Photo: Huffington Post
A few months ago, the respected CTO of Huffington Post, Paul Berry, left AOL to start his own company, Rebel Mouse. Rebel Mouse will be launching in three to six weeks.While he’s still working on that project, he has a side project as CEO of a new incubator he co-founded, Soho Tech Labs.
At Soho Tech Labs, Berry, Jonah Peretti, Ken Lerer, and Eric Hippeau are seeding and founding multiple startups. All of them worked together at The Huffington Post; Berry as CTO, Hippeau as CEO, and Lerer and Peretti as co-founders.
Berry and his team of developers worldwide are the technical masterminds behind all of companies from Soho Tech Labs. His job is to make sure the ideas are executed.
Peretti’s role is to bring extreme creativity to everything Soho Tech Labs makes. Hippeau and Lerer are each other’s yin and yang, says Berry. Hippeau is a planner; Lerer is more spontaneous. They’re also extremely well connected which will help the startups raise capital. Hippeau is the incubator’s chairman. Peretti and Lerer are on its board.
Berry’s sister Megan has also joined Soho Tech Labs. She left her position at Klout, where she was its 4th employee, and is handling all marketing for the startups.
Former Huffington Post employee Ben Regenspan is the CTO of Soho Tech Labs.
One of their startups is soft launching this week, CasaHop. CasaHop a more social Airbnb for free home exchanges. It will fully launch in the next 4-6 weeks with a president from Gilt Groupe and it has seven full-time employees.
Another company is in the paperwork stage and co-founders have been hired for it.
Eric Hippeau and Ken Lerer are also working on another video startup with the working title Planet Daily. Another one or two companies are in the hopper.
When asked how Soho Tech Labs decides which startups to launch, Berry said he has a few ways to test concepts.
“Does it get people crazy excited when we talk about the idea or do they get bored?” said Berry. “If they get bored that’s not a good sign. If they get crazy into it then we go ahead.” Berry says Casahop came from Hippeau’s frustration in the social travel space. A lot of startups are trying to innovate in that area but he wasn’t excited by anything he saw. Berry’s job was to imagine something better.
Another initial test is to see if potential co-founders or executives are interested in joining the startup. If it’s relatively easy to secure talent, then Berry and his team gauge investor interest.
There are a lot of startup incubators, but speed of deployment is one edge Berry hopes Soho Tech Labs will have.
“I’ve worked with Kenny for eight years now,” says Berry. “We can jump on the phone, he’ll pitch an idea, and I’ll get my global team of designers and developers working on it. The next morning I can say, ‘Is this what you meant?'”
This quick and easy interaction between long-time, creative partners is SoHo Tech’s biggest advantage.
“It’s an amazing chemistry we all have,” Berry tells us of Lerer, Peretti and Hippeau . “All of the people in the room are so confident they don’t mind being wrong. That was so key to The Huffington Post’s success, and it’s what we’ll be doing in this incubator.”