Heather Hartnett took a nontraditional path to the world of venture capital, and it’s ignited a great passion for enabling social change through technology and business. She now leverages her experience to help founders build better companies through commitments to diversity, personal wellness and positive impact.
Hartnett began her career in venture capital but was quickly compelled to move into the philanthropy space, where she spent five years on the board of directors for the David Lynch Foundation. When she returned to venture capital, Hartnett decided to merge philanthropy and business through the lens of impact investing. She co-founded Human Ventures, a New York-based venture studio dedicated to building tech companies that make life easier and more fulfilling.
Hartnett believes a company’s impact is determined by the people who run it. In our interview, she explains the benefits of diversity and how to nurture it in the tech industry, as well as how founders can avoid burnout through meditation and care for their emotional health. Ultimately, she illustrates how companies built on solid human foundations can be extraordinary forces for positive change in the world.
Take a look at the Human Ventures website to learn more about the studio’s mission and portfolio companies, reach out to Hartnett on Twitter @HeatherHartnett to thank her for sharing her wisdom and enjoy the show!
In this episode with Heather Hartnett, you’ll learn:
- How a background in philanthropy can help you in business (9:00)
- Why the impact of your business is determined by its people (13:10)
- The obstacles “non-traditional” founders should be prepared to face (21:34)
- Strategies entrepreneurs and investors can use to nurture diversity in tech (30:00)
- Why you need to take care of yourself as well as your business (42:35)
- Tips for diversifying your knowledge base and creating your own luck (44:10)
Please enjoy this conversation with Heather Harnett!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
This episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by DeveloperTown. If you’re a business leader trying to turn a great idea into a product with traction, this is for you.
DeveloperTown works with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies who want to build and launch an app or digital product. They’re able to take the process they use with early stage companies to help big companies move like a startup.
So if you have an idea for a web or mobile app, or need help identifying the great ideas within your company, go to developertown.com/powderkeg.
If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.
Heather Hartnett Quotes from This Episode of Powderkeg:
“Spending time volunteering is a really great training ground for starting your own company.” — @HeatherHartnett on @PowderkegHQ
“Being a founder isn’t always glorious. Actually, very little of it is glorious.” —@HeatherHartnett on @PowderkegHQ
“In the very beginning, investing isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the inspiration, the people and the execution.” — @HeatherHartnett on @PowderkegHQ
“Luck is allowing yourself to be exposed to opportunity.” — @HeatherHartnett on @PowderkegHQ
Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Companies and Organizations:
Heather Hartnett (@HeatherHartnett)
Joe Marchese (@joemarchese)
Megan O’Connor (@MeganMOConnor)
Bob Roth (@meditationbob)
Did you enjoy this conversation? Thank Heather on Twitter!
If you enjoyed this session and have 3 seconds to spare, let Heather Harnett know via Twitter by clicking on the link below:
What stood out most to you about what Heather shares in this podcast?
For me, it’s the strategies entrepreneurs and investors can use to nurture diversity in tech.
You? Leave a comment below.
To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:
If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking in iTunes incredibly! Thank you so much!
This week’s episode of Powderkeg is brought to you by developer town. By leveraging their years of experience working with startups, developer town is able to help companies better understand the viability of potential software solutions, and quickly bring them to market. Developer town has created proven sprint to market processes. So large enterprises can move like a startup. You can find out more at developer town.com/powderkeg. Again, that’s developer town.com/powderkeg. Developer town, start something
you know, a lot of really talented, smart people. They shouldn’t be founders not because they can’t, but because it’s not always glorious, right? Actually, very little of it is glorious.
That’s Heather Hartnett CEO and partner at human ventures, which is a venture Studio helping founders build high growth, high impact companies, right in the heart of New York City. And unlike traditional VC firms or incubators, human ventures operates as a foundry where they grow companies from ideas to reality with the right support and the right network. So they actually select three to five big idea companies a year to co founded with an exceptional team or entrepreneur. And Heather is also a board member at the David Lynch Foundation, which is a nonprofit transforming the lives of at risk populations through a very particular style of meditation. So in this conversation with Heather, you’re gonna learn all about Heather’s approach to business and professional growth. And we’re going to talk through some of the obstacles that non traditional founders should be prepared to face, as well as some of the ways we’re going to overcome those obstacles. But we’re also going to talk about mindfulness and why you need to take care of yourself as well as your business. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And you’re listening to Episode 31 of powderkeg igniting startups, a show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators who are building remarkable tech companies in areas decidedly outside of Silicon Valley. Human Ventures is based in New York City, which is sometimes referred to as Silicon Alley, and it’s a booming hub of innovation, especially in new media, telecommunications, digital media and financial technology. In 2015, Silicon Alley alone generated over $7.3 billion in venture capital investment, most based in Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn, but also in areas like queens and elsewhere in the region. Silicon Alley was originally centered in the Flatiron District in the vicinity of the Flatiron Building, at Fifth Avenue near Broadway and 23rd Street. If you’ve never been there, it’s the area of straddling sort of midtown and lower Manhattan. And for this interview, I traveled to the offices of human ventures, which is near Union Square in Manhattan, to meet with human ventures partner and CEO, Heather Hartnett. And what I love about Heather’s story is that she took a non traditional path to the world of venture capital. And it’s given her a great passion for enabling social change through technology and business. So please enjoy this interview with Heather Hartnett.
I’m Heather hurt net, and I’m CEO and co founder of human ventures. So my background is actually kind of a unique one for being in venture, I think, we are kind of getting coming to this exciting point in starting companies where other backgrounds are actually valued. And it’s, it’s a, it’s an interesting perspective and a new perspective coming into this scene that has been traditionally very one tract, where when you’re in the venture space, so you’ve had the finance background, and when you’re a founder or you know, you had a tech background, and so that’s definitely being disrupted right now. Absolutely. My personal story is that I came from a long line of entrepreneurs, I, my grandfather was a real estate developer, it was really the first time I saw you know, something, start from nothing, where he would kind of visualize a building and then you’d actually see this incredible skyscraper come out of it. And that to me, as a very young kid, was always just awe inspiring. It was that this could be a blueprint, and then it was actually a building.
And then my Was he an architect or builder on the
developer side. So it kind of producer right, he brought the architects together and brought the money together had the concept but he was the vision guy. Yeah. And in places that really now in hindsight, have been huge, you know, century city in California, developed a La Jolla, he ended in ended up in Chicago and did Lake point Tower in Chicago. So that was his last building. But my my father kind of had that as a role model. And he was a digital version of that. So he started many businesses himself, the most recent being in the telecommunication space. And that segwayed really into the internet. So he, in the 90s, we started purchasing domain names. And that was to him digital real estate. And so started, you know, we had at the dinner table, we would have conversations of pick a domain name and think a bit about a business around it. And so what was his name and that company name? His name’s Christopher Hartnett and he had USA Globalink, which was an international telecommunications company awesome. I didn’t know that I was really being shaped to think I’m kind of very in an entrepreneurial way. However, when you grow up amongst that, it’s a lot of pressure to start a company. And interrupt me anytime when you want to, you know,
no, I would love to know if if you ever pressured to start anything with any of those domains, yeah, oh, every day or somebody the top domains that that you were contemplating? Do you remember any of them? My
dad was very early in the.tv space. So he had a lot of dot TVs. He had a lot of organics, he was Mr. Global. So everything global he had global online. Now, you know, he has one my mother.com We’ve been thinking about what what business that’s going to be. But when I did graduate school or graduate business school, I was, you know, he said, Well, what company you’re gonna start, and that was when I actually transitioned to venture because I didn’t know, you know, what company I was gonna start. So we had a good family friend, and he said, Well, why don’t you come and see me repeat business plans, or, you know, kind of depict business plans and see, you know, if you get inspiration that way,
do you think that question, what company are you going to start is something that more parents should ask their kids?
I mean, that in particular, is very a daunting one. But I do, I am very strong advocate for starting really giving the confidence, especially to young girls, the right skills, if you do want to start something for yourself, right, that, that you that you can, you should be confident, but you should be able to really understand how to grow fast, know where your weaknesses are, and your strengths are, you know, partner with other people. There are a lot of qualities that I think my father and mother instilled within me that makes sense for me to have that risk tolerance,
what what career? What were some of those ways that they did that? Do you remember any of the particular like young experiences and
some of the things I mean, we traveled quite a bit because my dad had an international company. And so, you know, throughout high school, middle school, in high school, I was traveling quite a bit and being exposed to other cultures, other problems, seeing challenges. I think that was a big eye opener for me in an early age that they might have not had as an intentional, you know, part of my upbringing, but allowed me to, to look at things from different perspectives that I never actually really have talked about this, and I’m just thinking about it now. But I was part of something called Odyssey of the Mind when I was really young. And that was throughout grade school. And it was a problem solving. It wasn’t drama, but it is a problem solving group that we had to create. You know, it was a puzzle and problem solving type of
a group. Yes, it sounds familiar is that was a national program,
national program actually is global. So you would compete against other kids your age, you weren’t allowed to take any help from adults. And it was just really a way to exercise your brain thinking outside of the box. And I think I mean, even that term has now become so cliche, but but as a kid, it really got me thinking about this stuff. Oh, interesting. That was always encouraged in our family
getting getting into the right programs. Yeah. Did you have some role models early on that were people who were like, I want to be more like this person when I grew up, other than, obviously, your parents and your grandpa, your grandfather,
actually brings up a good point, I spent a lot of time with adults when I was young. And so I really learned a lot of you know, how to have mentors and to kind of take lessons from older people. And I didn’t think that much about it. But I but I do think that’s had a huge effect on how, how I approach things.
Yeah, were there is Was there a specific way you took advice and implemented it and found that you were able to interact with adults that you maybe didn’t see your peers at the time doing?
Yeah, I mean, I think I probably was criticized a little bit for that. Because I, you know, it can look like your brown nose or look like you’re trying to strive for approval and things like this, but I really just wanted to get the most out of every opportunity and make, but a lot of it was making sure that you had enough gratitude, for I spent a lot of time with people who were very philanthropic, just regardless of their means it was a part of life that even if you didn’t make a lot of money, you still saved a portion of that to be able to give back to the community. And I think that shaped a lot of the way that I asked questions, I was really grateful for what we had. And I think all of those qualities are what you need in order to work well with founders to work well within this system.
I appreciate you sharing that just because I think it’s always interesting. And I’m not having kids anytime soon. But when I do, I want to raise them to be entrepreneurial and see all the opportunities, and not necessarily be pigeonholed down a certain track. But, you know, if they ended up doing something entrepreneurial, I certainly wouldn’t mind. So it’s self serving as much as I think, you know, a lot of our listeners probably want to make sure that their kids feel like they have all entrepreneurial opportunities, or at least tools to go down that route if they need to do Yeah,
I mean, we were I was just talking about this with somebody earlier too. I think spending time volunteering and being fully Other peat is a really great breeding ground training ground for starting your own company. Because you do have to galvanize donors to be able to invest in something that they’re not going to see return for a long time, you have to be able to be scrappy with the resources that you do have be very intentional about how you’re growing it. And so I’ve definitely seen, you know, a lot of translation from working in philanthropy to working in early stage companies,
you’re still very much involved in the philanthropic side. So I want to make sure we get a chance to talk about that at some point. But I want to go back, I want to I do want to dive back into, you know, you deciding to go into venture because you didn’t necessarily have the entrepreneurial idea yet. What was that transition like?
It was, it was great. It was at a time where I don’t think venture was really widely known. So I didn’t come at it from the investment side, I came at it from just really being curious about some problems and how market based solutions could tackle those problems. So I was at a fund in Oakland, California, actually, and one of the things I was tasked to research was, how does mobile banking help the unbanked in in rural African countries. And so that’s very specific. But that started my kind of now that I see lifelong pursuit of how the for profit businesses create a big impact. And in you know, in this day and age, when you have a big impact, that means it’s a big business, right? And so you know, that good companies that that scalable, fast growing companies are going to have an impact. Let’s make sure that’s a positive one has always been kind of a mission of mine as well,
when you started asking those kinds of questions of how can for profit, make a big impact that matters? And is measurable? What kinds of ideas initially did you start to come up with?
I mean, just as I think financial inclusion was a big one, how do you level set the playing field? And so for me, you know, stumbling upon technology was not because I idolized the tech industry, it was for me seeing how can you create a big enough impact in a more efficient and fast way. And I started seeing that technology was actually means to be able to do that. And so when I came to New York, I was actually, you know, big fan of this organization called Charity Water. And they were able to disrupt the nonprofit space, they said, you know, why don’t we look at this, like, it’s a startup, we’re investing in technology, and they were able to raise, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars without even knowing their donor base, which was never heard of before. And that was just a way to show that you can have, you can leverage technology to be able to scale what you’re trying to do. So I came into tech through a very different lens.
Yeah, I bet that gives you a different perspective, when you’re approaching some of these problems. I imagine you work with a lot of founders that come from non traditional backgrounds. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?
Yeah, I think that’s a big benefit of what we’re doing. So I’ll fast forward,
you want to give me kind of like the the thread the 10,000 foot, like what you’re doing now with, with human ventures and how that kind of came to be?
Yeah, yeah. So So I started in venture, but then I took a very interesting, you know, turn where I was in several startups, I went into philanthropy, and then I marry the two and when I came back to venture, it was with the lens of impact investing, I think that the term impact investing actually became more of an impediment than it was a, you know, a forcing function of growth for that industry. So I thought, you know, when I started human with my partner, Joe Marquese, we, I said, I would like to start with the people, I’d like to start with the humans, and we, you know, having an impact with your company, there are a lot of well meaning companies that actually are having, you know, not a great impact, or there are some companies that, you know, didn’t really necessarily know that there’s going to be an impact, but through the the management and the people and the decisions that they make. They’re an incredible company. And so I think that it really matters for to me how I define impact now is who the people are, who are starting it, because every single day, you have to make multiple decisions. And you you know, have to rely on your own spontaneous right action to be able to create a great company. And so that’s what we just we decided that it was really, let’s, let’s really focus on the people well, and you
have some amazing companies in your portfolio. Can you tell me a little bit about the kinds of companies you’ve you’ve been able to invest in and
grow with? We are kind of fo focus agnostic. So we’re across different industries. But what you know, what we really do pride ourselves on and think a lot about are those early team dynamics and found those founding kind of call it five to 10 members of the team. And what that looks like is, you know, when we invest in a company, we’re investing in a founder, and together we’re co founding that company. And so we put the first $500,000 into a company, give or take, and together With the founder, we say, what are your strengths? Whether it be domain expertise, whether it be operational skills? And how can we round out your skills with the first five to 10 members of your team to be able to set that business up for success. So when you think about that kind of dynamic, it doesn’t really matter what industry you’re in, because it’s so nascent. If you know how to produce, you know, be the producer of that you’re bringing qualified experts in those different areas, you don’t have to be an expert in every field, you just have to be an expert in how that company is going about that problem.
When you sign that first $500,000 Check and kind of help create this founding team, at what stage is the company at that point is, is that just purely idea stage,
Genesis of an idea? Wow. So what we you know, we do refer to the myth of the big idea, even if you have a company idea, the company is very different after year one, after year two, it takes many different turns in response to what the market needs are the trends, the you know, where the customers really are. So we will have a space that we want to be in whether it’s digital currency, or banking, or education, or E commerce, and we have an hypothesis, a hypothesis around where we want to play in that space with technology enabled platforms. And then we start having really in depth conversations and market testing and prototyping. And when we find a founder that really resonates with that idea together, we decided, Okay, let’s start a company, that’s when we start forming the company forming the team around it. So
a lot of times the founder is not necessarily coming in with the idea, it’s something that you’ve already identified, this is a market gap could be a big idea, it isn’t necessarily a big idea unless we can execute on it and prove that there’s real market opportunity there. And then you’re going and find the founder,
I’ve talked about this with a lot of things, I think a lot of people want to say that it’s, you know, some really structured way that it happens. But the truth of the matter is, it’s it kind of comes from both sides. Sometimes there’s a founder who has a domain expertise, or really incredible idea. And we can be that co founder and accelerate with our network, that idea. And sometimes it’s, you know, coming from us, and we’re trying to match the the person who has that type of skill and almost pick stock in that founder and bring them in and give them that opportunity to start
it what makes a worthwhile CEO for someone that’s, that’s in a venture that is looking to make a massive impact. And do it in a way that makes sense for impact investing model,
we have a couple different archetypes that we’ve seen now, founders, one I’ll put into kind of the visionary camp, they have a really big idea, but we need to pair them with some incredible execution. Big ideas. Yeah. But they you know, they have other kind of areas of visionary. You know, I also say they’re really good salesperson, they have a good network, they have a good influence on their network, they know how to galvanize talent, you know how to really get a lot of people around that idea. That’s a visionary. So you’re number two, three person, they better know how to execute. Right? Yeah, then there are operational founders who know how to execute, and you’re helping them push their vision further, further, like, can we make that bigger? Can we make that adventure basketball idea? Can we bring that in and actually make it bigger, and they know how to execute on that. And then there’s one called kind of entrepreneur in corporate clothing, where they usually have a domain expertise, but they haven’t really had that opportunity or kind of affinity to start something on their own. Can we help them navigate the startup ecosystem? And I think that lends itself really New York lends itself really well to that. Let the last type, because there’s so many incredibly talented people here in New York.
Yeah. Tell me more about New York and what it’s like starting up in New York City, it’s I visit here quite a bit. And you know, we’ll likely be doing verge in New York. Yeah, surely. Yeah. Which is great. I imagine it’s very, very different. Yeah, building a startup in New York compared to anywhere else in the world.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for New York, I think, from what I’ve heard, too, if you’re comparing New York to Silicon Valley for pure tech, you know, purposes, then people always kind of look at it as Oh, when’s New York going to have its coming of age? If you’re looking at it for what I think it’s going to be the next 10 years. I think, investor, I think everybody’s under estimating how much New York is going to play a part in this ecosystem, especially when so many incredible industries, business minds, professionals of all different backgrounds, reside in New York, when they start kind of getting hip to being able to start their own businesses. They’re above and beyond just the norm that, you know, last 20 years has been kind of solidifying the standard way. If you’re supposed to start a startup like this, you’re supposed to look like this. You’re supposed to be this age, you know, it’s just kind of bringing in a whole bunch of diversity.
What are some of the benefits of diversity that you see firsthand or maybe even have some stories of some of the founders you’ve worked with in the past? Yeah, they’ve come from a different sort of background and maybe your traditional white male MBA, and I should even say today Should all but the stereotypical. Unfortunately, the data is very skewed that way, what are some of the benefits that you’ve seen firsthand with having a more diverse founding team?
Yeah, we touched a little bit about one of our founders, Megan O’Connor, she has a company in the education space. And she was in the nonprofit sector for a long time. She’s actually in sales prior to that, and her story really is a great one, it’s one you should follow up with her as well, she, you know, she said, Okay, I’m really good at sales, I might as well sell for good. So she went to fundraising, you know, in philanthropy, and, and then at some point, she said, You know, I’m selling a lot of this, but I know that I could be effecting change a lot faster than the nonprofit model. And so I said, you know, you should start a company in the education space. So she’s, you know, her passion has been to be able to equalize education. And so she has a tutoring platform right now and utilizing AI and, and an operational assistant for independent learners of cool. What’s it called? It’s called Clark Clark. Yeah. Cool. So her backgrounds very different. And she was always kind of the person behind the person, phenomenal executor. But she did a lot of the work. And it said, Well, you know, you’re doing it, let’s, let’s have you do it. Right. That’s what I’m feeling sorry for me, because you’re kind of giving that confidence to somebody who, you know, has that DNA, they just haven’t been told the same thing, that sometimes the stereotypical founder that you just mentioned, you know, that that stereotype has been real, there has been real affirmation throughout their entire life, that that’s what they should be doing. Yeah.
And it’s such a shame, because there are so many people with great ideas and maybe have their DNA, but it’s, it’s just been nascent and not necessarily brought out when you think about bringing that out of someone and bringing someone from a different background, into the limelight as a co founder, what are some of the challenges that they face? Whether it’s internal challenges or external challenges? Yeah.
I mean, look, there’s a huge societal bias against pedigree or for pedigree, right? So And rightly so you’ve had the education coming in opportunity coming through Ivy League schools are the best schools, your brain works a little bit differently sometimes, but sometimes not, you know, there, there’s a range of expertise within, or aptitude within those institutions, just like they’re anywhere else in life, I think it’s just a lot easier to look to some of the natural filtration methods, like, you know, schools and opportunities like that, than it is to try and pick the winners from random communities where you just don’t know what excellence looks like in those communities. So I think you just have to have a little bit different have a have a perspective as to what makes a good founder. And, and a lot of that’s not, you know, a lot of really talented smart people. They shouldn’t be founders not because they can’t, but because there are a lot of things that you don’t, it’s not always glorious, right? Actually, very little of it is glorious. Yep, we have, you know, a saying here, being human takes guts, because you need to have extreme capacity for risk for being told that, you know, you can’t do this for, you know, being turned down for just defying all odds, like, there’s just a lot that you have to take on. And you always hear oh, it’s really hard to start companies, but then you’re in the middle of it, and you’re doing a lot of stuff. And you’re like, No, it really is really, it’s really hard. It’s not fun when you have to, you know, when you have to make some of these decisions?
No, definitely not. I can only imagine, and especially when you’re working with so many companies. Now, that probably happens quite a bit.
I mean, we’re still really early. So I’m, I’m optimistic and excited for the growth that we have ahead. But we have been working we have 10 companies now, we’ve been working in a in a fairly small size prototype, you know, this is my, you know, my proof of concept here being able to do this across several different industries and these teams and and the proof is in the pudding, you know, now we’ve been able to, to raise outside capital for each one of our companies and how much things are growing? How
much is the portfolio raised collectively,
almost about 50 million now. That’s outside capital. So my goal is really to get that founder to, you know, having a really strong lead of a top tier fund price that, you know, price that company so that we’re not pricing our own our own companies.
How do you value? How do you value a business? That’s such an early stage what’s what’s the right way to approach that?
Well, luckily, that’s why I want to have our venture partners come in and, and set that price so that we do have some market validation for
what we’re doing. Are you usually looking at a multiple of some sort in a particular industry or are usually backing into it in some other way?
Now, we’re starting to formalize that process of what markets we want to look to. So the next couple of companies that we’re doing, you know, you have to have the ability to tap into a billion dollar market share or you have to, you know, be able to touch a billion people with that product or um, or service. And so, you know, as we kind of come up with our next few, you’ll start to see some of those themes
come about, oh, cool other than microfinance as obviously a huge opportunity there. microlending. What are some of the other big opportunities you see right now that have potentially a global impact?
I mean, some of the things that I’m personally excited about, and some of the other partners, you know, have their their areas. One is the aging population, you know, we’re going to have a lot of people coming into, there’s a lot of opportunity there. People who have had experience now with technology. And as they get older, what does that look like?
Are there any companies that you admire that have done a good job of serving that?
I’m definitely keeping my eye on some actually, in the Midwest, there’s a lot there are a lot of facilities that have been opening, they’re actually physical facilities. So I’m just excited to see how technology can play in some of those industries. Healthcare, I think is, is one where people are seeing that, that we don’t have anything in healthcare right now. It’s a that’s a big one. But
yeah, are there others besides healthcare and aging, aging population,
we’ve one company in the location tracking space. So you know, I think, kind of software underlying a lot of things that you might take for granted now, with the cost curve, you know, as, as the cost of technology comes down, and the rate and cost of data right comes down. What does that look like? Can you track all of your things? You know, right now we have a phone with us. So we’re tracking ourselves wherever we go. But what does that look like when when your possessions are, you know, easily trackable? And
and so you’ve got all of these different ventures in these various industries. Talk to me a little bit more about your role here, human ventures as sort of like the co founder of 10 companies, is it sort of like that, where you’re really the co founder of 10 companies and you’re jumping in yourself and kind of getting your your hands dirty in the business of all of these? Or is it more from like an advisory standpoint, coming in and kind of helping provide guidance, make introductions,
we’re a startup ourselves. So we are, we’re a little bit ahead of all the companies but we’re seeing how we’re staffing up to be able to really provide value for each one of the companies and it’s very much a team, we have a really strong CFO, CEO, we have a strong head of our network, community building, operational support is is really strong here in terms of infrastructure for accounting. And, you know, setting up QuickBooks is easy is not easy. Going through your early revenue models with a CFO, you don’t get that opportunity when you’re a two person startup very often. So we really look to see where we can leverage our expertise for each founder and the beginning, the most. And then we have quarterly goals for each studio company that human Ventures is responsible for. And then I allocate, you know, the the time of our team accordingly. So I’m a little bit of a quarterback, I think for, you know, where the each company at different stages require different things. This company now this quarter looking for product market fit. This one is looking to make two key hires that our network can help support. This one is going for their next round of fundraising. So that’s what we’re focusing on. And then, you know, so it’s not like we’re building all those companies simultaneously. Sometimes it’s much more of just an investor relationship where we can leverage our network for that founder.
What do you feel like, as a venture studio? Is it to say you are a venture studio? Yeah, that like what you classify yourself as
Yeah, but yeah, the terms are becoming more familiar, I think, with people as nuance of venture changes, but yeah,
very cool. Well, as a venture studio, where do you see the biggest impact that you are making? Because I imagine you do a lot of introductions, a lot of flexing the network? Is there one area more than others, where you can spend more time whether it’s helping raise foreign capital or whether it’s getting customers? Yeah. Is there one that you prioritize? Like, say all 10 Companies need something today? Yeah, various types? Is that where you prioritize the one that you address? First?
I think it definitely changed. It changes in the stage of the company, what that core like, are we focusing on the right thing? Right now there’s a million things but you know, the the key thing with early stage is, are you focusing on the right thing at the right time? Because you can’t do everything all at once? The short answer is, I think, if we can save the founders time, that’s the key commodity here. And so if you can save them time recruiting by, you know, having a fun funnel already there, that they have five vetted candidates, and they can choose one, if you can save them time by navigating the funding landscape, you know, founder has to spend 80% of their time fundraising, and now they’re over 450, early stage funds. So how can you help them navigate that where you’re not actually pitching VCs? But you can say this is the partner you should look at. This is you know, who’s interested in this space in this area? I think you’ll get along with this investor the best and you can shortcut that experience. That’s invaluable to a new founder or repeat founder.
Yep. Saving time saving time, if that makes sense. And the kind of recurring theme of diverse backgrounds, you’re you’re sort of passionate about getting young women or girls interested in tech. And innovation at an early age is something that I’m I’m really passionate about. And curious to know, from your experience, what have you found to be like, most effective or most looks the most promising to you in terms of what’s going on right now, to help encourage that?
I think it’s encouraging more diversity in investment decision positions. Yeah. I mean, honestly, it’s where, where the funding can be deployed, you know, if those economic incentives are aligned with diverse investors, they’re going to look to fund people like them, or with their type of background. And so, because really, at this early stage, when you’re an investor, you’re investing in something that you you see in that found, or that you saw in yourself, or that you, you know, you love that idea, and you’ve wanted to see that company exist in the world. So it’s very, very personal. And I think people try to take the person to take the humanity out of it a little bit and say, Oh, it’s investing. And you know, you have to really be looking at all the numbers. And I think, well, in the very beginning, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the inspiration. It’s about the people, it’s about the execution. So
I think the research has shown that people tend to invest in people like themselves,
right? Yes. And so I think that really that the money follow the money,
how can we help make sure that happens?
You know, I think if you’re a founder and you, you’re in the fortunate position of having one of the very hot startups, that everybody’s kind of clamoring to get into, be very thoughtful about who you take money from, you know, one of the reasons why I joined, when I partnered with Joe, when he was raising money for his company reserved, he reserved an allocation for female investors, he said, You know, I could, I could have filled that with XYZ, you know, top to your fund, but I wanted to make sure that we had women investors, you know, around the cap table, so that when we do have that success, they see the taste of that success, they want to keep, you know, giving back to that community, and it’s a very self perpetuating cycle. So I think, as a founder, be thoughtful about who you align yourself with, and who you’re making money for. And then, you know, as a, as an investor, try to be more intentional about it.
Have you heard of any processes or best practices for investors looking to take some of the bias out of out of it, or at least make sure that they’re getting a diverse portfolio of investments? Having take some
risks? I mean, Joe took a big risk on me, you know, he gave me the initial startup capital to start human ventures. And, you know, I hadn’t run a fund before, and I hadn’t, you know, he but he really saw, I think, some of those qualities that we resonated that we both resonated with. And so you really, I think, take a chance on more people that you think have the it. That’s very vague, but you know, it, if
I’m a female entrepreneur with an idea, I want to, I need to get funding and grow. I realized as a female, it might be more difficult for me, because this industry, historically has not been as friendly as to like a white male with a Ivy League MBA. Right. But say, I’m, I’m female, and I don’t have that degree. I don’t have that tech background. I haven’t started several companies before. What are some of the things that I can do to make sure that my idea gets funded and gets traction and excels in this industry?
Yeah, I mean, I think this right now is the best time it’s ever been for women in starting your own business in venture. And I mean, we don’t just work with women founders, we have about half and half in our portfolio right now. But I think, you know, all the same things apply. Just don’t think that you can’t, because you’re a woman, right? I think you want to make sure that you still focus on getting the right mentorship. Clearly, networking is a big thing for me. And it’s not just networking for the sake of meeting a bunch of people, but it’s really finding who the people are that you value their opinion, studying what they, how they, how they’ve done it. And can you find kind of a mentor that will help you leapfrog some of those, those challenges, or have done it before or gives you that edge? And then surround yourself with really smart people, you know, and give them that opportunity so that you’re stronger as a team?
Yeah. The mentorship piece is something that is a recurring theme in all of our interviews. I’m curious, do you have a mentor who was particularly helpful for you on your life path, maybe above and beyond your, your mom and your dad who were very supportive early on?
I do, you know, in different different areas of my life. You know, I was the executive director of the David Lynch foundation. He’s had an incredible influence on my life just because he’s had so much. You know, he’s given his whole life to this cause and it’s relentless work ethic that I when I was working with him that I adopted and it wasn’t for, you know, monetary success, it was for just a relentless drive of what you’re doing.
Talk to me a little bit about the mission of the David Lynch foundation. Yeah, it
was to bring meditation to at risk populations. So it was a scientifically it is a scientifically validated model of meditation, that’s repeatable, so that you can see the effects within victims of traumatic stress. So veterans who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, inner city school children, you know, in very violent situations exhibit the same brain functioning oftentimes is somebody who’s had trauma on the battlefield. So we’re able to do some brain mapping and see how how meditation can affect those populations in a positive way.
That’s awesome. And how did you meet the executive director?
I started volunteering for because I’ve been practicing actually, meditation. So I was very young, came with kind of the entrepreneurial mindset of my father. It was also
let’s How old are you? And when you first started meditating five, five, yeah, nice. Yeah,
it was just it was, you know, do your homework, brush your teeth meditate. It was part of our daily routine. I practice something called transcendental meditation. It’s a specific type. And when I was out in the bay area, there are a couple of inner city schools in South San Francisco that they were implementing meditation into the schools and you so I volunteered to meditate with the kids. And you saw this massive transformation in these schools and the San Francisco Unified School District implemented it in several different schools that were at risk of shutting down,
how do you get a kid to sit still and meditate? Well,
I mean, that was what was so incredible about it really was that you saw this intense calm it was, first it was offered as an alternative to medication for kids who had severe ADHD and ADHD. So you know, these kids have a, oftentimes, so so much energy and so much capacity for creativity, but they just can’t sit still in their body. So when you do see their whole mind, kind of calm down with this, it was very inspiring. And it helped channel a lot of that.
So it’s literally just a matter of sit still. And, well, that technique, they automatically do it or Yeah,
I mean, it’s a technique. So you’re trained with a with a personal trainer, takes about an hour and a half a day, over four days, you’re given a sound, and you say it internally, and then it allows you to transcend the allows you to calm down your whole physiology. But but you see that very prominently in you know, that contrast was very obvious. Yeah, sure. And, you know, a lot of people do say, I don’t know, the statistics around it, they say that founders, you know, had some form of add Yunker, were able to do that, I think that absolutely translates to this environment, where you should have some sort of outlet in your life for being able to find your calm, whatever that is, you know, and if you do tap into that, then you’re so much more clear. And you have a vision, you’re able to inspire people with your vision and things of that nature.
Is that something you could talk me through right now, someone who hasn’t practiced meditation before? Maybe a listener could actually have their first transcendental meditative practice?
Yeah, I mean, there are so many different types of meditation. Now, I think it’s kind of like saying, you know, it’s like medication, you know, there’s all different types. So it depends what resonates with you, personally, I’ve done transplantation my whole life, but you can go to any TM, they call it TM center, you know, there, you know, some people get that same feeling out of exercising or music or
so do you need to have access to Transcendental Meditation Center or access to an instructor? In order to be able to do TM effectively?
Yeah, that that particular meditation technique you do learn from a teacher, which I personally love, because then people really, I think there’s a higher rate of retention. When you have a teacher like that, you know, you’re doing it right. You’re not just learning from a book trying to figure out am I doing this? Right? Am I you know, you get the intellectual understanding alongside that personal experience. So I do see the, the amount of people who stick with it, when you do transmutation, you see that a lot higher than if it’s, you know, download an app and do it, you know, when you can.
That’s, that’s good context to have as someone who’s downloaded a meditation app before,
which is great. I’m not knocking that too. But you I mean, you’re relying on your self discipline.
Yeah, to be able to do that. So it’s a good thing. Good variable to take out of the equation. Yeah, the piece that led to all of this was I was talking to you about your mentors. And you brought up the executive director of the David Lynch foundation. Yeah. Can you talk to me about how you got to know that person? Because a lot of people volunteered organizations then don’t develop a relationship with the executive director. Yeah. So how did that end up happening?
It didn’t it wasn’t even formed yet. So we just started it and when he and that’s kind of how my career kind of derailed a little bit from venture and into philanthropy was I was very passionate about this vision. And he was an incredible individual who was able to execute on this. And so I just kind of jumped on that train. Actually, it turned out David Lynch, the film director was the one who started the foundation with with Bob Ross, the executive director. And David wrote to Paul McCartney and said, you know, we’re doing we’d love to do a concert where we can teach a million kids to meditate, would you do it? And he said, I have April 4 open. So that launched the David Lynch Foundation in New York. And I didn’t even think twice I just moved to New York. We opened up the David Lynch Foundation in New York. You know, that was an incredible night. It was 2009 April 4, I’ll never forget it. Yeah, Ringo, came it was Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vetter, Ben Harper, like all these people, you know, started really kind of coming out of the meditation closet, they’ve been managing for a long time. And Howard Stern, Jerry Seinfeld, it was incredible evening, wow. So that, then you watched my kind of path with the David Lynch foundation for quite some time.
That’s great. So it was really a matter of like getting involved in an early stage, kind of right time, right place, and then acting on it. When the opportunity presented itself,
I think that’s the one thing I can trace back in my career at every single inflection point, it was when you feel that big opportunity, there’s a difference between just taking that leap and unloading or letting it pass you by. And I think taking that leap has always proven to be beneficial for what I’m doing.
Have there ever been any opportunities where you had to pass them by because you had too many other things going on, or
I’ve tried to go to business school three times. You know, I take the GMAT I, you know, fill out the applications, and then I usually get offered a job or have an opportunity, and I go and do that instead. So it’s still something on my bucket, I haven’t been able to go back and do. But it’s always proven to be, you know, the opportunity cost is too high, especially, you know, as I was getting older, and I am fairly young, but I’m not as young as I used to be. So to go to school for two years right now, is, is different than being in the working world.
Your alternative MBA path is, is pretty valuable, I’m sure and probably dwarfs anything you would have gotten out of any two year program.
I don’t know there’s definitely value value to it, I always say to if I had, if I had that path behind what I’m doing, it would have been probably a lot easier to do some of the stuff that I’ve been doing, but you just kind of have to prove off of your merit of executing
as, as founders are looking to execute in their business. I want to bring this back to Transcendental Meditation because I think it’s I think it’s very interesting. And something that more founders probably should be encouraged to at least try out if you were to talk to them about them scaling their businesses, and why they might want to look at taking care of themselves first. Yeah, what would your advice to them be?
I think that founder burnout is real. And it’s, you know, when you’re in your 20s, I think that’s why early younger founders is, it’s kind of always been the stereotype. Because whether you don’t have family, or you have enough energy that you feel like it’s never going to end all that sort of stuff, when you get to be in your 30s and 40s, whatever you you know that that’s going to catch up to you. So I think in a very early age, it’s important to establish some balance of rest and activity. And that doesn’t mean that you’re not efficient with your time, you know, I’m definitely, you know, guilty of overworking. And, you know, there aren’t enough hours in the day. And then coupled on top of that, or, you know, I’m in New York City, which just never stops. But I do know how to listen to my body, and I know how to listen to when I need to take some time, or, and I would just say figure out what your mechanism is to be able to reflect and take that time and make sure you’re doing that sometimes, because you will be a better boss, you’ll be a better you’ll be able to grow with the organization, because I think that your company can only be as big as you’re allowing it to be. And so you have to constantly looking to grow yourself and increase the capacity of your container.
Are there things that you’ve seen founders do, other than maybe meditate or take more yoga classes or, you know, do the physical activity side of things? Are there things that you’ve seen founders do as they’ve scaled their business to stay ahead on the business acumen side that’s been particularly effective? Yeah, outside of, you know, the normal just like reading books and blogs of thought leaders.
I mean, I can really only speak from my my experience in my career, it’s still by no means where I want to be in my life. It’s really meeting people, the amount of people that you can meet, and then really listen to and understand, you know, I think from other industries as well. So, you know, I don’t just go to venture capital events. I don’t just go to tech events. There’s that background that gives that cross collaboration with and that’s where I think philanthropy also is interesting because there’s so many different walks of life coming together around one cause, but they all have a different background. So that’s how I was a little bit trained, right. So you can see the commonality between people, and not irrespective of their industry. And so I think being open to that you’re laser focused on what you’re learning in your industry, I think that’s really important. But to open yourself up to other industries, because people think differently, you know, people think differently with an art background, people think differently with, you know, at a hedge fund that they do, you know, at a at a tech startup. So I think it’s just really important to expose yourself to other ways of thinking,
That’s good advice. And something everyone could put it on their to do list to go check out an event outside of the tech adventure industry, it does does end up being an echo chamber quite frequently. So yeah,
I’ll say one thing I know, we’ve been going on for a little while. But you know, a lot of this business is luck, right? I’m just trying to put myself in a situation where when, you know, you get that support, you’re in a position to be able to capitalize on it, or, you know, jump on an opportunity. But then when you break down, what is luck, it’s not some like amorphous thing, it’s really allowing yourself to to be exposed to opportunity. I think that’s what luck is to me. And so you can change up different behaviors just to expose yourself to more quote unquote, luck, take different paths to work, go to different events, meet new people. So I when I first moved to New York, I wouldn’t go to an event that I knew somebody else at that event, I just tried to meet as many people as I could, and try to connect the dots around those different networks. And I forced myself to do that. Because then you can, you can connect those dots, you know, and you’re seeing something that that’s outside of just that immediate circle that you know, you’ll default to because it’s easy.
That’s a huge value to be able to provide to founders now. And as you continue to kind of grow and scale Do you still do that to this day?
Quite a bit. I’ll you know, there are a lot of events now that come on your you can be busy every single night of the week. So I do prioritize ones that I think will expand the network. And, you know, back to thinking what would our founders need at that time, I’ll go to events where I think that I can meet people who will be most beneficial to what they’re doing what they’re building.
That’s great. If people want to find out more about human ventures and what you’re doing, maybe even pitch you an idea, where can they go to check it out?
Go to human ventures.co I’m just head there at human ventures.co I filled emails all day long. But we you know, we have events. We have over 50 events a year. We do brainstorm sessions. You know, I hope to really scale that up. We’re fairly young right now. So there’s a lot more to come.
Very cool. Very cool. Brainstorm events. Can they find you on social? Yeah, as well? Is that all of it? Twitter, Instagram,
Twitter quite a bit. Okay. And I found it. It’s kind of like a resurgence of Twitter, right?
Yeah, I’m definitely hope so.
I’m bullish on Twitter. Good. Good.
I don’t know where I stand yet on on Twitter,
wait as a business I don’t know. But as a platform, like it’s such an incredible, you know, platform for voice and for brand and for knowledge.
Well, hey, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your expertise from human ventures.
Thank you. Thanks so much for him.
That’s it for our interview with Heather Hartnett. But as you know, that does not have to be the end of the conversation. Let’s keep the Convo going over on social you can find Heather on Twitter at Heather Hartnett. That’s at Heather Hartnett all one word, and then you can also find her venture firm human ventures at human ventures dot C O. If you’d like this interview with Heather, you might like going back and listening to episode number 17 on the powderkeg podcast. And that was with Jenny Blake, another New Yorker. And we talked a lot about mindfulness and the positive effects of practices like yoga or meditation, both personally and on your business. Again, that’s episode number 17. With Jenny Blake. And for more stories on entrepreneurs, leaders and top talent outside of Silicon Valley, subscribe to us on iTunes at powderkeg.com/itunes you want to subscribe because we have some great guests coming up so don’t miss it. We’ve also got a helpful companion email@example.com You’re gonna find show notes there with all the links and contact information we mentioned in the episode, as well as some other useful articles and interviews in the powderkeg community. So thanks for listening and you’ll be hearing from us real soon.