T-Rex Roars: Liquidware Labs' Founder Makes Noise in VDI
J. Tyler "T-Rex" Rohrer, chief revenue officer and co-founder of Liquidware Labs, was never shy about selling himself and his ideas. At the tender age of 16, he came up with his first company, a rickshaw service that shuttled restaurant and bar patrons around Portsmouth, N.H., which Rohrer estimated to have the highest per-capita population of diners and drinkers in the United States. After altering his business model slightly so his rickshaw drivers no longer worked by the hour ("mostly talking to girls"), instead paying Rohrer $50 per day to rent a rickshaw and keeping the rest, he began his journey down a profit path that would take him from transportation titan to virtualization visionary.
Fresh off his rickshaw experience, he moved up the transportation ladder by starting a successful trolley service for customers at a large shopping complex in Kittery, Maine. He locked in that new company's financial future by approaching local merchants such as Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers and politely informing them that while he would love to work with them, his shuttle service simply wouldn't be able to stop at their stores if they didn't buy ads for his shopper-laden trolleys. Deal done.
After graduating from nearby Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Rohrer sold his company to a buyer who had been renting his trolleys during the winter. He soon crossed paths with a computer reseller who was striking it rich, who asked Rohrer to join his small, regional VAR. Charged up by this new challenge, he went on a selling spree with his biggest customer, IBM, to whom he sold some $20 million worth of gear in a year.
Before long, a couple of buddies approached him about a new and even more challenging venture, saying, "Hey, we're going to start a company, and we're going to focus on this new technology called virtualization. We're going to be the best in the world. Nobody is going to be smarter than us, even the manufacturers." Rohrer replied, "Well, that sounds pretty cool. What's virtualization do?"
What it did was lead to FOEDUS, a virtualization service company that caught on before it -- and Rohrer -- were sold to VMware, a sale that brought Rohrer a lot more than he got for unloading the trolley company on that guy in Florida.
About this time, Rohrer became a fan of David Bieneman, who was available in the wake of selling Vizioncore to Quest. After working at VMware for a while, Rohrer realized that a lot of people were in a very nascent state of desktop virtualization adoption, so he called up Bieneman and said, "I think we can solve some problems in the desktop market. It's going to be a blend of services and services enablement stuff, and some software as well. You know the software game, I know the services game. Do you want to start a company?"
Bieneman said yes, signed on as CEO and co-founder, and Liquidware Labs was born, touting itself as "the industry's first on-ramp to VDI via methodology and software that enables organizations to cost-effectively plan, migrate and manage their next-generation desktop infrastructure."
Even though Rohrer and Bieneman were flush after selling their companies, they started Liquidware Labs without any venture funding, which, as Rohrer recalls, put them on a clock. "We had to deliver product to the market and start generating revenue in six months," he says. It took them four.
The road ahead is still rocky, but Rohrer feels good about it. "I am a chaotic optimist," he declares. "I'm willing to explore a number of unconventional notions and thought processes, so I'm the antithesis of your book-raised MBA."
Oh, the "T-Rex" moniker? He got that from his daughter, who out of frustration with lobbying her father for a cell phone, finally declared, "You're so stingy, you're like a T-Rex because you're all mouth, and your arms are too short to reach your wallet." Once T-Rex popped up on his auto signature at VMware, the name caught on, and it still precedes him.
Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.