Heath Butler is a Managing Director at Mercury Fund, where he focuses on investments in B2B Software, B2B2C Marketplaces and Tech-Enabled Services. He also manages the Mercury Network platform and drives impact-based community engagement efforts.
Heath has over 20 years’ experience in the Houston startup ecosystem, having founded, invested in, and advised numerous startups, investment organizations, and funds. Heath co-founded Gestalt Theory Venture Partners, a seed-based venture studio. He was also a corporate development executive and fin-tech Div. President at Insperity (NYSE: NSP), the leading human capital management platform for small to mid-sized businesses. In 2019, Heath co-founded the Urban Capital Network , an angel investment platform focused on democratizing capital and wealth generation for underrepresented investors. Heath received an MBA in Marketing from Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business and a B.S. in Finance from the University of New Orleans.
Outside of Mercury, Heath is an active angel investor and leverages his serial-entrepreneur and executive experiences to fulfill his passion to educate, empower and enable entrepreneurs.
Adrian Fortino is a Managing Director at Mercury, where he leads Mercury’s Midwest office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and focuses on investments in enterprise SaaS, industrial IoT and tech-enabled service companies.
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: Sidecar (acq. by GM), ShepherdIS, and FlockTAG. 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 teaches venture capital classes at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He also serves on the board of Michigan Venture Capital Association and the advisory boards of First Capital Fund and the Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund.
Blair Garrou has spent the majority of his professional career advising, operating, and investing in software companies, with a focus on enabling technologies for retailers and brands. He is co-founder and Managing Director of Mercury Fund, one of the largest early-stage venture capital firms headquartered in Texas. Blair is also an Adjunct Professor at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University where he teaches a course on venture capital.
Prior to co-founding Mercury, Blair was CEO of Intermat, a leader in product information management software (acquired by IHS). During this time, he was also named to the Houston Business Journal’s inaugural “40 under 40.” Prior to Intermat, Blair was a Principal of Genesis Park, a Houston-based venture capital and private equity firm, where he focused on software investments. 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 led the formation of the Houston Angel Network (HAN), one of the largest and most active angel investment organizations in the U.S. Previously, Blair was an investment banker with Nesbitt Burns (BMO Capital Markets), a credit analyst with Compass Bank (BBVA Compass), and an auditor with Deloitte & Touche (Deloitte). He received a B.S. in Management with special attainments in Commerce from Washington & Lee University.
Through his work in the Houston entrepreneurial community, Blair is also a co-founder of the coworking accelerator Station Houston (now a part of Capital Factory), and SURGE Accelerator, a mentor-driven seed accelerator focused on entrepreneurs seeking to solve the world’s energy problems using software. Outside of Mercury, Blair serves in board and/or advisory roles for The Artemis Fund, Houston Exponential, HTX Impact Fund, Post Oak School, UTHealth, and Washington & Lee’s Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship.
Aziz Gilani is a Managing Director at Mercury, where he focuses on investments in enterprise SaaS, Cloud and data science startups.
Prior to joining Mercury, 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.
In addition, Aziz is a graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program through the Center for Venture Education, where he completed industry-defining field work on 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 the Mayor of Houston’s Tech and Innovation Council, Seed Accelerator Rankings, and SXSW Interactive. He is also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business where he teaches a course on venture capital.
Nafisa Istami is an Analyst at Mercury, where she focuses on investment diligence and financial reporting. Prior to joining Mercury, Nafisa worked at the Houston Angel Network (HAN) as an associate. At HAN, she supported the Managing Director in sourcing, screening, and conducting diligence on startups for angel investment consideration. Nafisa received her B.A. in Sociology and Business from Rice University.
Tom Jackson is a Senior Analyst at Mercury, where he focuses on sourcing companies and investment diligence. Prior to joining Mercury, Tom worked in operational roles at venture-backed startups including Instawork, was an operations consultant for a CPG brand, and co-founded Locus Insights in 2017 where he served as CEO after starting his career as a management consultant at Accenture. He received his BBA in Supply Chain Management from the University of Texas at Austin. Outside of Mercury, Tom is a Techstars Austin and Capital Factory accelerator alumni and mentors several startups across the US.
Samantha Lewis is a Principal at Mercury, where she focuses on investments across the firms’ themes, with a specific interest in democratization of wealth and knowledge through fintech and transparency, impact and sustainability.
Prior to joining Mercury, Samantha was the Investment Director at Goose Capital, a Houston based investment group comprised of serial entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 CEOs, where she led deal sourcing, structuring and portfolio management. During her time at Goose, she led investments in Topl Inc., Syzygy Plasmonics, Rufus Labs, and Emerge. Samantha is a repeat entrepreneur with a background spanning agrifood, logistics, beauty and deep tech.
Samantha received her MBA from Rice University and a B.A. from Texas A&M University. Samantha remains deeply committed and involved in the efforts by Rice, Houston and Texas to build a diverse, robust innovation ecosystem. Outside of Mercury, Samantha actively mentors underrepresented founders, writes data-driven investing articles on Medium, and serves on the executive committee for Houston Women in VC.
Dan Watkins is a co-founder and Managing Director at Mercury, where he focuses on startups utilizing software, cloud computing and/or machine learning to drive the next wave of scientific innovation in healthcare, agriculture and other industrial markets.
Dan also co-founded and is co-CEO of Mercury Data Science, an AI insights and product development company providing contract services to fast growing companies.
Prior to co-founding Mercury, Dan served in a number of operational roles including CEO of DNAtrix and Nanospectra Biosciences, both startup oncology companies. Previously, Dan was Vice President at a boutique investment banking firm and Worldwide Manager of Operations and Control Systems for Scientific Software-Intercomp. Dan received his B.S. from Rice University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, all in Materials Science.
Dan is also a co-founder of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University. Outside of Mercury, Dan serves on the advisory boards of Northwestern University’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO), the Rice Alliance, and the University of Illinois Proof of Concept Fund Committee.