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Software Startup Profile: Q&A with Virtual Bridges CEO, Jim Curtin

By November 28, 2011Article

Editor’s Note: Launched in April 2006, in Austin, Texas, Virtual Bridges is ranked as a Major Player by IDC, a Cool Vendor by Gartner, and is ranked among the Top Emerging Vendors (CRN), Top 10 IT Companies to Watch in 2010 (Robin Bloor), and Top 10 Virtualization Companies (ServerWatch). What is your background?
Jim Curtin: I’m proud to say I’m a true computer industry veteran with more than 25 years’ experience under my belt. At Digital Equipment Corporation, I was involved in one of the first PC rollouts and the introduction of PC-based tools in the organization. After that, I moved on to Open Systems with the Open Software Foundation, where I worked to promote the benefits of distributed computing ahead of the Internet. With the advent of the Internet, I turned to network security management and policy enforcement as a co-founder and CEO of DASCOM, Inc., which was acquired by IBM in 1999. Is there a software executive who is your role model?
Jim Curtin: I’ve always admired Lou Gerstner for his vision in defining e-business while at IBM and focusing the world around the concept of the Internet as an enabling platform for e-commerce. That was a pivotal turning point in the way people thought about the intersection of technology with their daily lives.
I’d like to think we’re carrying some of Lou’s legacy forward at Virtual Bridges and helping to redefine the way people think about desktop computing – from an experience that is largely physical, static and impersonal to one that is more virtual, dynamic and personal. There’s some pretty exciting potential in that, which I believe we’ve only just started to fully realize. What led you to create Virtual Bridges?
Jim Curtin: In 2000 I came up with an idea to combine the benefits of open source and Linux and apply them to the problem of desktop management – now known as VDI. In 2006 I co-founded Virtual Bridges to take this vision to the next level and combine my passion for leading teams with my passion for solving customer problems. What’s the story behind your company name?
Jim Curtin: The name Virtual Bridges came from our goal to “bridge” the gap from Windows to Linux, and provide a more open, low-cost computing platform that bridges physical to virtual computing environments. Please tell us a little about your product and why it’s garnering so much attention.
Jim Curtin: In contrast with legacy virtualization solutions that focus on the server, Virtual Bridges VERDE is purpose built for desktops and is the only solution to combine online, offline and remote branch VDI. This unique approach – which we call “VDI Gen2” – sets a new standard for desktop virtualization and ensures all users receive the same high-quality experience, regardless of connection or location.
As an independent, cross-platform solution, Virtual Bridges also requires significantly less resources to manage and costs approximately 50 percent less than competitive solutions. The solution can be installed in less than an hour and can scale from one to hundreds of thousands of desktops to meet the needs of any organization. What was a lesson learned as you developed your product?
Jim Curtin: It’s the importance of an extensible architecture that is purpose-built and designed from the ground up for optimal elegance and efficiency. Our VERDE VDI Gen2 solution enables customers to move beyond the data center and LAN-bound scenarios to deliver value to online, offline and server-hosted users – all from the same management interface – and integrated with third-party technologies. You just can’t do that by retrofitting legacy solutions. In what way does your company change the software industry vendor landscape?
Jim Curtin: By being disruptive. In a market that’s largely been controlled by two big vendors (Citrix, VMware) and their ecosystem partners, Virtual Bridges has disrupted the status quo with impressive results. We’ve done this using open source technologies that solve a second-generation problem and provide more choice, flexibility and value than our nearest competitors. We’ve won impressive analyst and media accolades and secured strategic partnerships with leading systems integrators and hosting providers that have standardized on our solution. There’s no question Virtual Bridges has put its stamp on the VDI market – and we’re here to stay and win! If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first started planning to launch your company, what would you do differently the second time around?
Jim Curtin: As Malcolm Gladwell says in the book “Outliers,” the key to success in any field is practicing a task for 10,000 hours. So I don’t look back and think ‘what would I do differently?’ Instead, I focus on having the agility, creativity and commitment to adapt, innovate and succeed on this exciting journey.
It’s been almost 11 years since I started thinking about the desktop virtualization problem – some would say several lifetimes in today’s world of extravagant exits and billion-dollar valuations. If I hadn’t had the patience to wait this out, I wouldn’t have had the vision or experience to understand where the market was going, what customers would need or what technologies would be available to solve the problem. What is your advice for fledgling entrepreneurs?
Jim Curtin: This isn’t a job for the faint of heart. You have to believe that what you’re doing is going to solve important problems, and you have to be willing to eat rocks and dirt to make it happen.
For example, Virtual Bridges isn’t just about solving the VDI problem. At a higher level, it’s ultimately about providing access to technologies through virtualization that otherwise wouldn’t be available. Think about parts of society where physical desktops don’t make sense because of the cost or infrastructure constraints. If we can break down the digital divide just a little more for at-risk populations, we’ll have done a great thing. What book did you read during the past three years that most influenced you, and how did it influence your thinking and actions?
Jim Curtin: At this point in my career, I’ve learned most of the business lessons out there. Now I’m spending more time on spiritual development, which actually factors significantly in my role as CEO of a dynamic startup. When you’re on the forefront of a fast-moving market, with big competitors in every corner, it’s critical to be able to provide calm and balance in the eye of the storm. What is the best advice you ever received?
Jim Curtin: There have been so many instrumental people in my life who have given me invaluable advice, but I think one of the fundamental things I learned was from my father: “Keep your poise.” As the son of a coach, this was ingrained in me from an early age, and it continues to serve me in all sorts of situations as we navigate the ups and downs and twists and turns of life in a fast-moving startup.
Jim Curtin is CEO of Virtual Bridges. He has been on the forefront of change in the computer industry for most of his 26-year career. Prior to Virtual Bridges, he was founder and CEO of DASCOM, Inc. acquired by IBM in 1999. Following the DASCOM acquisition, Jim served as VP of security at IBM, defining strategy and running business development, operations and strategic sales for the product suite currently known as Tivoli Access Manager. He has also held key leaderships positions at the Open Software Foundation and Digital Equipment Corporation. Contact him at

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