You may not have heard of him but he used to run a $1.4 billion unit for Sun Microsystems that dealt with federal contracts. When Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq:ORCL) later acquired Sun, Vass' work there played a major role.
Before that, Vass served as an information technology (IT) honcho at the Pentagon. He had major input into some 6,800 defense IT systems with a budget of more than $35.5 billion.
As one of the nation's most senior high-tech experts, Vass now serves as CEO of a small but well-funded startup.
It's called Liquid Robotics.
And its self-propelled water bots can travel from California to Hawaii without using a single drop of fuel.
But here's where the big payoff comes in for investors: each bot is packed with sensors that can gather a wide range of critical data about the world's oceans.
Believe it or not, that opens up a gigantic but little-known opportunity.
According to Vass, that potentially puts Liquid Robotics at the forefront of a $40 billion market.
And from what I can see, Vass is making all the right moves.
One to Keep an Eye OnIn fact, Vass recently launched a new unit that will target the Pentagon for sales at a time when the Navy desperately needs cheaper sources of data.
Meanwhile, just a few weeks earlier, Liquid Robotics snared both a contract and an investment from Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE:SLB), the oil services giant with a market cap of about $100 billion.
As I see it, that means Liquid Robotics is now on a clear path to issuing shares to the public in as little as three years.
Along the way, Vass is making quite a name for himself and his firm.
For investors that's a good thing, since it helps build the brand, keeping potential competitors at bay while adding value to any IPO down the road.
Turns out, Vass is in high demand these days.
While I was on the phone with one of his reps to arrange a chat with Vass, Liquid Robotics was juggling the details of a special about tracking great white sharks that ran on the Discovery Channel.
The TV show featured the firm's Wave Glider, the wave-powered marine robot that looks like a high-tech surfboard. The autonomous device has already set world records by covering some 13,000 nautical miles on the high seas.
His PR rep also was working out the details of an interview with Time magazine. All of this follows recent stories in both The New York Times and Forbes.
So, I'm glad to report that Vass was able to fit me in to his crowded schedule.
After all, Liquid Robotics is one of those startups you need to know about as a key player in what I call the Era of Radical Change.