Internet whizz turns angel investor

Hoye cut his teeth at Walt Disney and McKinsey in the States, before moving to Europe in 1999: “My best friend David Nahama was working for APAX at the time. He told me he’d pay for my plane ticket if I agreed to set up a business with him.”

The pair came up with the idea for GoIndustry on a napkin in a Madrid tapas bar that year. “GoIndustry is the eBay for industrial assets,” explains Hoye. “The IT boom had been good to us – but so had the bust. A lot of companies were looking to sell off their machinery and old equipment. The internet was the perfect medium to do that.”

With £24m in backing from Atlas Ventures and Internet Capital, Hoye, Nahama and co-founder Andrew Heath expanded GoIndustry into 20 countries and built a virtual empire worth £52m.

“Eight out of our ten rivals blew up and we bought the other two,” says Howe. “How did we survive where others sank? With head offices in London and Munich, we had an international outlook from day one. Europe is fraught with regulatory issues but that gave us an edge over our US competitors – they had a much harder time reaching beyond their borders. That global approach just isn’t in the American DNA.”

Hoye took the public company in January 2006. “I stayed on for another six months, then took a break – but there’s only so much time you can spend surfing and skiing.”

He “accidentally” set up a Switzerland-based free-style skiing firm called Faction Skis [now turning over £1m], then set his sights on angel investment.

“I had enough of a kitty to be able to support and encourage other start-ups,” he says.

So, how much is “enough”? “Once you’ve comfortably covered your property, your pension and your family, I’d say you need at least £300,000 in disposable cash to become an angel investor.”

Hoye is now the chairman of Seedcamp – a fund designed to help early-stage firms get off the ground – as well as a trustee of the Venture Partnership Foundation.

Through Seedcamp, he met self-employed stonemason Ryan Notz, the founder of www.mybuilder.com, an online marketplace for tradesmen and consumers. “I was impressed with his business plan. He’d spotted a gap in the market and had already attracted thousands of users, despite being based in his garage.”

Hoye teamed up with a bunch of other hot-shot investors (including Robin and Saul Klein of Accelerator Group, Bebo’s Paul Birch and James Murray-Wells of Glasses Direct) and injected £500,000 into the young business.

This year’s Seedcamp is taking place on 15-18 September at UCL. Applications will go up in early June. Check out: www.seedcamp.com

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