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Moore Sets Sail on Latest Effort to Connect With VCs

Terry Moore

The spatters of seawater on Terry Moore’s T-shirt from an afternoon of sailing off Point Loma had barely dried when he took a seat on the deck of the San Diego Yacht Club following last summer’s fourth annual VC Regatta.

Then he started mentally filling the boats he planned to recruit for the next year’s race, pairing venture capitalists with local startups hungry for funding.

On June 23, the fifth annual event, which Moore expects to be attended by roughly 120 entrepreneurs and investors, will kick off. It’s shaping up to be the largest yet, with a 16 sailboats expected to participate and investors from states from New York to Texas scheduled to attend. (While some participants take the racing aspect seriously, it’s not a requirement; other boats do more sightseeing than speeding about the bay.)

The aim of the event, says Moore – a longtime San Diegan who started his own fund, Moore Venture Partners, in 2011 – is to get local companies exposure in a region with relatively few venture capitalists.

“I have a passion for sailing and entrepreneurship, and one night the light bulb turned on and I thought: what if I could get a bunch of boats, a bunch of investors and VCs to come to San Diego and go sailing?” Moore said. “With the VC Roundtable, which I started in 2002, I would take the local VCs out sailing every summer. What if we could expand this and get other VCs to come here?”

Small Beginnings

Moore started out in 2013 with seven boats.

Ben Lambert, a senior associate with Salt Lake City-based Pelion Venture Partners, first attended the event in 2014.

He says he and Pelion partner Ben Dahl make an effort to travel to find out about companies that might fit their firm, which makes Series A investments in enterprise software startups, as well as those that focus on cybersecurity, big data and analytics.

“One of the wonderful things about San Diego is a lot of people want to live there and there’s a great network of talent,” he said. “Typically, people go to San Diego not on their first venture, but after they’ve had one or two. We see a lot of senior executive-level types who are working there or starting a company.”

Through the regatta in San Diego, Lambert said Pelion has met “three or four” companies in which the firm has considered investing, and that the firm’s leadership remains interested in investing in a couple of them.

Moore, a lifelong sailor, likes sharing the sport he loves as well as linking those in need of funding with those looking for the next hot startup.

He doesn’t formally track what deals are made as a result of relationships formed at the sailing event, but he says VCs tell him that they have met companies they plan to keep in touch with for investment consideration down the line.

He occasionally hears through word-of-mouth when the networking at the event leads to funding offers.

One of the companies that attended the first event, San Diego-based enterprise software startup CloudBeds, got a Series B term sheet from a VC they sailed with though they didn’t end up accepting the investment offer, Moore said.

Social Setting

Killu T. Sanborn, senior director with Oxford Finance’s life sciences team, plans to attend the regatta this year for the first time.

She said she is looking forward to being part of a group of six women VCs in the life sciences expected to attend.

Oxford, which is based in Virginia, is a venture debt provider for life science and health care companies. The firm’s $1.5 billion portfolio includes about 130 companies, about half of which are venture backed.

“Having been a player for a long time in the industry we know a lot of VCs, but it’s a completely different conversation when you are doing something in a social setting than in a business meeting,” said Sanborn, who is based in San Diego. “I think the more you see people in sort of a natural element the stronger the connections are, and you get to a deeper level of understanding.”

She says it is impossible to forecast the value of attending such events, but that doing so is important in the San Diego region, where many connections take place solely in work settings.

“I can’t predict what happens, but usually showing up is more than half of what creates whatever value happens next,” she said.

“Especially in business development and looking for information, deals and news, places like that are highly enriched for that kind of outcome.”

In response to interest from attendees, Moore said the boat race will include themed vessels, including at least two for those focused on life sciences. He’s also gotten requests to organize groups for those interested in enterprise software and internet startups and medical devices.

That matchmaking process is a time-consuming one, Moore said.

“I’m just one of those people put on the planet to connect people,” he said.

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