Entrepreneurship Podcast post

Startup Studio Model with Heather Hartnett

George Grombacher October 20, 2022

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Startup Studio Model with Heather Hartnett

LifeBlood: We talked about the startup studio model for growing businesses, how to prioritize resources, embracing the human condition, and what makes for a great founder, with Heather Hartnett, CEO and General Partner with Human Ventures. 

Listen to learn why reciprocity can be a human superpower!

You can learn more about Heather at Human.VC, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Heather Hartnett

Episode Transcript

Hello, this is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Heather Hartnett. Heather, are you ready to do this? I am. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to have you on let’s go. Heather is the CEO and general partner of human ventures, their New York City based venture firm that leverages the startup studio based model or Tabak, cobuild scale industry changing businesses alongside exceptional entrepreneurs. Heather, tell us a little about your personal life more about your work, why you do what you do.

Unknown Speaker 0:47
Thank you so much for having me why I do what I do. Wow. Well, as you said, I run an early stage venture firm. And you know, we back back incredible founders and we I’ve been doing this for in the venture industry for almost 11 years. And, you know, been working with founders my whole life, I think, founders are always at the forefront of everything that is going on. And you know, where we think the world is going in the next 10 years. That’s where they are, that’s where they’re building.

Unknown Speaker 1:16
Excellent. Tell us something personal Heather.

Unknown Speaker 1:21
Personal. I grew up in the Midwest. And you know, one thing about me that I started to talk about a little bit more as I practice, something called transcendental meditation, I’ve been practicing, since I was very young, my parents integrated it into my life, and I’m very grateful for for that part of part of my life. That’s awesome. Thanks, Mom and Dad, are you still doing twice a day?

Unknown Speaker 1:45
I, you know, I would be lying if I said I do twice a day. But I really do try to do as often, often enough, you get you get the results, what you put in, you get out, you know, so I think that that’s 100%. Correct. So, all right. So you think that the founders are, are going to be a huge part of have always been a huge part of of our economy, and it’s gonna be an even stronger part of it moving forward? Why do you think that? Yeah, you know, you know, we invest in companies that are, what we call it, optimizing the human experience, I look at your website, like blood, and you can see wealth, health relationships, the way we work this, these are the areas that we’re most excited about, I think the last 20 years, we’ve seen technology kind of strip out some of that human condition and the next 10 years, we’re going to see companies that are,

Unknown Speaker 2:37
you know, in service of the human condition, so we’re looking at the way that can be helpful to our health, access to health care, different populations, get access to health care, the way that we work, and, you know,

Unknown Speaker 2:50
upskill and rescale, folks, so that you’re really living your best life and understanding where you fit into, into the economy. And then even just how we interact with one another, and hospitality and, and kind of, you know, experience life. So these are some of the areas that we’re really excited about, and founders are building in. Yeah, I love it. And I saw your, your website, you’re working to solve real human problems. And I love that term, the human condition. Like, like, it’s probably one of my favorites. But what are some of those real human problems? What are some of the companies that you’re that you’ve been working with?

Unknown Speaker 3:31
Yeah, I mean, before the pandemic we were talking about, you know, the importance of mental health and health care, and again, loving what you do and being fit for what you do. And then

Unknown Speaker 3:43
we just went through this phase transition, right in life, everybody has experienced this unbelievable transition. And it just highlighted even more the importance of your employer, taking care of the employee and offering benefits that are, you know, taking care of that human condition. So, for example, we have a company that we’ve invested in called Tia health, and that’s kind of a primary care for women. People thought that that was a niche area. Turns out 51% of the population women we have very different health care needs. So that’s growing very fast. We have a company called Tiny organics, which is organic baby food, you know, a subscription based organic baby food, frozen, very convenient for mom and dad and a big a big white space that was there. So I think, you know, just highlighting what, you know what things are needed that aren’t there. And how can technology supercharge the way that we optimize for that?

Unknown Speaker 4:38
I love it. And what is the startup studio model?

Unknown Speaker 4:42
So we were in or our origin is based in studio, it means we’re company builders at heart. We’re investors. Second, builders first. And so we actually in New York have a big office where founders built together. All the partners of human ventures have built companies themselves and I

Unknown Speaker 5:00
On this earliest stages of when founders are building, it’s the messy beginning, right? And you want people to understand who understand that, that phase of your company building. And so now we do have fun we traditionally invest like a traditional venture fund into into early stage companies. But the studio model just means a shared resources for founders to be able to build together and, and help one another. And our our shop would help the founders too, with technology, branding, you know, introductions, kind of having that ecosystem and network, it’s really important in the early days of building. Yeah, I think that that makes a ton of sense. That sounds like a cool opportunity.

Unknown Speaker 5:41
I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities lately, and how I prioritize my time, and I want to help other people to better prioritize their time. So you’re obviously pulled in a million different directions. And then you’re working with people who are pulled in a million different directions to how do you? How do you think about I’m curious how you think about prioritizing your resources? And then how you help these folks who are the startups, founders, startup founders, prioritize what they should be doing? Yeah, that’s a billion dollar question. Right? If people know how to prioritize your time, I think,

Unknown Speaker 6:22
you know, it’s always an exercise, we have 65 portfolio companies right now. And we are three partners, you know, 10 people in our company. So obviously, you do the math, that doesn’t mean that you have, you don’t have infinite time. So you know, it is ruthless priority prioritization. It’s thinking, Where can you move the needle for the founders? Who’s, who are the ones who need your help? Who are the ones who can benefit from that? And then how are you creating systems to be able to do you know, help one to many, and one thing that we’ve done human Ventures is just be able to activate our networks network. So we, you know, we don’t know all the answers, founders, oftentimes, and always should know, 100 times more about their business than we know. But what we can do is, when they have a question, we can be that introduction to the right person who does know the answer to something that they need help with. And so that’s really what we pride ourselves on is being able to connect, you know, our founders to our network and our networks, network and, and solve problems, kind of in a hive mind in that way. So I think it’s the probably the the biggest,

Unknown Speaker 7:26
you know, use of efficiency in our time. Yeah, well, certainly an invaluable thing. And when you have people who have come together with that shared purpose and values and the interest, then you can tap into one another’s market, and is that it’s the network effect, where you’re probably just one or two connections away from exactly what you’re looking for. I think that’s a key part, George, you know, we have one of our values is reciprocity. And that could sound transactional. But I think, you know, our founders know that when you invest in a group of people who also like to invest in that group of people, you get, you know, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And so that’s a big amplifier of our portfolio. It’s not, you know, each person is their own silo.

Unknown Speaker 8:17
Yeah, well, that that is a legitimate superpower right there, if you’re able to have those reciprocal relationships, and there’s enough trust where Heather, you can say to what is another one of your partner’s names

Unknown Speaker 8:31
Joe, Joe, Joe, and Joe to the other person, and to all your founders, knowing that

Unknown Speaker 8:41
the introduction is not only it’s there’s, you’re not worried about damaging the relationship, in fact, it’s probably going to amplify and strengthen it, but the only way you’re going to be able to do that is if that trust is there. Yeah. And that was, you know, that’s actually where humans started are Joe and I, when we first met, even before we started working together, we understood what a good human meant to us. It was our charging founder or person who was really good at what they did, but they were inherently a really good person, and they would know how to pay it forward. And that notion of paying it forward is kind of what I’m getting out there. And so we wouldn’t say, you know, meet so and so they’re a good human. And if we have that kind of moniker, it meant that we had to just meet them that you knew it was going to be a good batch and and so that’s when we started human ventures. We said, well, how can we really kind of put processes and systems around that that

Unknown Speaker 9:34

Unknown Speaker 9:37
How challenging is it for you to find new founders and companies to welcome into human ventures? It’s a great question. I mean, I think great people beget great people and our founders are incredible sources of referrals for new founders. We have a couple of different programs. One is called humans in the Y

Unknown Speaker 10:00
out, every founder, there’s a time when they’re starting their business, they feel like they’re in the wild. And sometimes they left a job. You know, they’ve been security for a long time, or perceived security or their identity. And they feel that they’re in the wild that time is so important, I think to surround them with community with information with help, you know, because that’s a very potent time, it’s the genesis of their idea in their company. So we do try to put a call out for humans in the wild that we try to have our brand be really, you know, resonate with people at that time, we do dinner series, we we host a lot of in person events, we really do believe in the power of that connection and person. So. So that’s how we find a lot of our folks. And then we just have a very, we have a really big referral network. Nice. And do you have a set number that you’re interested in onboarding? Or is it as good ones come along? How do you how do you think about that?

Unknown Speaker 11:02
Well, in any venture capital fund, you have your strategy. And so we have, you know, we invest very early, so we actually have quite a few a target of quite a few companies in our portfolio. Our last fund, we had 35 companies in our portfolio. So we’re first check investors really early. And,

Unknown Speaker 11:22
and then, you know, it starts to grow. But that that pace, you know, is over a four year lifecycle of investing in the Fund, right? So you can imagine we’re doing we’re doing about 10 deals a year. Okay. Got it.

Unknown Speaker 11:37
And how often are you getting it right, Heather?

Unknown Speaker 11:41
To sort of tell,

Unknown Speaker 11:43
you know, we invest it takes a long time, it’s the biggest fallacy that its own overnight success, right? These companies do take a long time to mature they, one company that starts the way that it whatever it starts as not going to be the way that it ends up, you know, Jeff Bezos did not start Amazon the way that he started that it is now. And if you’re capturing that opportunity, it continues to grow. So we have some really great companies that are on the growth trajectory. Yeah, that’s interesting.

Unknown Speaker 12:11
How, how different Do you think Amazon is today? From what Jeff Bezos initially selling books?

Unknown Speaker 12:18
No, yeah, it’s night and day. I mean, I think that’s where the really big businesses are, where you don’t even know that there is a market opportunity, you’re creating a market opportunity. And, and then you’re you’re eating into existing, you know, consumer behavior and spending. And that’s what they’ve been able to do. Got it.

Unknown Speaker 12:37
In terms of talks about how you have this physical space and the importance of community and actually being around the other human beings.

Unknown Speaker 12:49
Do you? Do you ask that your, that your family of companies that that the founders come in a certain amount? Do you leave it up to them other kind of best practices?

Unknown Speaker 13:02
Well, there’s pre pan and posts are still in the pandemic, right? So before we had about 10, companies at any given time in our office, you know, until they got to be about 10 employees, because these are early, I think it’s a critical time when you only have one engineer, or one designer or one product person, you know, or the founder is there to have other founders around. Because you can just cut you know, cut corners that share best practices have that serendipity. So ideally, we love having, you know, those founders around right now in our office, we actually do as well, I’m home right now, but we have an office and we have a bunch of vendors, I think everyone’s trying to figure out their their work environment and their schedule now. For the most part, I think founders love to work with their team in person I think hybrid is a really tough model I think all virtual is really tough model unless you start all virtual and that’s kind of the ethos of your company. But we are looking at a company that we’ve invested in one called murmur which is a shared agreements platform and all these kinds of tools to help teams codify their systems or processes of decision makings or values so that culture doesn’t get lost from you know lost in translation you don’t always have to be in person and you can scale but but we do we do love in person. We don’t ever man, you know, make anything mandatory, we get that that kind of benefits the founders to be able to be around other founders. Got it.

Unknown Speaker 14:30
And as

Unknown Speaker 14:34
what are you doing really well right now? How are you for your responsibilities and what what do you feel like you need to be doing a better job at

Unknown Speaker 14:44
oh, gosh, these are great questions. Garrett. You really get down to it.

Unknown Speaker 14:49
So you know, women’s healthcare is so under invested in right now. I’m just at the moment sizing this opportunity. It’s one of those areas that I was just talking about. You can’t even fathom how big this is.

Unknown Speaker 15:00
You know, even just the fertility industry in and of itself in the US is expected to be almost $30 billion in the next five years. And that’s an industry that is under funded under, you know, information is not out there, I think we’re just going to see more. That’s one very discrete stage and a woman’s life. And so

Unknown Speaker 15:20
I think we’ve gotten that right, where we know these areas that we’re building. And we’ve also created a brand where founders want to work with us in this space, too. So I think that’s great. I also think that we know how to build a brand for companies that are not reliant on programmatic advertising, I think there’s a lot of consumer businesses that have been, you know, kind of started in the Facebook era where you’re advertising online. But I think that we’re going back to the the really basics of building a brand, and engage your customer, engage your audience and really create that moat, through through customer loyalty. I think we have a really strong reputation in that, that my partner Joe has been in advertising and media for a long time and understands the principles, they’re very, very well, what we can do better, you kind of hit the nail on the head, it’s prioritizing your time, it’s always you’re always juggling, I’m a founding fund manager, I do fundraising, I do fundraising for my companies, I find our companies we invest, you know, so there’s just it’s always a 24/7 game, you’re never off the clock, and I love it. So that’s good. You have to integrate what you love in your work so that you don’t feel like you’re ever working. But then, you know, it’s always a constant prioritization of time, constant prioritization of time, and making sure that you are taking care of your human condition, as well as everybody else’s human condition.

Unknown Speaker 16:50
Yeah, to that end, I’ve started boxing, I actually love boxing. So that’s my, my exercise of choice at the moment. And actually, a lot of people on our team do too. And so we’re, we’re making it a team thing. I think that that’s, I think that’s super cool. Do you?

Unknown Speaker 17:10
Do you try and block into your calendar? Open Space? Do you?

Unknown Speaker 17:16
How do you think about that when it is 24/7? When you have so many demands, and I’m sure your email inbox is is, is organized, but constant never stops? Yeah, I joke, it’s, you know, I get rid of one on ones coming in. It’s a constant flow. So if you’re at inbox zero, it means you’re not probably prioritizing your time, right? Because that means that you’re spending too much time answering things that you shouldn’t, but

Unknown Speaker 17:46
I do my sacred time right now is exercise. And, and some of that time to meditate, actually, my my clock just went off to go to go and meditate too. I think you really do have to put in your calendar the way that you want to live your life. And I know that sounds that sounds very structured, but the way you spend your time is the way you’re going to have an outcome. So that’s it, you really do have to be forward thinking in that. Yeah, it’s not going to happen on its own. Right.

Unknown Speaker 18:15
We do have a company actually, that helps you prioritize that. It’s called quant time. And they it is a predictive engine to be able to block time on your calendar. And I love it, because standing meetings you actually get, you know, it just becomes you just click it off. You don’t it becomes totally mute to you. So you want something to be able to predict when the best time is going to be for that next day. And it could be different times during the day. But you know, you’ll get that in, if that’s your priority. Priority. So cool. I love it. Well, Heather, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with human ventures?

Unknown Speaker 18:55
Where humans VC, it’s a pretty, pretty basic name there that I think people can can remember human.vc And, you know, we’re very active, I would say actually on Twitter. I’m very responsive. And we talk a lot to folks on Twitter. I think that’s the pretty powerful tool to be able to talk about important topics. Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show Heather, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to human.vc and check out all the cool things that they’re working on and see if there’s an opportunity for you to get involved and then find Heather on Twitter as well as everything in the notes of the show. Thanks getting other charges. Thanks so much. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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