What do insects and fashion have in common? Meet Aly Moore (YC’14), a Yalie who established businesses in both industries and who has managed to find synergies between the two. She co-founded Spylight, the app that enables to buy outfits you see on TV shows. She also created Bugible, the leading edible insect marketing brand. Yale Entrepreneurship Magazine sits down with Aly Moore, at the “Careers, Life, and Yale” Leadership Forum (4th-5th November 2016), in which she was an invited speaker.
Moore confessed that she does not like the label ‘serial entrepreneur:’ “It makes me sound like a serial murderer who goes after a certain profile of prey. I prefer to be called a businesswoman who chases her passions.”
Passion is also the reason why she does business in such diverse fields. “You want to find your caffeine that is not coffee. To bring you excitement and excites a different part of your brain. For some people, that could be family or sports. For me, it’s insects.” Moore had always been interested in public health, having majored in History of Science, Medicine and Public Health and enrolled (but dropped out of) Yale’s BA-BS/MPH Program. Bugible allows her to educate the Western public about the movement around edible insects. She communicated this passion to an astonished audience made up of Yale students from all schools: “You only need one gallon of water to raise a pound of insects…Insects are just a great source of healthy, sustainable protein for the future.”
Moore also derives her excitement from the “interdisciplinary applications” between Bugible and Spylight. Her experience in branding, sales and marketing in Spylight formed the building blocks for her to market eating insects as a “sexy” way of deriving proteins. “Think of insect farmers. Yes, they seem creepy, telling kids to eat bugs. But if we get celebrities and cool social influencers to endorse insects, then people are more open to the idea.” Bugible also helps her in her day-to-day business meetings at Spylight. Hollywood and the business industry as a whole tend to be very transactional. “Having them [business partners] try out insects during meetings is a very innocent, unique, non-threatening and healthy way of opening people up to you.”
When asked how she could balance two businesses at the same time, Moore acknowledged the role of making priorities. “You always need a priority. During a crisis, such as two months ago when we were short of funding, I had to put everything else on hold and focus on Spylight. Every business will have its Feast-and-Famine cycle. When you’re facing a Famine, focus hard and resist the temptation to work on anything else.” When you’re having a feast, have other passions too. It can just make you effective.” She admitted that it was difficult to balance both school work and Spylight at the same time. She had to fly to LA weekly and ended up in Yale Health as a result. She thus recommends students to work over the summer, a gap year/semester or put the business on hold until after graduation.
When asked whether “Chasing Passions” is an advice applicable to people of all financial backgrounds, Moore said, ‘All you really need to start a business is to know what your next meal is going to be and that you a place to live in. Beyond that, how rich you are doesn’t matter, because very rich people can lose all their money too in business. Of course, starting a business is tough if you have a family to feed.”
Moore was once a pre-med student at Yale and shared that the decision to switch away from premed was very difficult. Eventually, she made the decision based on “what pain you are okay with.” For her, the pain that comes with premed is structure, student loans and having to give up Spylight. The pain that comes with entrepreneurship is the nagging feeling of self-doubt of whether she made the right choice and giving up science. (At this point in the interview, she pointed to the chlorophyll skeletal structure that she has tattooed on her ankle.) “In the end, I chose entrepreneurship because the pain that comes with premed is unfixable but the pain that came with entrepreneurship is fixable. I can always do a postdoc afterwards. In hindsight, I realized I did not give up science.” She is able to speak about amino acids and the health benefits of insects in Bugible.
Moore is a role model for Yalies who strive to chase their passions and serve the community. Spylight and Bugible enable her to empower smaller businesses. She is also involved with InnovateHealth Yale and sits on the board of Little Herds, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the edible insect industry.