A December of New Faces at Moonfire

A roundup of all the latest Moonfire news in the last month of 2020.

A December of New Faces at Moonfire
Photo by Cytonn Photography / Unsplash

It just doesn’t seem possible that we have already entered the final month of this era-defining year. At Moonfire, we continue to maintain a sense of optimism about the future, starting with the news of how the team is growing.

I am hugely excited to introduce you to our new Moonfire partner, Mike Arpaia. A computer scientist with a long harboured passion for venture capital and quantitative finance, Mike joins Moonfire with experience building early-stage start-ups and contributing to industry-leading tech companies.

Mike began his career in New York working on data infrastructure and operating system security before joining Etsy as a Software Engineer. In 2014, he moved to San Francisco and joined the team at Facebook where he created and open-sourced osquery in 2014. Osquery has since become a standard in the information security industry where it is used by thousands of companies all over the world to detect and respond to security threats and other critical incidents.

Wanting to build a company of his own, Mike left Facebook in 2016 to co-found Kolide, an infrastructure analytics company. Kolide aimed to help companies leverage the power of osquery. As the co-founder and CTO, he built and led a high-performing, fully-remote engineering organization and acted as the lead architect and developer for almost all of Kolide’s backend, infrastructure, and operating system software. After three years leading at Kolide, Mike joined Workday’s Machine Learning organization and led the team to a successful launch of a distributed embedding-based search and multi-document matching engine.

At Moonfire, Mike is responsible for the definition and delivery of the firm’s technology strategy. He spends his time architecting and engineering our software, sourcing and processing massive datasets, and developing machine learning solutions to problems all throughout the investing lifecycle.

In addition to his professional and academic interests, he is also keen on the outdoors, fitness, nutrition, and exercise science. Mike likes to train for and participate in a variety of combat and mountain sports including Muay Thai, rock climbing, and skiing. He plays the electric and upright bass.

We cannot wait to have Mike join us in making the best European founders’ visions become reality.

Data-driven investing

At Moonfire we want to be a truly data-driven venture capital firm. Equipped with data, algorithms, and custom-made software, we want Moonfire to set the standard for a new paradigm in sourcing, evaluating, and managing investments. The venture-tech landscape is rich, diverse, and competitive and there are many tools out there. We are building a cohesive technology suite, aiming to enhance the raw capabilities of each tool by building and deeply integrating innovative analytics workloads and machine learning solutions at every stage.

We have made incredible progress in recent weeks and are already powering our sourcing with our software tools that are automatically identifying new opportunities together with our network driven approach. The initial results are promising and we believe that we have hit a development cycle that will transform this part of the business over the next few months.

At Moonfire, we care a lot about data-driven investing. It was interesting to read a recent Harvard Business Review report on algorithmic angel investing. The authors built an investment algorithm and compared its performance with the returns of 255 angel investors. The results showed that “only experienced investors who can suppress their cognitive biases effectively outperform machine learning algorithms in making early stage investment decisions”. In other words, it’s probably a human/machine symbiosis that works best. I think the debate about the use of AI across a range of fields is going to continue but what is unarguable is that data, used well, is revolutionising early stage investing - just as stock picking has been transformed by algorithms.

Gaming can benefit mental health

At Moonfire, gaming is one of our four main investment areas. My belief is that gaming is actually heavily influencing content, and that all media is eventually going to be some form of gaming content - movies, social media etc. Up until recently, however, people would often say “Oh I’ve never thought of it that way.”

That is why this month’s headlines about the mental health benefits of video games caught my attention. I have always believed that gaming as an activity is much more than the stereotypical image of a lonely nerd playing violent shooter games. In a University of Oxford study, researchers collected data on the gaming habits and mental health of British and North American players of Animal Crossing and Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. They measured the players’ well-being by surveying how often they reported experiencing each of six positive and six negative feelings over the course of two weeks.

The researchers found that people who played the games for longer reported feeling better, on average, than those who barely played at all; and that certain feelings, such as a sense of freedom and competence, improved the players’ sense of well-being while they played.

The study “shows that if you play four hours a day of Animal Crossing, you’re a much happier human being.”

Of course, this study undermines the myth about gaming - which explains why it gained so many headlines. There are roughly three billion people regularly playing video games on the planet today and that number is rapidly increasing, in part, thanks to the pandemic. Video games are now mainstream and, at Moonfire, we are particularly interested in seeing where they go from here.

Moonfire Zoom Series

Build your foundational principles
Our most recent Zoom Series on B2B sales, with Entrepreneur First Venture Partner Nadav Rosenberg, was enormously useful. Nadav’s three key takeaways:

  1. Always do account planning (don’t just do it intuitively)
  2. No champion, no deal
  3. ABL - always be listening

One participant asked about how, in the early days of a company, to find the balance between the mantra “fake it till you make it” and the infamous Theranos case. To which Nadav responded: always under promise and over deliver. He said, “product-wise, you should be completely comfortable committing to your dreams, even if you haven’t figured out the exact feature or technology. But timing is where founders go wrong. They say they’ll deliver something in a month that ends up taking six months. So whatever the time actually is, triple it!”

Thus, always under promise and over deliver. Those are wise words, for just about every industry!

Stay tuned for a debrief of our closing Zoom Series event with legendary author Nir Eyal, and many more exciting guests in the new year.

I hope you have enjoyed catching up on our latest news and have a wonderful holiday season!