The New York startup scene is buzzing, but tough: it’s capital intensive, hard to find office space, and relentlessly pricey.
Realising this, Joe Marchese decided to sell his advertising startup to 21st Century Fox for $US200 million and create Human Ventures, which he says is neither a traditional VC firm nor an incubator, but a “startup studio.”
Marchese’s goal is to highlight interesting startups in New York in the midst of overshadowing industries like finance and fashion, and he’s trying to achieve that ideal by spinning startup ideas into reality and hiring seasoned entrepreneurs.
This means no pitching, no applications, no Demo Days — only internal networks and resources. Human Ventures plants three to five portfolio projects a year in their studio. After seeing them hit series A funding, the team then takes on more.
“If people ask why do it this way, I say why not?” Marchese told Business Insider. “If you look at places like Y Combinator and Betaworks, each of their focus is different. Human’s big focus is the backgrounds of people who have come from the private sector and high-profile nonprofit positions and the wide network they bring.”
Marchese named Heather Hartnett, former business development leader of City Light Capital, the CEO of Human Ventures in March, making Human Ventures the only female-run studio in New York. Marchese says Human Ventures is fundraising from top-notch undisclosed investors and hiring more talent including Michael Letta, who served as CFO at nonprofit organisation charity: water, and Megan O’Connor from charity Pencils of Promise.
The mostly-female core talent team rounds out at five.
“We like to use the phrase ‘epic humans’ to describe the people here,” Hartnett said. “CEOs and founders might know how to adapt in this environment, but we fill in gaps for where they’re not as proficient. If you come from a big corporation, we provide navigation through the startup scene. If you’re an operator but don’t know how to raise an investment, we’re a huge hitter for them in that way.”
The startup studio’s dynamic model is becoming louder in Manhattan, and elsewhere. The oldest such New York-based incubator, Betaworks, rounded up $US50 million from Twitter acquisitions Summize and Tweetdeck in 2013. Expa, which emerged last year, is the brainchild of Uber and StumbleUpon co-founder Garrett Camp.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 67 studio-like ventures have launched all over the world, and 17 of them since 2013.
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