Moshe Neuman is an anomaly in the world of venture capitalism. It’s rare to see such a chasidishe-looking person involved in venture capitalism as a full-time career. And it didn’t come easily. Moshe’s journey has been anything but smooth.
After trying his hand at real estate for over a decade, Moshe had various stops along his career path, until he decided to put all his eggs in the basket of technology startups. A networker by nature, Moshe slowly but surely integrated himself into the world of tech startup funding. At first, he found investors and matched them with startups seeking funding. Eventually, he began investing his own money, as well.
Today, Moshe’s company, Valued Ventures, invests in an average of one startup every month, both with personal money and funds from other VCs. He is currently involved in over 50 startups.
Moshe’s story is a prime example of how struggles are often the very thing that propel a person to success. Enjoy!
“I grew up in Williamsburg, and I went to Spinka cheder. My family was very close to Rav Hershele of Spinka, and I had the zechus of having a relationship with him, as well. My parents moved to Monroe when I was 14. After one year in Monroe, I went to learn in Tosh, Montreal, until I got married.
“As a bachur, I wasn’t entrepreneurial at all. I wasn’t thinking about business, only learning. Honestly, if I didn’t have to worry about making a living, I would still be learning.
“I used to write a lot. I would write my own chiddushei Torah as well as letters of chizzuk to other bachurim. It might sound strange, but many bachurim told me that my letters gave them chizzuk through tough times.
“After I got married, I learned in kollel in Tosh in Williamsburg for several years. The Tosher Dayan, Rav Binyamin Landau, was the rosh kollel. I hadn’t planned to stay there long-term, though. I knew I would need to work to support my family. I went to Rav Hershele Spinka to talk about leaving the kollel, and he gave me chizzuk to stay in learning longer. ‘Why do you want to jump into things already?’ he asked me. ‘Life is going to bring you enough things.’ He pushed back at me and I stayed longer in kollel. His words left an impact on me. Baruch Hashem, to this day, not a day goes by without learning. I can’t imagine doing otherwise.
“At that time, my father was in the shmatte business. He produced quilts, blankets, jackets, all things fabric-related. One thing he did was produce jacket linings for many manufacturers, including high-end designers. In general, though, my father worked with cheaper fabrics.
“I opened a company working with more expensive fabrics. We were able to get bulk fabrics for really cheap, and I opened a small retail store in Williamsburg called Today’s Fabric. I liked the fact that there was constant cash flow, but I didn’t like being tied down to the store. Also, toward the end of the ’90s, I no longer saw a future in that business because China’s finished garments were becoming very cheap and local manufacturers didn’t need any fabric parts to complete their clothing lines. I closed the store.
“I try to learn lessons from every experience. With the fabric store, I learned the hard lesson of allowing people to buy on credit, especially when it came time to pay my bills. I had to realize that I was not in the banking industry. I always tell my kids that it’s better to earn less but get paid right away than to wait a long time for a potentially larger amount.
“I consider myself a bit of a visionary. I’m able to spot opportunities early on; some work and some don’t. I saw there was a store available on the corner of Bedford and Lynch in Williamsburg. I opened Neuman’s Bakery in the year 2000. At that time, it wasn’t a good area, but now it’s a central location in Williamsburg. Both my father and my brother worked at the bakery for a couple of years.
“Sadly, my mother passed away when she was very young, only 49 years old. She was a very special person and I was very close to her. Her passing really affected me. Every time we spoke, she used to say in her warm and caring voice, ‘Moishele, are you giving maaser? Make sure you always give maaser.’ I took her words to heart and I always give maaser. I can still hear her voice saying that to me.
“I saw that the bakery really gave my father chiyus and that he enjoyed being there, plus I didn’t see myself being there for the rest of my life. I left and he took over. He kept it going for many years. He was the type of person who gave chizzuk to everyone. I knew people who would come to the store every day simply to see his smile. That meant more to them than the Danish or the loaf of bread they bought.
“Like many young men looking to make a living, I went into real estate. I actually considered a career in nutrition and even got a certificate, but I discussed it with someone whom I trust, and he advised me that ‘there are many good people who can make others healthy, but not many good people who can make others wealthy.’ That was when I decided to try real estate and not nutrition.
“I called every broker I could get contact information for. I was straight up with them and explained that I was looking at new deals to learn the industry and possibly facilitate a deal. Many of these people were very kind and explained to me the ins and outs of the business. I looked at different properties almost daily. We went through hard times as I tried to grow my career. Success didn’t come overnight.
“My first deal was back in 2000. There was a property at 148 Hancock Park in Bushwick. I went to the property office and told the secretary, ‘I want to meet the owners.’ The secretary said, ‘Are you crazy? We already have four contracts out!’ I asked to meet with the owners anyway. They saw me standing there and told me I could come into their office. The owner barely looked at me. He simply showed me a suitcase full of cash and said, ‘If you can bring me this, we have a deal.’ I took it to mean that I had to find a serious buyer. I took the deal to an acquaintance, and he bought the building a week later. My commission was $25,000.