Mercury sees founders at many stages, through many “firsts” — their first dollars, their first payrolls, even their first fundraising rounds.
We know that one of the hardest decisions an early-stage founder has to make is whether to pursue their startup full-time. Without the freedom, capital, and momentum to chase a great idea at full steam, founders often never get them off the ground.
In many cases, all it takes to change that is a first check.
This idea is 13 years in the making; a story that began with a different first check.
In 2009, Immad Akhund was not yet the founder of Mercury. He was on his third startup in three years called Heyzap, an adtech company for mobile gaming developers that he founded with Jude Gomila.
Immad was swimming in credit card debt; at one point surviving on a weekly allowance of $13. He was getting tired of his rice and chicken diet, but there was fire brewing in his belly.
Each of his companies had progressed a bit further than the one before it, and Heyzap appeared to show some real promise.
Y Combinator seemed to think so, too. They wrote Heyzap’s first check for $30K, narrowly buying the company another nine months of runway.
Those nine months of runway led to a seed round, a Series A round, a Series B round, and eventually, a $45M sale. Years later, as a Y Combinator partner investor, Immad found himself on the other side of the check. As seed after seed company passed through his doors, he realized something: it was pre-seed companies that needed the help. Seed companies often already had the support, recognition, and connections to ride it out until the next round. Pre-seed companies, on the other hand, rarely had the value of a mentor, nor the cash of an investment to stay afloat.
Witnessing this disparity, Immad remembered being a young founder himself. Eventually, this was the reminder that would spark the fuse for Raise First Check. After all, every founder started out as an early-stage founder, even ours.
Here’s how Raise First Check works:
- Apply here by July 1, 2022.
- Our evaluation committee will narrow down applications to ~20 finalists.
- We’ll promote finalists on our website, social channels, and to our investor network (optional).
- Voting will be opened up to the public from July 11-15.
- We’ll announce the three finalists with the most votes on our blog and offer each one a $15K investment on an uncapped MFN SAFE.
Who is Raise First Check for?
Raise First Check is intended for ambitious early-stage startups that may have raised a “friends and family” round, but have yet to receive any investments from VCs or angels.
Non-U.S. founders can apply. However, keep in mind that if chosen, you must have a Mercury account to receive the $15K investment on an uncapped MFN SAFE. This means your company will need to be incorporated in the U.S.
What are we looking for in a finalist?
- An X Factor: We’re looking for mavericks that have a compelling story, unique market insight, and the gall to execute.
- Measurable progress: How have you refined your initial problem statement? In what ways have you built your proof of concept and tested customer validation? How much initial fundraising have you done and how did you do it (e.g. friends and family round, bootstrapping)?
- A $15K game plan: Show us a clear, feasible plan for how your company would use the $15K investment from Mercury. Whether that’s paying for marketing efforts, hiring contract support, or ordering product samples, be as specific as possible.
After the success we’ve had helping seed, Series A, and DTC companies find fundraising opportunities with our Raise programs, it’s about time we extend the opportunity to early-stage startups. You’ve waited long enough.
For more information, head to the Raise First Check website.
If you have any feedback or questions, send us a note at [email protected]. We’re always happy to chat.