Blair Garrou has significant experience in operating, investing in and advising startup companies, particularly in the software industry. Prior to co-founding Mercury Fund, Blair was the CEO of Intermat, a leader in product information management software (acq. by IHS). Prior to Intermat, Blair was a Principal of Genesis Park, a Houston-based venture capital and private equity firm, where he focused on the firm’s software investments, including Intermat, FuelQuest (acq. by Saracen Energy), and SAT Corporation (acq. by Invensys). Prior to Genesis Park, Blair helped launch and was the Director of Operations for the Houston Technology Center (HTC), the largest technology incubator in the state of Texas, and he led the formation of the Houston Angel Network, one of the largest and most active angel investment organizations in the U.S. Previously, Blair was an investment banker with BMO Nesbitt Burns, and an auditor with Deloitte & Touche. He received a B.S. in Management with special attainments in Commerce from Washington & Lee University.
Blair is also a co-founder and advisor of SURGE Accelerator (Houston, TX), a mentor-driven seed accelerator focused on entrepreneurs seeking to solve the world’s energy problems using software. Blair is also a mentor with seed accelerators The Brandery (Cincinnati, OH) and TechStars (Austin, Chicago). Outside of Mercury, Blair serves in board and/or advisory roles for UTHealth, the Post Oak School, the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship, and YPO – Gulf States Chapter. Blair is an Adjunct Professor at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University where he teaches a course on venture capital. Blair also was named to the Houston Business Journal’s inaugural “40 under 40,” a recognition of outstanding business and community leaders under the age of 40.
Dan Watkins has over 20 years experience in operating and investing roles with technology and startup companies, particularly in bioscience and advanced materials. Prior to co-founding the Mercury Fund, Dan was the founder and Managing Partner of A3 Associates, a Houston-based venture firm focused on seed-stage investments in university and research center-based technology transfer opportunities. In this capacity, Dan co-founded Nanospectra Biosciences and X-EMI. He has also been awarded three National Science Foundation grants as Principal Investigator for life sciences research. Prior to A3 Associates, Dan was a Vice President at Schnitzius & Vaughan, a Houston-based investment-banking firm; and served as worldwide manager for operations and control systems for Scientific Software Intercomp.
Dan received his B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Rice University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Dan is also a co-founder of the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship (Rice Alliance), Rice University’s nationally-recognized initiative devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship education, and the launch of technology companies, including the Rice University Business Plan Competition, the world’s largest graduate-level business plan competition. Outside of Mercury, Dan serves on the advisory boards of BioHouston, the Rice Alliance, and Northwestern University’s Innovation and New Ventures Office.
Ned Hill has over 20 years of experience as an operator, consultant, and investor in technology companies, with a particular focus on communications, computing, and cloud technologies. Prior to joining Mercury, Ned was a Director with Sternhill Partners, a Texas-based early-stage venture capital firm, where he invested in and worked closely with pioneering start-ups in several important emerging markets, including WiFi (Boingo, IPO), WiMAX (Navini Networks, acq. by Cisco); blade servers (RLX Technologies, acq. by Hewlett-Packard); and virtualization (Surgient, acq. by Quest Software). Prior to Sternhill, Ned was with BellSouth Internet Services where he managed broadband operations during the initial deployment and growth of BellSouth’s broadband Internet service. Prior to BellSouth, Ned was a consultant with McKinsey & Co., focusing primarily on the communications industry; BroadBand Technologies, a start-up fiber-in-the-loop, telecom equipment manufacturer that went public in 1992, where he managed deployments throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico; Alcatel Network Systems; and Siecor Corporation, a fiber optic cable manufacturer owned by Siemens and Corning. Ned earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from N.C. State University and an MBA from The Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College where he was named an Edward Tuck Scholar.
Ned currently sits on the boards of Mercury Fund portfolio companies Ambiq Micro, DeepField Networks and Macheen, and is a board observer of Contour Energy Systems. In addition, Ned is a mentor with seed accelerators TechStars Cloud (San Antonio, TX) and TECH Wildcatters (Dallas, TX). Outside of Mercury, Ned serves on the boards of the Texas Venture Capital Association and the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University where he teaches a course on venture capital.
Aziz Gilani has spent the past 15 years focused on software and the internet. Prior to joining Mercury Fund, Aziz was a Senior Engagement Leader with Infosys Consulting, an early executive at ABB Performance Services, a Senior Consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and an Analyst at Lotus Development Corp. Aziz received his BBA from the University of Texas where he was a TILF Scholar, and his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where he was an FC Austin Scholar, Kellogg Board Fellow, and Chairman of the Kellogg Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference. In addition, Aziz is a graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program through the Center for Venture Education, where he completed industry-defining field work in Seed Accelerators. Aziz is a recognized expert in Seed Accelerators, and has been quoted in several national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, ReadWriteWeb, TechCocktail, and The Business Journals.
Outside of Mercury, Aziz serves in advisory roles for TechStars, the Kellogg School of Management’s Seed Accelerator Rankings, the Knight Foundation, and TIE Houston. He is also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business where he teaches a course on venture capital.
Danny Janiak leads Mercury’s biotech office in La Jolla, CA. Danny focuses on developing and originating science-based investment themes and startup opportunities. Prior to joining Mercury, Danny was an Associate in the Physical and Biological Technologies practice at In-Q-Tel, the strategic venture investment arm of the U.S. Intelligence Community. While at In-Q-Tel, Danny was responsible for the management and oversight of technology development programs in numerous In-Q-Tel portfolio companies. In addition, he was responsible for leading technical due diligence on all potential investment candidates in the advanced materials space. Danny received his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland where he was a Future Faculty Fellow and held the Robert E. Fischell Fellowship in Biomedical Engineering. In addition, Danny is a graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program through the Center for Venture Education
Outside of Mercury, Danny serves as an advisor for PIPELINE – Kansas City; the University of Missouri’s Enterprise Investment Program; the University of Texas Horizon Fund; and the William J. von Liebig Center at the University of California – San Diego.
Adrian Fortino leads Mercury’s Midwest office in Ann Arbor, MI. Adrian focuses on developing and originating software and science-based investment themes and startup opportunities. Prior to joining Mercury, Adrian was the Managing Director of Detroit Innovate, a seed stage investment fund targeting seed investments in enabling technologies in healthcare, transportation and industrial applications. During this time, Adrian was also the Managing Director of the First Step Fund, a micro-investment, industry agnostic fund focused on seed-stage companies in Southeast Michigan. Prior to Detroit Innovate and the First Step Fund, Adrian co-founded three software companies: ShepherdIS, Sidecar and FlockTAG. ShepherdIS is a fleet management software platform for the livery industry. Sidecar is an instant rideshare marketplace connecting drivers and riders in metropolitan areas. FlockTAG provides consumer behavior prediction tools to independent small businesses through a novel analytics platform. Prior to founding startup companies, Adrian was the Manager of Powertrain Development with Ricardo, a global engineering consultancy focusing on the automotive, cleantech, military and industrial sectors.
Adrian received his BSE in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA with High Distinction from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Outside of Mercury, Adrian serves on the advisory boards of Detroit Innovate and the First Step Fund, is the industry lead for the University of Michigan Law School Venture Capital Fellows Program, and leads the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan-sponsored Entrepreneur Gives program, which influences high potential entrepreneurs across the region to give grants to unique socially minded projects.