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VC firm Day One Ventures wants to fund laid-off tech workers’ startups

In just two weeks, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs in Silicon Valley after Twitter, Meta, Stripe and other tech companies laid off double-digit percentages of their workforce.

More job cuts in the tech sector could follow in the weeks to come: Google and Amazon have recently instituted hiring slowdowns and freezes, according to the Washington Post, and Amazon is planning to lay off about 10,000 employees, the New York Times reports. 

So this begs the question: Where will all of these workers go? 

Masha Bucher believes that some of the people impacted by tech layoffs this year will go on to start their own successful companies — so much so that she’s willing to bet $2 million on it. 

On Nov. 8, Day One Ventures, the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Bucher launched in 2018, announced “Funded Not Fired,” a program that aims to invest $100,000 into 20 new startups that each have at least one founder who has been recently laid off from a tech company.

“VC investors are sitting on billions of dollars, and now we have thousands of talented people in engineering, salespeople, support staff and other functions looking for new job opportunities — so why not direct some of this money towards them?” Bucher, who is also general partner at the firm, tells CNBC Make It

The 33-year-old understands firsthand the fear and confusion that comes with getting let go — she’s been laid off twice during her career, the first time when she was just 19 years old. While she felt “discouraged and embarrassed” at the time, Bucher is ultimately grateful for the experience.

“Being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says, adding that it was a “wake-up call” for her to become a full-time entrepreneur. 

Born and raised in rural Russia, Bucher spent the earlier part of her career at the helm of Nashi, a pro-government Russian youth movement backed by the Kremlin (she maintains that she has long avoided Russian funding and told the Wall Street Journal that her past with Nashi was “another life”). 

In 2014, Bucher immigrated to the U.S. and opened M&A PR studio, which has led publicity campaigns for clients including Houzz, HotelTonight and WeWork among other tech companies (the studio is still active, however, Bucher left it in 2018 to focus on building Day One Ventures).

Bucher leveraged the skills and connections from her blossoming tech career to start Day One Ventures just four years later. The firm has raised about $100 million, investing that money in over 100 companies and spearheading their communication strategies. Day One Ventures’ portfolio includes a diverse range of businesses, from email tool Superhuman to parenting website Winnie. 

Aspiring founders don’t need a fully fleshed out startup pitch to qualify for the program — the application just asks for details on the founders’ backgrounds, their startup ideas, business interests, areas of expertise and a convincing reason for why they should receive the funds. 

The deadline to apply for the “Funded Not Fired” is Nov. 25, 2022 and final decisions will be announced by Dec. 20, 2022. Bucher says she and her team have already received hundreds of applications. 

She stressed that the program is “not charity” and that former employees from Stripe and Twitter will not get preferential treatment, even though they were the inspiration behind “Funded Not Fired.” 

“I hope we are doing something more than just giving tech workers hope,” Bucher says. “Being a founder can be one of the most creative, rewarding jobs in the world, one in which you can have a great, far-reaching impact … I want to introduce people to that path, and show them that there are other ways to be successful.”

Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters like Kevin O’Leary how you can increase your earning power.

Check out:

The 3 biggest mistakes job seekers make after a layoff, from someone who’s been let go twice

Mass layoffs at Twitter, Meta and other companies spotlight a little-known U.S. law that protects employees

Thousands at Meta, Twitter, Salesforce lost jobs this week—the shock could ripple through the economy for months

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