Erik Moore discovered an affinity for tech angel investing while at home in the Oakland area. He was one of the first to invest in 1999 in his next-door-neighbor’s business. Tony Hsieh had an online shoe and clothing shop, Zappos.com — that’s the Zappos Amazon later bought for $1.2 billion.
For the next 12 years, Moore worked as a Merrill Lynch bond trader and continued angel investing, ultimately realizing, “he could do more to change the world and spur innovation by investing in young entrepreneurs full-time,” according to his LinkedIn page.
The Zappos investment netted Moore a 50-times return, according to an Event Brite report. Moore was also an angel investor in Socialcam, co-founded by Michael Seibel, CEO of Y Combinator’s YC accellerator program.
Moore’s Zappos investment eventually provided seed money for his venture capital fund, Base Ventures, founded in 2012. Other successful angel investments Moore has made include Mayvenn (Series A – Andreessen Horowitz), Olly (Series A – Obvious Ventures) and Luma (Series A – Accel Partners and Amazon).
In a March, 2014 Ozy interview, Moore said he finds the under-representation of blacks in white-collar industries to be “just an old, tired, boring conversation”:
Moore’s impatience with this topic, and his pragmatic response, is partly borne of his experiences in other industries where African-Americans have faced similar struggles. “(The conversation) has to happen because it’s unfortunately still an issue,” he concedes. “(But) it was the same when I was in investment banking,” he said, recalling that people were often worrying about “how few blacks there were in sales and trading, in M&A … how few blacks there were at Dartmouth.”
One piece of advice he delivers is sobering: If you think the tech industry is racist, and you let that hold you back, then you don’t deserve to rise within it.
One of the entrepreneurs Moore mentored is Frederick Hutson, whose company, Pigeonly, taps an underserved and “captive” market. He offers prison inmates an easy and efficient way to receive photos from loved ones and to make phone calls to them inexpensively.
Prison is an environment that doesn’t like “anything that doesn’t come in a plain white envelope,” Hutson said in a New York Times interview.
Hutson knew his market well. In October 2007, when he was 24, he arrested and sentenced to 51 months in prison on charges of smuggling marijuana through his business using DHL, UPS and FedEx trucks.
Moore initially invested $375,000 in Pigeonly, saying Hutson’s experience as a drug trafficker “was a big part of why I wrote the check,” NYTimes reported. “I believe there is great potential for the company to become very big,” Moore said.
Moore talked about how he operates and gave some advice in a 2013 USA Today report.
When he travels for business, meeting with budding entrepreneurs or potential investors, Moore says, “I’m the one getting something out of it. I will go to the ends of the Earth to make it convenient for you.”
When you’re making a quick connection on the road, it’s easy to be forgotten, Moore said in the USA Today interview:
Stand out from the crowd. Come up with other ideas to make sure you’re memorable. It’s a good idea to send a follow-up e-mail with an interesting tidbit from your conversation noted in the subject line. Sometimes, he’ll even include his photograph.
“It goes back to making life convenient,” he said.
The Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce recently honored some of the area’s best and brightest leaders in business and technology.
Moore won the Achievement Award for the Next Generation of Excellence, Black Enterprise reported on Nov. 9, 2016.
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