We are excited to announce that Alessio Fanelli has joined Decibel as our newest partner. As an open source entrepreneur and successful investor who immigrated to the US, Alessio understands the power of community-led software to create economic opportunity for software developers around the world. In his new role at Decibel, he will be investing in open source, data engineering, and cybersecurity companies and leading Decibel’s internal software development team. Alessio shared his excitement for the next phase of Decibel in our latest Q&A:
I grew up in a lower-middle class family in Rome in a town called Torpignattara – a lot of people in the US don’t know this but my neighborhood is famous in Italy for being poor. My Dad has had the same job for the past 25 years - he drives a truck and delivers fish to restaurants and has woken up at 3:30 AM every morning and worked 6 days a week. My Mom worked as a cashier and a bookkeeper for a store by my grandma’s house. There were not many opportunities for career progression in Italy, but they both earned the respect of our small community and they taught me the value of hard work. We couldn’t afford a computer back then but were very lucky – one day my Mom came home with a teal iMac G3 from work that had grown old and was going to be recycled. It was my first opportunity to discover gaming, the internet, and eventually teach myself to code.
I went to college in Rome and studied Physics and Computer Science - in my second year my life changed when I decided to participate in the school hackathon. It is 100 degrees in the summer in Rome, and most buildings are very old with archaic wiring and air conditioning. We built a prototype of an open standards IOT platform - an internet connected sensor network that could integrate and control legacy thermostats, HVAC, and building systems to give people a unified way to manage their campus environment. We won the hackathon and got a lot of enthusiasm from the University – we took a small grant to develop the product and I dropped out to start my first company, Smart Torvy. We learned how to build integrated software systems, the value of founder mentorship, and the importance of venture capital. We presented our technology at Maker Faire but chose not to commercialize our technology and instead open sourced a lot of our work which is still published on Github today.
My experience as a founder led me to the VC industry – I was curious as to why it was so hard to get great advice and expertise in Rome and began reading and following every experienced investor I could find. One day I remember seeing a tweet from 645 Ventures, a new start-up VC fund, offering an engineering fellowship for software developers. I applied for the job while still living in Italy, and eventually moved to the US. While there I built out the firm’s internal platform which is used today to source and analyze all of the firm’s investments. I was surprised as an engineer that much of the work inside of a VC firm is still done manually in spreadsheets, and quickly found that I could use my technical skills to make us more competitive and efficient. The software we built had immediate results - I was able to source and lead several successful seed investments using the platform including in Panther Labs, a cybersecurity company whose valuation rose from less than $20M when we first invested to north of $1.4B in their latest round.
We didn’t have much money growing up and I’m grateful that I had access to the tech world to find new opportunities. Like many technical founders, my first “job” technically started out as a hacker – I learned how to code by trying to run homebrew software on my Playstation, and looked up to all the great hackers of the time who generously shared their methods in online forums. In my startup I was able to collaborate with incredibly talented open source developers around the world and became an active contributor in my teenage years. Open source uniquely allows me to combine my interests in software development and investing – while I was building our internal startup sourcing tool I came across Cube.dev, a “headless” business intelligence project that had a rapidly growing community. I became a contributor to the project and am now also a seed investor and advisor to the founding team. Luckily Decibel led the Series A, so I’m excited to keep on working with Artyom, Pavel, and the rest of the team there!
I still remember what life was like as a technical founder – you have incredible energy and passion for your work but also need a lot of help navigating the complex questions and challenges that are always in front of you. I have always admired the Decibel vision – we are relentlessly focused on technical founders and have created unique services to help them succeed. As Decibel continues to grow, I am personally very excited to accelerate our internal software development and enable our founders to make use of our resources to scale their business. We all share the same vision of helping infrastructure software founders find product-market fit as quickly as possible, and I’m excited to help accelerate our roadmap.