Startup studio Hooman aims to solve Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurship problems



A new approach to growing startups is coming to Pittsburgh.

Lynsie Campbell, a founder, investor and the new inaugural startup czar for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, announced plans to launch the city’s first startup studio this year. With a working name of hooman, the new startup studio will help founders who might be at an earlier stage than most accelerators require, as well as those looking for a more hands-on approach to the early growth process.

Campbell was previously the founder of startups LaneSpotter and ShowClix. She is joined in this new studio mission by her former vice president of product at ShowClix, Nathaniel Minto — who is today the founder of New litter – and Alejandra Rovirosa, investor in several venture capital companies including Midwest Funds, where Campbell has been a general partner since February 2021.

After working under contract last summer with an Indianapolis-based startup studio High alpha, said Campbell Technically she was just “blown away by how quickly you can progress when you have a group of people working together to do it efficiently and quickly.”

“I realized that a studio in Pittsburgh could be a good solution to a lot of the issues I was hearing about.”

Lynsie CampbellHooman

Startup studios often help founders and companies conduct basic market research, gather early customer feedback, develop products, and more. These are all areas of concern Campbell has heard from local founders in his role thus far as startup czar for the PRA. As she began her role, she spoke to as many founders as possible about their experiences building here.

“A lot of the same things started coming back over and over again – you know, not enough seed funding here, first clients are really hard to find, mentoring and advisors are thin at this level [early stage] tip,” she said. “And as I started to put all of these pieces together, I realized that a studio in Pittsburgh might be a good solution to a lot of the issues that I was hearing.”

Although Hooman doesn’t have an official launch date yet, Campbell said she and her co-founders have been pushing for some time this summer. First, they will fundraise for the $250,000 to $500,000 investments they plan to make in successful ideas as they grow in the studio. The hope, she said, is that it will help solve the struggle that many young startups have to find a big lead investor in their first round. This investment comes with an equity stake the studio will take in the startups it helps, largely due to the more hands-on role it has compared to accelerators, which typically don’t take capital. Campbell said.

Hooman will focus on growing consumer startups with positive impact and positive impact on people and will aim to distribute money in different sectors.

Investors in the startup studio and founders with an idea they want to grow in the studio can apply from anywhere in the country, though Campbell hopes to have as much involvement as possible in Pittsburgh. The types of businesses Hooman will seek to develop are also flexible, although Campbell stressed that she and her team are more interested in “positive-impact, people-focused consumer startups”, hoping to spread money between different sectors, as opposed to a focus on “deep technology”. Eventually, she hopes the studio will operate from a physical space in Pittsburgh that can provide office space for workshops, meetings, marketing and other needs, as well as audiovisual and photographic equipment.

Hooman news comes after a dismal year venture capital increases for Pittsburgh, which is far behind record volumes in other parts of the country in 2021. Although the planned funding for Hooman will not be enough to fill this void, it could revive businesses here that have the potential to attract more, Campbell pointed out. And even if the studio ends up helping a startup that isn’t based in Pittsburgh reach those milestones, it’s okay with that.

“I hope there will be strong interest from founders in Pittsburgh, and ultimately I want to build great startups and I want to help founders succeed,” Campbell said. “But there’s also a big part of me that wants to continue to strengthen this ecosystem and be a place where any founder can come and learn and build and doesn’t have to be part of an existing ecosystem.”

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by Heinz endowments. -30-

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