The traditional entrepreneurial archetype epitomized by the PayPal Mafia is being challenged by Human Ventures, a New York-based startup studio. Led by founding partner and CEO Heather Hartnett, a collective network akin to the legendary “mafia” is believed to be fostered by Human Ventures, but with a diverse and inclusive approach.
Operating as a hybrid between an incubator and a venture capital firm, Human Ventures emphasizes founders and their ideas. The studio provides comprehensive support, guiding founders from the early stages of ideation through to determining product-market fit and beyond. This hands-on approach extends to facilitating subsequent rounds of funding and connecting founders with early-stage investors in the studio’s network.“We bring in founders early and build teams around them,” explains Hartnett, emphasizing the studio’s commitment to actively participating in the startup’s journey. Human Ventures invests when the business idea is fully developed, ensuring a solid foundation before deploying capital. This meticulous approach aims to foster genuine growth rather than artificial expansion.
Human Ventures boasts a track record of success, having backed 22 founders whose companies collectively hold a value of $150 million. Notable successes include Reserve, a restaurant reservation platform acquired by Resy, and several companies currently raising Series A funding rounds. Backed by prominent figures such as Beth Comstock and investors like Chris Sacca, Human Ventures has garnered recognition for its strategic investments and supportive ecosystem.The studio’s success with fundraising prompted the launch of a debut fund worth $50 million. This fund will support new and existing founders within Human Ventures’ portfolio, providing follow-on funding and investing in external opportunities. Hartnett highlights that the studio’s intimate involvement with founders has enhanced its ability to evaluate external investment opportunities effectively.
Human Ventures’ portfolio spans diverse sectors, reflecting its founder-centric approach. From Hugo, a startup revolutionizing school transportation, to Clark, a software platform empowering educators, the studio champions innovation across various industries. The studio’s community-oriented model fosters collaboration and resource sharing among founders, mitigating risks and enhancing collective success.
Ultimately, Human Ventures embodies a new paradigm in startup incubation, emphasizing community, diversity, and hands-on support. By redefining the role of the startup studio and championing a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, Human Ventures is shaping the future of innovation and fostering meaningful change in the startup ecosystem.