It’s an insane thing, writing a memoriam to a friend and mentor on an investing website. Especially when that friend has been one of the driving forces for that website. It doesn’t ease the shock of the situation, or the pain. And I hate the phrase ‘they would have liked to see’ about those who have passed. But, I think of all people, Eli would appreciate a Seeking Alpha post in his honor.
I met Eli Hoffmann over the phone in 2012. He was the second interviewer for my application to be an editor at Seeking Alpha. I remember him asking me about my investing track record – it was short, but I had gotten lucky over the ~15 months or so I was in the market, like so many did in that bull run, so I guess that passed snuff with him. I also remember saying something about how as an editor, I could really help the writers convey their points. He was less impressed by that answer; he emphasized that we let the authors say what they wanted to say about their investments. After all, they know the stocks better than we do.
From that interview on, I came to understand that Eli was Seeking Alpha’s true believer. He loved following the markets, he believed in the crowdsourced model that Seeking Alpha is founded on, and he loved and cared about the community here. He was Editor-in-Chief when I joined, would become the CEO, and then step back into the COO role, and his fingerprints were all over the site. He and David Jackson, founder of Seeking Alpha, worked closely together and were responsible for much of what you see on the site. I wasn’t in the Israel office often, but both from my online call schedules and my visits there I could see and hear about the legendary talks they would have, stretching hours, as they debated over the present and future of the site.
I will always remember the week he became CEO in 2015. By coincidence, I and the PRO Editorial team were in New York for an in-office meeting, as was Eli. We went out for dinner at Abigail’s on Broadway. Eli often came to dinner with something on his mind for discussion. As we were waiting for our entrees, Eli asked the table what we’d do to change Seeking Alpha. It seemed like an innocent enough question – he was the #2 at the company, he’s always been open to ideas and suggestions. He was an ideas person, a thinker. I spoke with Eli regularly, so I kept mostly quiet while the team shared their ideas. It was a pleasant meal and a passionate conversation, like so many of them have been. But nothing out of the ordinary. We went back to the Holiday Inn where we were all staying, thinking nothing more of it.
In the elevator up, Eli said “check your email when you get to your room, I have something I want to run by you.” Again, no alarm bells. But when I pulled up my Gmail, there was an email letting me know that Eli was going to be CEO as of the next morning. Just like that, keeping it under his hat until the end of the night.
Which contrasted with the celebration in the New York office when the announcement came. The whole office was happy for Eli and excited for what he might do to build on David’s success. That night, I got to have dinner alone with Eli in a rooftop restaurant on the East side. There was no doubt he was excited, but he wasn’t any different. Still curious, still driven by ideas, still a believer. Maybe still marveling at the opportunity he had to pursue that belief. Maybe a little nicer of a restaurant than Abigail’s. But the same Eli.
Eli did not get stuck in his ideas, and did not have an ego. He just cared about finding and implementing the best idea available. He was open-minded and generous in the workplace. I disagreed with him or complained to him frequently over the years as a direct report, and I regret that I’ve always had a bit of a temper, but he never held a grudge or held my bad moments against me. To the contrary, he was a big booster for my career, and a guide for me on work issues big and small. Eli’s faith and support played a big part in what success I’ve had in my career to date, and I’m sure it will carry long into my future.
These characteristics extended to his personal life; he was curious, empathetic, well read – I remember him talking about how much he liked Dostoevsky, and how he learned basic programming on an ancient language in the 80s. My wife Amy loved meeting him in the Israel office on two occasions. I loved the dinner I had in his home with his wife Ilana and his family and George Moriarty, our friend and former colleague.
I don’t know what this all adds up to, in the end. But maybe it’s simple: Eli was a good man, a smart and kind man. He was too young to go, and the news of his death is stunning. Despite his distinguished beard, Eli had a young man’s twinkle in his eye. It’s a twinkle that shouldn’t have gone out for many years yet.
Eli, you will be missed, and you, Ilana, and your family, as well as the Seeking Alpha family, are in my and Amy’s thoughts.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.