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Discover the hidden mastermind of Wi-Fi and VPN: Alexander Galitsky’s astonishing legacy

Alexander “Sasha” Galitsky’s contributions to Wi-Fi and VPN technologies have left an indelible mark on the world, shaping how we connect and communicate in the digital age

Photo courtesy of Alexander Galitsky
Photo courtesy of Alexander Galitsky

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Among the pioneers of the modern digital age, Alexander “Sasha” Galitsky holds a unique place. Known for his groundbreaking work in Wi-Fi and Virtual Private Network (VPN) technologies, Galitsky’s journey from a defense scientist in the Soviet space industry to a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist is a testament to his remarkable contributions to the world of technology.

Early years and education

Born on February 9, 1955, in Zarechany, Zhytomyr Region, Ukrainian SSR, Galitsky’s journey began in a modest village setting. Excelling academically, he graduated from high school with honors and went on to attend the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology (MIET). At MIET, his interests in theoretical physics and computer calculations deepened, leading him to practical work at the Zelenograd Scientific Research Institute of Microdevices. Galitsky’s early forays into technology culminated in obtaining a diploma in 1979, followed by a PhD in Technical Cybernetics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

From scientist to entrepreneur: The ELVIS journey

During his tenure at the Soviet Space Agency, Galitsky’s work at the Scientific Research Institute of Microdevices, part of the ELAS research and production association, was crucial. This leading center developed key technologies such as satellites for Earth remote sensing and computer systems for the Mir orbital station. The reorganization of scientific institutes during Perestroika led Galitsky to head the newly formed “ELVIS” (electronic computer information systems) center, managing around 400 employees. Under his leadership, ELVIS focused on cutting-edge technological development.

Galitsky’s vision expanded globally in 1990 when Bill Joy and John Gage of Sun Microsystems visited the USSR. Impressed by Galitsky’s developments, including a superior 22-layer polyamide PCB and an advanced IP-based data transmission system for spy satellites, they recognized the untapped potential of Soviet technology. Galitsky’s subsequent trip to Silicon Valley in 1991 marked the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey in the West, aiming to promote Soviet technological innovations and attract venture capital from US investors.

ELVIS+ and the rise of Wi-Fi

In collaboration with Sun Microsystems, ELVIS+ embarked on a project to create a low-orbit satellite communications system. However, due to funding constraints and export restrictions, the project was curtailed. This setback did not deter Galitsky and his team; instead, they shifted their focus to implementing the 802.11 protocol, which later evolved into what we now know as Wi-Fi.

ELVIS+ developed a PCMCIA-compatible device for integrating mobile computers into a wireless network. By 1993, ELVIS+ had surpassed other Sun contractors, including Motorola, in developing this technology. Recognizing the significance of their work, Sun Microsystems bought a 10% stake in ELVIS+ for $1 million. The world’s first Wi-Fi module for laptops was a product of this venture, although it initially found little demand in the early 1990s market. Ultimately, ELVIS+ sold its wireless technology to the US government.

Ventures in VPN and telecommunications

In 1996, ELVIS+ took a significant leap by developing the first-ever VPN for Windows operating systems. This innovation used a cracked Microsoft network driver, showcasing ELVIS+’s technical prowess. Sun Microsystems recognized this achievement and acquired an OEM license for the product’s worldwide distribution for Windows 3.11 and Windows 95 platforms. The product even received certification from the state technical commission under the President of the Russian Federation. However, its complexity led to US authorities initiating an investigation by the National Security Agency, questioning whether a Russian company could independently develop such advanced technology.

ELVIS+ also made strides in telecommunications. In 1992, it launched Russia’s first fax gateway (FoIP) and began providing Internet fax services. By 1993, it became one of the first Internet providers in Russia. The establishment of Elvis Telecom in 1996 further expanded their footprint in the telecommunications sector, serving thousands of customers in Moscow by 2000.

Further innovations and recognition

Galitsky continued to innovate in VPN management with TrustWorks, founded in the Netherlands in 1998. TrustWorks, developing solutions based on the IPsec protocols from ELVIS+, received significant acclaim. In 2000, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, TrustWorks was awarded for its innovative technology, marking Galitsky as a pioneer in the field.

Additionally, in 2001, Galitsky founded EzWim in Amsterdam, offering SaaS solutions for managing corporate telephone expenses. This venture further demonstrated his versatility and foresight in technology.

Venture capital and global impact

In 2003, Galitsky founded AV Galitsky Holdings in the Netherlands, marking his entry into the world of venture capitalism. As an active VC investor, he made a series of successful private investments in companies such as NavMaps (sold to TeleAtlas), Magnifire (sold to F5), SJLabs (sold to magicJack VocalTec), PGP (sold to Symantec), Parallels (sold to Corel), Acronis and EverNote (sold to Bending Spoons).His investments and guidance have played a considerable role in the success of these technology companies. Later Alexander also invested directly or via SPVs to ClickHouse, ShapesXR, Element Energy and few others.

Galitsky’s entrepreneurial and venture capital endeavors led him to co-found Almaz Capital, an international venture fund with offices in Portola Valley, California, and Berlin, Germany. Established in 2008, Almaz Capital focuses on early-stage, capital-efficient technology companies in high-growth sectors. The fund’s impressive portfolio includes Yandex (IPO NASDAQ), QIK (sold to Skype), Sensity Systems (sold to Verizon Communications), Acumatica (sold to EQT), Xometry (IPO NASDAQ), and many others.

Recognitions and awards

Alexander Galitsky’s contributions to the world of technology and venture capital have not gone unnoticed. He has received numerous accolades and recognitions, including the EY Entrepreneur Award, where he was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year in Russia in 2013. He was also nominated for the best venture capitalist of the last decade in Europe in 2012 by Investor AllStars and named a “Technology Pioneer” at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2000.

A visionary leader

Alexander “Sasha” Galitsky’s journey from a Soviet scientist to a tech visionary, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist exemplifies the transformative power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and perseverance. His contributions to Wi-Fi and VPN technologies have left an indelible mark on the world, shaping how we connect and communicate in the digital age. Galitsky’s impact extends beyond technology; he has also played a crucial role in fostering entrepreneurship and venture capital in CIS and Eastern Europe, leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come. His story is not just a testament to personal achievement but a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating how vision and determination can forge paths that transform our digital world.

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Written By

Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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