The last time I caught up with Wesley Zhao and Ajay Mehta, the 19-year-old entrepreneurs were working from the home of Mehta’s parents in Bellevue on an online gift card startup called AvantCard. Well, fast forward seven months and things have changed quite a bit for the good friends who’ve known each other since elementary school.
Both are now taking leaves of absences from their respective colleges as they build out FamilyLeaf, a new service that’s designed to help family members privately share contact information, photos, and updates. It’s a bit like Facebook, just for the secure communication of family members. (That’s also an idea being pursued by Intelius, which last year purchased the Facebook app Family Builder and quickly rebranded it as Live Family).
Today, Mehta and Zhao are formally announcing that some of the top angel investors in Silicon Valley — including Yuri Milner’s The Start Fund, Andreessen Horowitz and Ron Conway’s SV Angel — are supporting the new venture as part of an arrangement with Y Combinator. (Mehta and Zhao have been participating in the tech incubator for the past few months, with Demo Day set for tomorrow).
“The plan for the money is to speed growth – we’re singularly focused on growth, like all the best social, viral businesses were in their early days,” Mehta tells GeekWire. As part of the arrangement with Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and the Start Fund each have agreed to provide $50,000 in seed capital.
The entrepreneurs also have fled the home of Mehta’s parents home, returning to Silicon Valley where they are living near Stanford’s campus. Zhao said that they returned to the Valley in January to participate in Y Combinator, the well known technology incubator.
“To get the most out of the program we wanted to be close to the partners and the network of YC,” said Zhao, who had previously lived in Silicon Valley but had returned to the Seattle area last year. They’ve also moved away from the AvantCard concept, instead focusing entirely on FamilyLeaf.
Last summer, Zhao withdrew from his second year at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania in order to pursue his startup dreams, telling GeekWire at the time of the decision that it was worth the risk.
“Doing something entrepreneurial at this age can be advantageous since you have less of a downside,” he said. “No matter what happens, the worst case scenario is that I go back to school with a lot of experience and a lot of lessons learned.”
With the latest funding in place and the support of the Y Combinator mafia, we’ll have to wait and see if the two ever make it back to college.
But one thing is for sure. Zhao tells us that they sticking around in the Bay Area to build out the new idea.