For this Tech CFO, Bugs Are A Good Thing

Streaming your favorite show? Love the dress? At the ripe young age of 22, Aly Moore is the co-founder and chief operating officer of the startup company Spylight, a web- and mobile-based app that makes it easy to shop those very fashions as seen on TV.  Aly is a fast-moving risk-taker with a creative edge. Oh, and for a tech entrepreneur, she has an unusual appetite for…bugs.

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LUCIE BEATRIX: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Aly Moore:  Much like other little kids, I was convinced I was going to be an astronaut. Much like other young nerds, I wanted to explore the “Final Frontier.” This all changed in middle school when the fears emerged about getting a “real job.” I decided I would be a Pharmacist, and moved forward in the medical direction after that!

Why did you decide to study public health?

I had brainwashed myself into blurring the lines between when I thought I should want and what I actually want – does that make sense? I entered college double majoring in economics and MCDB (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology) and spent my first two years fulfilling the pre-med requirements. I started to have doubts about whether this was what I really wanted – I was more interested in policy (food policy specifically) and was encouraged to test this out by working at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Research at Yale University. I fell in love. I owe a lot of thanks to my mentor Elizabeth Bradley (the Master of my college) who encouraged me to pursue my passions in public health.

At what point did you shift from public health to starting a business?

Freshman year I met a man who changed my life – Casper. We both joined the same club and became fast friends. Fast-forward to Junior year, when he was working alone on a project. I just started helping out as a friend, and we found out that we worked well together (and later became cofounders!) As for the business part – a lot of the skills from health policy are the same in building a business: problem solving, innovating, adding solutions to world issues… I’m learning a lot of skills that I know I can use in both areas! Even though it seems to deviate from public health, it’s still applicable. As the saying goes, “Life is a jungle gym, not a ladder. Do what you want, not what you think is the next step up.”

What is the most exciting part about being involved with a startup?

Everything is exciting about being involved with a startup. How many 22 year olds can say they’ve had the opportunity to learn about corporate taxes, dissolving and forming LLCs or C-corps, being on the other end of the hiring process, and handling huge sums of money? I’ve met incredibly interesting people and have been inspired in both my personal and professional life. I love working in an environment where every action I take has a huge impact – nothing is anonymous.

How did you meet your Spylight crew?

Casper and I both met in a club of sorts at Yale. It’s kinda nerdy. We met our other genius co-founders April and Jacob at a tech bootcamp! At this point, we’re all best friends.

What are your responsibilities as co-founder/ what role do you play at the Spylight office? 

As a co-founder, I’m in charge of creating and managing this brilliant “controlled chaos.” As COO, I’ve had to wear a million different hats. I’ve been the accountant, handled taxes and legalities, ran payroll and HR, executed on hiring, led marketing, explored business dev, worked on social media… the list goes on. The CEO is Mr. External… I’m Ms. Internal! I love how dynamic my role is, and appreciate how it continues to evolve. These days, I handle organizing systems for Spylight and heading content.

While it can be exciting, any job in a creative industry can have potentially stressful or unpredictable moments. What tools do you use to keep cool even in these times? 

Accomplishing small goals are essential in making larger ones seem more possible. Or just in making you feel better … you have to get your mojo back! I set a lot of small goals to make me happy – this week was learning to do a headstand. I firmly believe that running is my key to sanity. Along with keeping my Aly-passions (separate from my Spylight love) alive. (That’s why I’m so excited to keep on with the bug-cooking!)

Are there any apps you can’t live without?

Well, I guess it would be too nerdy if I said my Gmail app (because DUH) or Spylight. I really love my Kindle App – I might not always have a book on me, but I certainly have my phone! When I have down time, I can catch up on whatever book I’m reading wherever I am. I’m also a fan of Venmo…

You are the first person ever who brought to my attention the taboo and radical concept of eating insects! Can you tell me about the pros of incorporating a bug or two into our diets?

Ohhhh I could go on for hours. The nutritional value of insects compared to beef and fish is compelling: while lean ground beef may have protein levels on par with caterpillars, for example, it comes up short in iron and vitamin levels. Aside from copious nutritional benefits, insects are abundant and super environmentally sustainable. Farming insects takes very little water and transport compared to livestock and grains. A lot of waste goes into cattle: 100 pounds of feed produces 10 pounds of beef. The same amount of feed produces more than 4 times that amount in crickets!

The bottom line is that we should be eating bugs, we are in the minority of cultures that do not consume bugs, and the only thing standing in the way is a cultural barrier. (Sources: National Geographic, WHO, NPR)

I never thought I’d ask but… Do you have a favorite insect recipe you can share?

Of course! And I’ll make it for you! I love the classics – a good ol’ cricket taco. Here are the basics: buy your crickets from a reputable source. Try to get 5 week old crickets – and buy them live! The most humane way to go about killing the crickets is to put them in the freezer before cooking to slow their metabolism down.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and spread a bunch of crickets onto the sheet. I like to season with a bit of EVOO, paprika, garlic, and salt. Bake for an hour or more, until the desired crunchy level is reached. Prepare your tacos as normal (tortillas and toppings) and then add your exotic cricket “meat”!

You’ve already accomplished so much at 22 years old- where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Every time I peer into my crystal ball the answer changes a little. To be honest, I’m super happy right now and I hope I can continue to do work that motivates me. I would love to still be working building a company – whether that’s Spylight or something more related to bugs and public health…we’ll see where life takes me! I do hope that I’ve seen more of the world and traveled a bit. One thing is for sure: I don’t want to slow down. Oh – and I really want to compete in the World Series of Poker.

Who do you look up to? 

Standard: my family. They are so pure in their love for life and are so generous… I hope I can make them proud of my choices in the future! Professionally, I admire the women who have been real – managing themselves so well both professionally and personally. Sheryl Sandberg is my COO role model. She has balance down to a science. Cindy Holland of Netflix is also a genius and a force to reckon with. Finally, my closest mentor has always been the Master of my college – Elizabeth Bradley. She is changing the world through her public health initiatives and still finds time to mentor her students to do the same. I have too many people to thank in my life that I turn to for inspiration, and I’m so grateful for that!

What’s the best advice you’ve received? 

A mentor always tells me, “If you do what everyone else does, you will get what everyone else gets. Don’t fear the unpredictable.”

Any book recommendations? 

Too many! I’ll always love Life of Pi, Arrowsmith, and Catch 22. Recently, I’ve been digging start-up books like Motivation Hacker.

Lastly, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far about starting a company? 

My favorite lesson is that nobody actually knows what they are doing. There is no magic formula for success. Do things, and if the things lead to good outcomes, keep doing those things. If they don’t…break things quickly and move on!

Tweet to Aly @wowalymoore

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