at the car and know it's a gas-guzzler and feel bad for you."
In addition to this questionable asset, the limo has also allowed them to pull some gags. For the premier of the latest Bond thriller, "A View to a Kill," they asked the manager of the Sack Cheri to set aside some seats for the film's author and his party. Elvy pretended to be the chauffeur while a friend from M.I.T. pretended to be the author. When they arrived, the manager eagerly shook the alleged author's hand and showed him and his "bodyguards" in to a row of prime seats. The pair attest that the plan came off without a hitch.