Heather Hartnett is the CEO and founding partner of Human Ventures — an early-stage venture studio in NYC that backs and builds consumer technology companies. Heather leads the core team at Human, which engages with experienced entrepreneurs to build industry changing businesses. The Information has referred to her as “the new breed of VC,” and Business Insider has pointed to Human as the first female-led startup studio, bringing a fresh new perspective to the tech scene.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and learned to get comfortable taking calculated risks when there is an opportunity to solve complex problems. When I moved out to the Bay Area I was exposed to a whole new side of the company building business: investing. Prior to launching Human Ventures, I sourced investment opportunities for Lightspeed Venture Partners and CityLight Capital. After spending time as an EIR myself, I began to understand founder motivations and got a good sense of how to spot talent early. I love partnering with founders. You’re betting on the people you’re backing, often before they have a product or metrics. I view investing as an innovative way to make an impact and give resources to people who have the desire to create true value in the world.
We partner with founders who we think are best suited to build within a category and have unique insights around those themes. The founder has to be the key vision driver for businesses to get off the ground and begin to scale. Our proprietary assessment methodology focuses on three main areas: personality traits, skills, and lived experience. We look beyond the resume and traditional venture pattern matching. We believe that the founders of the future don’t necessarily look like the founders of the past. As the world paradigms shift, so will the demographics of the founders building the future.
We’re willing to dive in with a founder and be there for them in the good and the bad. To me, it’s vital to be a trusted constant throughout the highs and lows of an entrepreneur’s journey. Since we’re familiar with the earliest stages of building, we don’t shy away from the messy middle. We look for founders who have the right motivation for building a venture scale business, the growth mindset to do so, and the ability to recruit incredible people to join them on their journey.
We frequently use the term founder market fit. What that means to me is, why that founder and why now? This is something that’s really important for leaders everywhere but especially for founders who are walking into meetings with potential investors. As a founder, you should ask yourself that question. Why me and why now? Being authentic in this area resonates with people on a deep level.
Very early on at Human Ventures we created Our Guide To Being Human that lists our values. It’s a group of six things that represent what we stand for — being focused on growth, having guts, being resilient, open-minded, collaborative, and grateful. You don’t have to look a certain way to be part of Human Ventures. What connects everyone associated with us (especially our portfolio founders!) is our underlying values. We invest in ambitious founders who are building Model Businesses. We believe Model Businesses are built around three core principles: they must solve a real human problem, have unit economics that scale, and have a deep sense of responsibility.
Very optimistic. A large part of what makes a successful startup ecosystem is the concentration of founders building together and helping one another. When we started Human Ventures, we saw the opportunity to make New York an even bigger hub of founders building together. There are so many industries in New York and they are now all becoming tech enabled. There is a multiplier effect that happens as a strong community forms and compounds one another’s success.