Introducing Heather Hartnett, CEO and Founding Partner of Human Ventures, a New York City-based venture capital fund backing, building and scaling industry-changing technology companies through a startup studio model.
Hartnett has been recognized for creating one of New York’s premiere startup studios and for the unique approach and fresh perspective she’s bringing to tech by publications such as “The Information,” which has referred to her as the “new breed of VC.”
Since launching three years ago under Hartnett’s leadership, Human has invested in and co-built more than 20 companies. Those companies have grown to a combined $150M+ in enterprise value and have gone on to raise $80M+ in additional capital from notable later stage investors.
Key investments include Reserve (acquired), Girlboss, Current, Token, Milo and Clark. Human Ventures is backed by a group of industry titans including Beth Comstock (GE), Howard Morgan (First Round Capital), Chris Sacca (Lowercase), and more.
Hartnett has been featured and interviewed in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Forbes, TechCrunch and more. Marie Claire recognized Hartnett as “The Standout” on its. New Guard list of The 50 Most Influential Women in America.
Hartnett is an active leader in the technology community, serving on the leadership council for Tech:NYC, a lead of AllRaise for the East Coast, and as a mentor to the NYC MIT Startup Studio and the startup incubator 1776. She is a member of the prestigious Kauffman Fellowship executive education program in venture capital and innovation leadership.
What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?
Growth — Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Your company can only grow as fast as you grow as an individual. Growth is not easy and it pushes you to do the hard stuff. Giving people who work with you the opportunity to grow keeps them engaged and loyal to your company mission.
Resilience — Some people think that the opposite of success is failure. But failure and success are both the result of trying. To me, it's not failure that's the opposite of success -- it's never trying. You have to build up a tolerance and resilience to failure. It's absolutely a part of success.
Authenticity — I never get the results I want if I’m not honest with myself about my strengths and who I am. I used to think I had to mold myself to be like other investors, and I’ve realized I’m different -- we all are -- and we need to embrace that. I've found that I'm always more effective if I lean on doing what comes most naturally vs what I am "supposed" to do.
Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?
I have a huge extended family and most of them are lawyers. I idolized my grandfather and he was a lawyer so I thought if I wanted to be anything like him, I would have to go to law school first. I studied and studied for the LSATs and REALLY tried to like it, but I couldn’t retain the knowledge. I hated it. I never took the test. So I didn’t go to law school, and thank goodness because following the rules is not my strong suit.
It changed my trajectory, and I saw that investing is an innovative way to make an impact and give resources to people who have the desire to create change. That drives me every day.
What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?
My personal investment thesis is around life stages. Interesting opportunities happen when generations move through life stages with a different lens. We can see that so perfectly right now — people are living longer, getting married later, having kids later, etc. So I’m very excited about investing and building for unique challenges throughout life stages like banking for Gen Z, digital health for millennial women, and the social behaviors of the boomer generation. At Human, we want to find the founders who are best suited to build the next industry-changing businesses in these areas and work with them to create the future.