Local tech startup receives $500K investment

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Payload CMS won $20,000 from Start Garden after being chosen as a winner of the incubator’s first “The 100” competition. The check was the first source of outside funding the company received. Courtesy Payload CMS

A Grand Rapids-based tech startup secured an investment from a startup accelerator.

Payload CMS recently received $500,000 from Y Combinator, an accelerator whose funds and programming have launched companies such as Airbnb, DoorDash, Reddit, Dropbox and Instacart.

Dan Ribbens, Elliot DeNolf and James Mikrut started Payload CMS in 2018 to help developers build complex websites and apps efficiently. The software’s omnichannel content management system keeps front-facing pages intact while developers make changes in the backend.

Acceptance as a Y Combinator company means Payload will participate in an intensive three-month program culminating in a demo day with opportunities to pitch to an audience of investors.

Mikrut said the team didn’t expect the investment from Y Combinator, which typically has an acceptance rate of less than 3%.

“We applied, and they validated our idea. It showed us that there is potential here. … It has really catapulted things,” he said. “I am very excited, and I also realize that my work is just starting.”

In 2018, Payload received $20,000 from Grand Rapids-based Start Garden after being chosen as a winner of the incubator’s first “The 100” competition.

Before Y Combinator, the $20,000 was the only outside funding the company received. By bootstrapping Payload’s development with work from his website development company TRBL, Mikrut, along with Ribbens and DeNolf, retained 100% equity in the startup.

“I’m always a big fan of when a startup can delay needing to go knock on doors for investments,” said Paul Moore, director at Start Garden. “Although it took longer to develop, they’ve been really able to dig in and get feedback from their community.”

After Payload finishes the Y Combinator program in August, the company will launch a seed funding round.

Mikrut said the goal is for Payload to be a top-of-mind tool for developers.

“We want every developer to know about Payload and go to Payload first when building a new project,” Mikrut said. “We want to catapult across the internet.”

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