Immad Akhund (@immad) CEO & Founder of Mercury was interviewed by @sam_kirschner from @beondeck. he talked about founding a $1.6b company, advice to founders, and angel investing 📝 sharing my notes:
Immad is the CEO and Founder of Mercury, a company that is built for startups by making bank accounts that help tech companies scale.
Previously, he was a part-time partner at Y-Combinator and was CEO/co-founder of Heyzap which was acquired by Fyber. Some of his investments include @Airtable, @nurxapp, Rappi, and Atrium.
Mercury is his fourth startup - because he failed a lot (in his own words)
The first company was when he was fresh out of college. It was like Yelp in London circa 2006. They got a few thousand users; his co founder got married and left.
He moved to SF and started a second company. They did a talent acquisition. Got a bunch of users.
Third startup was a flash gaming company in 2009. It was mobile. They got into ad tech. 4 pivots between 2008 and 2016. Got something profitable in 2014 and sold in '16.
Then he got the idea for Mercury in 2013. Figured out how to do it and kicked it off.
On how he got the idea - people tend to overcomplicate it and overthink regulation. If customers want it then it will happen.
He knew that banks were bad and people would use something better. There was a gut understanding that this was needed. Then post justification about market size to justify doing it.
He knew that a bank was a large complex problem that could be built over 10 years. That excited him.
What did you learn from your failures? Getting a good co founder and having a relationship is key. At Mercury he'd worked with his co workers for 5 years. You need to reflect on your self and how you work.
Most startups fail because of co founder issues. Getting it right is important.
Getting culture is also really important. He used to think it was very wishy washy. But over time he realized it's about personalities. What are the personalities and motivations of the people you hire?
For example, Uber was always competitive and aggressive. Mercury is humble and helpful. Culture has to work with the product.
The idea that 'ideas are cheap and execution is everything' is not complete. Spend a bit more time to make sure the idea is good and has a big market. There are many common bad ideas - especially from college students.
On co founders - how did you vet your co founder? Anything you wished you had done?
There are people who are in it for themselves. And there are others that want to help others. Understand their motivations. There's no right answer but you should reflect on it. e.g. How do they react to people in need?
People tend to over index on past experience and skills. You should be able to execute. But a lot can be learned.
How do you prioritize?
Post-customers - it's much easier. Talk to them about new feature launches. Generally they will tell you what they want.
Pre-customers - it's a lot harder. Helps a lot if you are the potential customer for that product. You need to understand the game - highly differentiated product, 10x cheaper than others, best service model, innovation, etc. Based on that, prioritize accordingly.
Do you have any insights into the startup ecosystem given your access to financial data?
Fundraising climate is totally different. A lot of things require fundraising. Last year it was all about revenue multiples. That is now shifting to unit economics and growth.
This summer - since June - has been the worst fundraising environment since 2009. Everyone hopes it will pick up in September. Too early to tell if it will pick up.
Only fundraising bright spot was crypto, where investors are more prepared for a down turn.
Expect it to take 3 months and don't be too bullish on high valuations. There will be exceptions but they are not the norm. Prepare for the worst. Don't rely on 2021 anecdotes or data.
About Mercury Raise - a startup funding program for Seed rounds. They connect companies to connect with vetted investors - 500 people.
1,500 applications and only 50 selected. It's highly selective. They also have an investor database on the Mercury website.
What do you look for in your investments?
He is into Space Tech, Health Tech and Fin Tech. Primarily US but he will do some international.
What does the future of Mercury look like 5 years out?
More financial tools. For example they launched Venture Debt in March. They'll do more lending products next year. They have a new partner bank that gives customers efficiency gains.
Also going after broader markets beyond tech and crypto startups. Over 5-10 years they will target more categories.
They want to provide more value to customers by using their data.
How can founders best work with Mercury?
If you need a bank account, go to mercury. You shouldn't need to speak to anyone to do it. You can use the Raise program. If you're selling something they might be a customer.
They also have a perks program - where they feature customers that are relevant for other customers.
How did you navigate multiple pivots at your previous startup?
It was a struggle. People pivot because they have a runway. Otherwise you shut down. Hard to raise mid-pivot. At his previous company they were better at raising money than building so they could do it.
They were realistic with themselves when it wasn't working. They had 6 months or so to experiment in market. Then they pivoted within the same space. They should've done something totally different. They were mini pivots not full pivots.
Any ideas you want to see built?
He wants an API-first version of Salesforce It's much cheaper to get something into space that it used to be - that will drive a lot of new opportunities
Many providers in healthcare make a fee per customer. Preventative care can help them make more money. There is a lot of opportunity there.
How is Mercury handling the current financial situation?
There are pros and cons. Pros - fintech was very noisy last year. Some pullback from competitors. They can use that to get bigger.
Banks in general make more money when interest rates are higher.
Cons - startups are their main customers, who are hurting. They are being more conservative on headcount.
How do get community based growth?
Your customers must talk to each other. Then you have to encourage that. You need to create moments of magic - the easiest is onboarding.
Final question - anything that we didn't ask you that you want to share for founders?
It's important for you to look after your health and mental health. It's easy to be stuck in a house working 7 days a week. Take a break. Talk to friends. Life is long and try to enjoy the journey.