Burry was among a small group of money managers to recognize the structural flaws in the housing bubble and exploit it by wagering on its collapse. Through his former firm Scion, founded in 2000, Burry bought securities that would increase in value as subprime mortgage loans plummetted. He made $100 million for himself and $725 million for his investors, according to Lewis. Burry closed Scion in 2008.
The movie adaptation of Lewis' 2010 book hits a limited number of theaters this week, and will be widely released Dec. 23. Burry isn't the only character from the story who's investing in PeerStreet. Porter Collins (played by Hamish Linklater), Danny Moses (Rafe Spall) and Vincent Daniel (Jeremy Strong) are also backers. They worked with hedge fund manager and star short seller Steve Eisman (named Mark Baum in the film and played by Steve Carell).
PeerStreet co-founders Brew Johnson and Brett Crosby wanted as many smart financial minds as they could get in raising their initial $6.1 million in funding. But Burry was the real prize.
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"After I read 'The Big Short,' he went to the top of my list of idols," said Johnson, who started his career as a real estate attorney before getting into tech in 2006. "He was in his closet and figured it all out in Cupertino. When we made out a list of people we'd like on our advisory board, he was the first name I put on the list."
Crosby, a former Google executive, had the connection to Burry. Both are investors in an online adventure travel start-up called Xola. Crosby and Burry were introduced by Xola CEO Scott Zimmerman, and the initial idea was that PeerStreet would try and lure Burry as an advisor.
After a scheduled half-hour conversation turned into a 90-minute meeting, Burry told Crosby and Johnson that he wanted to do more than just advise.
"He said, 'you guys have taken a lot of the learnings from the crash and applied it here in a really smart way,'" Crosby said.