Humankind, an ecommerce technology startup that launched last fall out of Indianapolis-based venture studio High Alpha, has closed on a $4.2 million round of seed funding.
Indianapolis-based High Alpha Capital and Los Angeles-based Strand Equity were the co-leaders of the funding round, with additional participation from a handful of other investors.
Operating as a virtual-first company, Humankind is led by Los Angeles-based CEO David Weissman, who has 23 years of e-commerce experience. Weissman’s resume includes time spent as an executive for retailer Target Corp. and as a consultant for brands including Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Quicksilver, Beautycounter and Petsmart.
The company currently has 16 employees, including two based in Indianapolis.
Humankind is a software-as-a-service company whose platform allows retailers to make personal connections with online customers via text message. The company’s current list of customers includes hair-care product maker Olaplex, athletic shoe maker Saucony, and wine/accessories retailer Wine Enthusiast, among others.
Humankind customers can invite online shoppers to connect with a product expert via text who can answer questions and make product recommendations. The platform also allows retailers to stay in touch post-purchase—perhaps to alert customers of upcoming sales or promotions.
Weissman said Humankind’s goal is to enable its customers to bring “the joy of a trusted person” to online shoppers.
A human guide can be especially useful in situations where customers may struggle to wade through options and figure out what products best fit their needs, Weissman said. “It can be really time-consuming and laborious for consumers to do all that research.”
Humankind is currently focusing on consumer-product retailers. Over time, Weissman said, Humankind sees potential to get into some new markets as well—particularly in the travel industry and in business-to-business commerce, which continues to migrate online.
Weissman said the seed funding will enable Humankind to continue to scale its business to take advantage of the huge opportunity it sees in connecting retailers with online shoppers.
The company has added about six new employees over the past 12 months, and Weissman said he doesn’t foresee adding a significant number of employees soon. “We’ve got the right people on board to help with this next growth trajectory.”
But the company does expect to invest in marketing. The concept of making human connections via e-commerce is still evolving, said Humankind’s director of marketing, Erika Carmichael. So, she said, one of the company’s big goals right now is to explain to retailers what Humankind’s platform does and why they should use it.
“There is a lot of market awareness that needs to be done,” Carmichael said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”