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IGEL Founding Father Heiko Gloge Passes CEO Torch To Jed Ayres

'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity focused on how the world is going to consume applications and Windows desktops,' says new IGEL CEO Jed Ayres. 'It’s a Cinderella moment in my career. It’s a great honor, but it’s also a huge responsibility because of the heritage, tradition and stability that Heiko brought to this company.'

Heiko Gloge, the founding father and driving force behind IGEL’s rise over the past two decades from an upstart German thin-client manufacturer to a global next-generation edge operating system powerhouse, is stepping aside and handing the global CEO post to Jed Ayres.

Ayres, the hard-charging marketing maestro who Gloge recruited as U.S. CEO four years ago to take IGEL into Silicon Valley and lead the global software offensive, is pledging to take the company from $150 million in sales to more than $1 billion.

The $1 billion goal comes as the 20-year-old company moves to capture the exploding cloud workspaces opportunity with a blockbuster partnership with software giant Microsoft. As the first Linux client for Microsoft’s fast-growing Windows Virtual Desktop, IGEL is in a unique position to capture significant edge operating system market share.

[RELATED: IGEL Founding Father Heiko Gloge’s Legacy: A German Force In A U.S. Dominated Technology Market]

“It is very humbling to see this obscure German hardware company with great software be thrust into center stage of the software world with a historic partnership,” said Ayres in an interview with CRN before Gloge literally passed a lighted torch to acknowledge the historic moment at the start of IGEL’s DISRUPT 2020 conference in Munich Monday. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity focused on how the world is going to consume applications and Windows desktops. It’s a Cinderella moment in my career. It’s a great honor, but it’s also a huge responsibility because of the heritage, tradition and stability that Heiko brought to this company.”

Ayres will take over the sole CEO job effective April 1, 2020, with the 58-year-old Gloge remaining as a large non-executive shareholder on the IGEL board of directors. Nicolas Helms, the managing partner of Melchers, the 214-year-old parent of IGEL, will also remain a managing director.

Gloge has been laying the groundwork for the transition for several years. “The real inspiring face of the company is Jed Ayres,” he said.

Gloge said he see Ayres bringing new fire to disrupt and innovate in the cloud workspaces market. “Jed is inviting us to rethink our business,” he said. “IGEL has always changed. I want us to be a leader, not a me-too company. Leadership gives you a completely different set of questions: How do we set ourselves up to drive the company and motivate people? This is what Jed understands.”

Ayres has indeed powered a remarkable software and channel sales renaissance since joining IGEL. During that period, IGEL OS software seats have soared from just 303,000 in 2016 to 749,000 seats in 2019 with a plan to break the 1 million seat barrier in 2020.

During that same period, IGEL’s sales have skyrocketed from $66 million to $150 million, while the U.S. team has expanded from virtually zero to 100 employees with over 400 in the entire company and a plan to add an additional 100 employees in 2020.

The razor-sharp focus on software since Ayres joined the company has put IGEL partners at the center of the cloud workspaces recurring revenue software revolution.

“The most important thing we did was build a plan to make IGEL a software company rather than a hardware company,” said Ayres. “We went to customers with the conviction that we could help them save money, be more secure, and deliver a better user experience with our software. We are going to be the number one edge operating system for cloud workspaces worldwide by the end of 2020. Partners are going to participate financially in IGEL’s ascent to the number one position in this market.”

Al Solorzano, vice president of end user computing for Entisys360, which was just named IGEL Emerging Partner of the Year, said Ayres provided the software and channel drive to make IGEL a force to be reckoned with in the U.S. market.

“Many European companies have tried to come to the U.S. market and failed,” said Solorzano. “Once Jed brought IGEL to the states we experienced a huge acceleration in the IGEL business. We saw the technology and the channel commitment changing. It’s been an amazing ride with Jed. He deserves all the credit he has received for IGEL’s success as a software company.”

Pete Downing, the chief marketing technology officer (CMTO) of XenTegra, which just won IGEL’s Partner of the Year award, says Ayres' leadership has raised the software innovation bar at IGEL. “Jed understood how IGEL could disrupt the market with its software and then made it happen,” he said. “IGEL put its money where its mouth is with its next-gen edge OS. This is a new way to connect devices to the cloud. It’s no longer about old-school hardware. It is about the OS and how you simplify the experience for the user. Jed refined the message and put aggressive marketing behind it.”

XenTegra has quadrupled its IGEL business in 2019 and intends to at least double its IGEL business this year, said Downing. “I look forward to success for years to come,” he said. “I’m personally looking forward to helping Jed build this into a $1 billion business.”

Ayres, a 25-year technology sales veteran, with 20 years of his career spent as a channel executive, pledged to not forget his channel roots with an ironclad commitment to keep IGEL a 100 percent channel sales company. “In our 19-year history at IGEL, we have never sold anything direct and we never will,” he said. “IGEL has an ethos that great partnerships are built on trust, integrity, innovation and partnership. The most important thing for me is taking the culture that Heiko has built and continuing that tradition of trust, integrity, innovation and partnership.”

That partnership charge has been amped up under Ayres’ leadership. Some of the top VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) solution providers in the country have doubled down on IGEL, building million-dollar businesses over the past four years. In 2017, IGEL had no U.S. Platinum partners with a million-dollar-plus practice. Now there are 13 partners with million-dollar-plus businesses and several approaching $10 million.

Key to IGEL’s partner success story, said Ayres, has been taking IGEL from a low-margin thin-client hardware provider to a high-margin software provider that is saving customers money with dramatic improvements in security and user experience.

“Our partners are seeing the benefits of a disruptive, high-margin, highly differentiated business with services and recurring revenue,” he said. “We’re being sold at scale to the largest government, banking, retail and health-care providers in the world.”

Ayres said he will be spending more time in Europe where two-thirds of the company’s employees reside. “We have to take this triple-digit software growth story and bring that to partners and customers in Europe,” he said. “We want the largest customers in Germany and Europe to see IGEL as an innovative enterprise software company.”

Ayres pledged to carry on the commitment that Gloge made from the beginning to recruit the best and brightest people and empower them to succeed. In fact, he committed to bringing what he called “a servant’s heart in a selfie world” as the new CEO. “You have to put other people’s needs ahead of your own,” he said. “That means we serve each other, our partners and our customers. That is a servant’s heart. The most important thing at any company is people. Hiring great people and then empowering them is key. We want our people waking up every day with a mission to contribute to the amazing architectural transformation that we are leading.”

Ayres said the opportunity for growth for IGEL in the next 24 months is unprecedented in the history of the company. “We can move into a leadership position and sell more [IGEL OS] licenses than this company has sold in its entire history,” he said. “That ambition comes with a certain amount of soberness. We are only going to get one shot at this, as OS markets don’t support three or four players. This is an energizing moment in IGEL’s history. The future of this company is very bright. There is a path to $1 billion and 10 million licenses and beyond.”

That path to $1 billion means changing how customers experience the new cloud workspaces era. “With our partners, we are changing history with regard to how the world thinks about consuming applications,” said Ayres. “It’s no longer a fat operating system that is very expensive to secure with a bunch of localized apps. My kids expect to get a device, put their email address in and consume all the things they need from the cloud. IGEL is in a unique position to help be that invisible operating system that makes that experience fantastic.”

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