VAR500: 20 Titans Of Transformation

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Denali Advanced Integration

Majdi "Mike" Daher was a 20 year old premed college student planning on becoming a doctor when the Gulf War broke out in 1990, cutting him and his brothers off from his family in Kuwait.

It was a time of intense pain and uncertainy during which Daher and his two brothers in the US lost touch for some six months with their Mom,Dad, and siblings caught up in the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

"As brothers we came together determined to overcome and over-achieve, to figure out what we could do to build a business, to give back to our family that needed us now," says Daher, who put aside his dream of becoming a doctor. "We were determined to not let the situation define us. We needed to define the situation."

That's just what Daher did dropping out of College and teaming with his two brothers with cash made selling personal belongings to start Denali Advanced Integration in Redmond,Washington in June 1992.

"Failure was not an option," recalls Daher of the 17 hour work days and 13 members of his family living in a one bedroom apartment in Redmond, Washington after his family was reunited in the US. "Our family was depending on us."

Today, Denali, born out of that turbulent time, is one of the most highly respected and decorated solution providers in the country ranking number 152 on the 2011 CRN VAR500 list with a 25 percent increase in sales to 2010 to $110 million. The company's slogan, "Above the Rest", refers to Daher's promise as cofounder and CEO to bring every Denali customer "world class innovation, top tier support and trusted advisors who transform information technology into what he calls "unparalleled business advantages."

It's not only Denali's trusted and innovative technical advisors that are "Above The Rest," but its charitable efforts. Daher is the winner of the VAR500 2011 Community Service Award. His philanthropic pledge is to give community members fighting for a better life a "hand up" rather than a "hand out." It is that philosophy that has made Daher a widely recognized philanthropic leader focusing on healthcare, eduction and technology in the Redmond, Washington community. Denali and Daher have also been singled out by computer giant HP with the prestigious "Power of Technology In Community Innovation" "for giving back to the community.

Daher, who returned to Portland State University graduating magna cum laude with a bachelors degree in biology, has forged a different path to save and change lives than that of a doctor. He says his giving back is a direct result of the hands that reached out to help him during his own difficult times. "What matters is what we do with that hand that reached out to us," says Daher. "At Denali, we don't do hand outs. We do hand ups."

When Denali President Chris Gerhardt met Todd Stablefeldt, a quadriplegic while riding on a commuter ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle Washington, the Denali team stepped up and supplied the technical expertise and technology muscle to make sure that Stablefeldt could survive during a power outage through the use of computer backup technology. Not only that the company teamed with technology partners on specially designed disability interfaces. That has led to a role promoting technology for quadriplegics with the support of the Todd Stabelfeldt foundation. Daher and his wife Dana have also been honored by the Evergreen Hospital in Redmond with the 2009 Spirit of Giving award.

But those charitable efforts are only a small part of Daher's determination to step up and support the community,customers, employees and vendors alike. "He won't share with you how many people he has helped," says John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations for Denali. "I love the man. He is such a fine person deep down in his soul."

When a Denali employee was killed in a tragic car accident in 2007, Daher established an educational fund for the children and launched a community excellence award given to a charity chosen by an employee each year who personally volunteers and supports local charities. And when a Denali employee passed away from cancer last year, Daher stepped up once again to assist the family financially.

Daher himself won't talk about those deeds. But he does say that he views actions during such difficult times as another measure of "defining those situations rather than letting those situations define you."

"Somebody gave me the torch to light my pathway in the darkness of those challenging times," he says, recalling his Dad fleeing Kuwait with $20 in his pocket. "It is now my time as I came out of those dark times to hand that torch to other people."

By Steven Burke


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