Loris Degioanni: While I was in New Zealand doing the internship, a professor from the United States texted me saying he’s working in the field of packet catcher. He found WinPcap. He would like to invite somebody from the research group to do research in the United States. I was in New Zealand, so I couldn’t go.
I told this professor that I had to pass the opportunity and find somebody else. The professor told me, “Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you. Finish your work in New Zealand.” In particular, the professor was working for UC Davis. I finished my internship in New Zealand.
I went back to Italy to repack my suitcase and I was on my way to California. My PhD, at that point, was almost complete. I was planning to do a relatively short research project in California for about six months and then go back to Italy to work in a research center connected to the university.
The professor was John Bruno. He was a professor of Computer Science at the University of California Davis. I started doing research with John. We immediately found out that we worked extremely well together. In parallel to doing research work, we also started doing consultancies together in the field of avionics networks.
We were applying our knowledge and my background in catching packets to being able to analyze and troubleshoot airplanes. In particular, we worked quite a bit on the Boeing 787 development when they were still designing and developing. My first work experience here in the United States was as a consultant in avionics and airplane market together with John. Doing the consultancy was a lot of fun.
At a certain point, John tells me, “Why don’t you extend your stay in the United States? We can incorporate the company. We can formalize what we are doing as a real company. Neither John nor I had any kind of experience as entrepreneurs. We were probably a pretty badly matched couple. I had never worked in my life.
I was still in school. I was completing my PhD. John had spent his whole career as a computer science professor. He was actually at the end of his career after being a professor for a long time. He’s pretty senior. He found this little kid who was very passionate about what he was doing and proposed to start a company together.
We both left university – me before starting my career and he at the end of his career. It was called CACE Technologies. We started doing mostly consultancies. We had a very big asset, which is our open source tools. We didn’t really have business expertise. What we did was approach a friend called Gerald Combs who was the creator of Ethereal, a very popular network analyzer at that time, which was very complementary to what we were doing.
My open-source software was collecting data from networks. His software, which was open source as well, was decoding the data from the network. The two projects were interdependent. We asked Gerald to join the company. By doing that, he brought his open source tool to the company. Now, we had even more open source assets.
The only problem was that he did the software as an employee of an ISP in Kansas. The website domain name, the trade marker, the logo were the property of the ISP owner. We tried to purchase the assets. We had neither the cash nor the resources to purchase.