Office Hours: I'm Heather Hartnett, General Partner and CEO at Human Ventures. Our investments include Reserve, TheSkimm, and Paloma Health.Featured
Hi Everyone, I am Heather Hartnett, General Partner and CEO of Human Ventures (Human.vc) — an NYC-based venture firm that leverages the "startup studio" model in order to back, co-build and scale industry-changing businesses alongside exceptional entrepreneurs.Since launching Human Ventures we have invested in and co-built more than 40 companies, with key investments including Reserve (acquired), TheSkimm, Current, Tiny Organics and Paloma Health. Ask me about any topics that could be useful including investing, fundraising, co-founder finding, creating a brand, or early stages of company building!
Thanks so much for joining us @HeatherHartnett!Elphas – please ask @HeatherHartnett your questions before Friday, October 16th. @HeatherHartnett may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thanks so much for joining us @HeatherHartnett! What areas are you bullish on? Are you contemplating investing in crypto, fin-tech, DeFi spaces? also how has COVID changed your perspective on areas you previously bullish in?
We've outlined some areas we are excited about here:https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/building-investing-human-needs-economy-part-1-health-heather-hartnett/?trackingId=uTR4FuBcREu78i6xXEx7sw%3D%3Dand here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/future-work-human-part-2-areas-opportunity-best-over-next-hartnett/?trackingId=aaPndEhgQ8WG8%2BYmFCYJPA%3D%3DOur thesis around the Human Needs Economy was only strengthened by the recent events of covid. We have more conviction than ever in companies that are tackling these big challenges.
Thanks @HeatherHartnett for doing this!A couple of questions:1) How do suggest building a brand for ourselves? 2) Any tips on where to find co-founders and how to ensure that they are a good fit?3) What exercises do you recommend doing at the very early stages of company building to validate the problem that you are trying to solve?Thanks for all your help! :)
1. I look at brand in this industry as reputation. How do you build a good reputation? It takes time, it requires thoughtful consideration and you have to be consistent to gain trust. Know your personal values, find out what you have to offer that is unique (also okay to listen first to figure this out) and treat every relationship like it will be around forever. I always say "it's a long life". Don't build relationships as a means to an end. Too many people are transactional. Try to bring value to every interaction and eventually it builds on itself.“You never know where somebody’s going to end up. It’s not just about building your reputation; it really is about being there for other people.” -Adam Grant
2. On finding a co-founder: Figure out who you work well with and take note of the values, personality traits and attributes of those type of people. Who compliments you but shares your same values? All too often people solve for a complimentary skill set (i.e. business person and technical person) and forget about the complimentary personality traits, values and shared vision. There are programs now like OnDeck and Day1 where builders are meeting other builders. Meet a bunch of people, try some projects together, spend some non-work time together, meet their family or close friends — get a holistic picture of the person.
@HeatherHartnett This question might seem simple but I am really stuck on defining the right size of capital to raise. We are pre-seed, just launched on Android and are gaining traction on our alpha. We need capital to keep scaling however whenever we seek advice we keep getting different voices. Some say as much as possible so that you do not have to keep raising others say, as little as possible to keep your equity. Honestly (I have an MSc in Finance) and still find it overwhelming. Any good books to read? What model you suggest an early stage start to follow? How do you run your numbers?Thank you, MariaPS: We are based out of the middle east, and building a mental health ai-diagnostics platform for the region.
Maria, great question. Every company/founder is different so there is no "right way" to do this that fits across the board. We like to know that founders know what they want to prove out with the earliest capital into the business. What do you need to prove out before this is a viable business? How much capital do you need to hit those early milestones? Are they the right questions to be answered? Founders I admire at the very early stages 1. are obsessed with the problem 2. are insatiably curious as to what the customer wants and knows how to build that into the product 3. makes meaningful strides in building in short periods of time. If you have those three things, you should be able to have a good handle on the amount of capital you want to take in before pricing your company. For some companies that could be $100k for some it needs to be $1.5M. Just make sure that you can build enough momentum with that amount in order to sell the next phase to seed investors. Don't stake too many convertible notes in the early days.
Heather, look forward to hearing your thoughts. Recent news showed that during covid-19 venture funding to female led companies dropped significantly. This sits alongside research from Leanin that 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting or leaving the workforce entirely. As a female founder and parent, I'm very concerned for the impact this has on female founders and women in the workforce. What can we do to prevent what little progress we have made get eradicated?
Sorry--not sure if it's kosher to follow on to someone else's question but I think this is a great one.My related thoughts/question:My personal read on this statistic is that VCs are looking for investments with less *perceived* risk, and so women are the first to go to some degree.Any tips on how to encourage investors to take that extra perceived leap?
Rachel, thanks for the follow up. In my opinion, the best way to decrease risk is to solve a real problem that customers love and build a product people will pay for. Find the investors who deeply understand the problem you are solving, agree with you on the direction in which you are solving it and the size of the potential market. Any investor who is not investing in a woman because of the perceived risk of downstream funding is not someone you want owning a part of your company. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but optimize to take money from fund managers who see value/opportunity where others might not. Fundraising isn't easy for anyone, I promise. But the best way to close the confidence gap for investors is to keep building and get meaningful traction.
Such an important point and great question. I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers because unfortunately, it is still a disappointing reality that women are disproportionately affected professionally during times of turmoil. However, I can tell you that while there may some set backs, overall we are seeing positive strides in the right direction for women founding companies, being added to boards and receiving venture funding. At Human we believe the future of work must take into consideration the wellbeing of the worker, the new environments we have to navigate and find creative ways to assess and place talent. All areas which we believe will increase options for women in the workplace. Right now we are working with several founders who are tackling these issues from all angles and I can assure you we are not the only fund who are looking at opportunities in these areas. One founder in particular is the founder of Inkwell, Manon Defelice (https://www.inkwell.co/) who has been leading the flexible work revolution and is building a new solution to scale her efforts. We just have to keep encouraging women to take leadership roles, found companies that solve problems we experience every day and find your champions to partner with you along the way. We are out there!
Thanks Heather and appreciate you taking the time to respond. One thought I had was to continue to amplify and support others that are still "fighting the good fight". I will reach out to Manon to see if there might be opportunities for us to collaborate, and would also love to continue the conversation and see if there might be ways that we can all collectively amplify the issue and get more companies to pay attn and start investing to stem the losses/downshifts if possible.
Hey @HeatherHartnett. Thanks for your valuable time. I wanted an advice - If my startup has got the commitment from investors and they are delaying the process to close the round. Should i wait or move on to other investors.
What advice do you have for someone who would love to go work in the VC world after spending a few years scaling a startup? What skills do you need to emphasize and how do you break in?
I have not found a linear path into venture. I found this notion page very insightful made by Paige Doherty. There are a ton of well thought out tips and suggestions there! https://www.notion.so/Tech-VC-The-Foundation-c6ad4b799aa4490dbe05b3d49c288aa3
Thanks so much for offering your expertise!Related to Paloma Health, a few questions about start ups in healthcare.1) When working with contractors who are hired to be sales reps or work in BD, there seems to be a gap between identifying decision-makers and following though with the agreed-upon touch points and attractive messaging that get responses. Any suggestions on how to best marry messaging with tactical outreach efforts?2) Related, When it comes to developing leads list any thoughts on what to consider before buying a leads list vs developing your own?3) Once a company has figured out their sales goals, what do you recommend for finding the right relationships to develop?
Hi Heather, Very exciting companies that you have helped to grow! We're meditation experience for working mums and developed a proven method to make meditation stick. We started our first investment round and secured first female angel investors. What would be your key tip to get warm links to female angel investors that want to improve the mental wellbeing of women? Many thanks! Veroniek