Meet the investors betting $20M on DeWi

Salvador Gala​ and Mahesh Ramakrishnan run Escape Velocity Ventures, which has raised $20 million to invest in the nascent but potentially disruptive decentralized wireless (DeWi) market.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

January 16, 2023

3 Min Read
Meet the investors betting $20M on DeWi

Salvador Gala​ is the co-founder of Escape Velocity Ventures, and he's all-in on DeWi.

"We'll return 0x or 10x. There's not much in between," Gala told Light Reading. He explained that each investment would likely face those odds, but that he's working to even things out across a diverse portfolio of investments.

But Gala has plenty of time to figure out which way that might break. He said his firm, Escape Velocity Ventures, has raised $20 million to invest in and around the decentralized wireless (DeWi) sector, and he expects it'll take the company three-to-five years to invest that full amount. He said he doesn't need to provide his financiers with a possible return for another 10-12 years, which he said is a relatively standard timeframe for such efforts.

Nonetheless, the clock is definitely ticking. "We're super excited about what we're seeing," he said. "If we succeed, there will be better connectivity infrastructure around the world, and it will be done in a decentralized way."

The ante

Gala got his start in the investment world at Ribbit, where he spent time in the cryptocurrency space. There he met his Escape Velocity Ventures partner, Mahesh Ramakrishnan, who was working at Apollo Global Management's Private Equity business at the time. The two hit it off, but bemoaned the struggles of the crypto market throughout 2020 and 2021.

Figure 1: (Source: Artur Marciniec/Alamy Stock Photo) (Source: Artur Marciniec/Alamy Stock Photo)

And then came Helium. The company is essentially the original DeWi player, having proven the model with its massive LoRa wireless network for the Internet of Things. Helium's incredible progress – it now counts almost a million LoRa transmission sites – inspired Gala and Ramakrishnan in early 2022 to focus on the nascent but potentially disruptive DeWi market. That's when they founded Escape Velocity Ventures with funding from the founders of companies like Ribbit, Fortress, Thrive, Endurance, Brewer Lane, CMT Digital, Framework, Castle Island, Multicoin and Lattice.

DeWi is essentially an offshoot of the core crypto market because it uses cryptocurrency to reward people for deploying wireless network infrastructure. Today, Helium is working to pivot its early LoRa success into other wireless networking technologies including 5G. But it has recently suffered significant criticism for failing to generate much demand for its massive LoRa network.

Showing your cards

Gala said his firm has so far invested a total of $1.5 million across Andrena (a wireless Internet service provider), XNET (a company building a DeWi ecosystem) and MachineFi (which shifts the DeWi model onto robots and other machines).

Gala said his investments can take a variety of forms, from direct injections of cash to the purchase of a particular company's cryptocurrency. He also said he's spreading his investments across the space and isn't necessarily focused on decentralized wireless exclusively.

So what does Gala think of Helium and the overall DeWi trend, now that he's roughly a year into his project? Helium "is really an early stage project," he said, adding that Helium has a massive financial warchest and still has an opportunity to upend the telecom market with its unique approach at some point in the future. He said he expects 5G offloading – where big operators use DeWi networks to bolster their own operations – to be an early driver in the DeWi space.

But he also added that "it's silly to think that one company [like Helium] can take it all" in the DeWi market. He said that if the DeWi concept, in general, takes off in the US and globally, there will be plenty of investment opportunities beyond Helium.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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