Indianapolis-based venture studio High Alpha has formally launched its latest company—a retail technology company called Humankind that offers concierge services to online shoppers.
The launch, announced Tuesday, is High Alpha’s fourth launch this year and its 26th to date. Another four companies supported by High Alpha are operating in stealth mode because they haven’t yet been publicly launched.
Humankind’s founder and CEO is David Weissman of Los Angeles, whose 22 years of e-commerce experience includes time spent as an executive for retail chain Target Corp. and as a consultant for brands including Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Quicksilver, Beautycounter and Petsmart.
Weissman is operating Humankind as a remote company: Of the 10 employees he’s hired so far, only one is based in Indianapolis, with others in the U.S. and other countries. He said he intends to continue hiring and could have 25 or 30 employees by the end of next year.
Humankind is a business-to-business software-as-a-service company that enables retailers to make personal connections with online shoppers. Weissman said the service is ideal for “any category of shopping where someone could use the help,” such as shoes, clothing, skin care or wine.
Weissman said he’s already signed up several customers, including athletic shoe maker Saucony, TaylorMade Golf Co., The Wine Enthusiast Inc., REN Clean Skincare and others.
When a consumer lands on one of Humankind’s customer’s websites, the consumer will be invited to take a short survey about what type of products they’re looking for. A product expert will then begin a conversation with the consumer via text message, and will send the consumer custom product recommendations based on that conversation.
That text-based conversation can continue past the initial sale, Weissman said, which helps keep the retailer connected to the consumer and possibly make additional sales in the future. “With text messaging, you like to say ‘The line is always hot.’”
Before launching Humankind, Weissman had a skin care startup that used a similar type of concierge-service concept to sell products online directly to consumers. Customers loved the personalized service, Weissman said, but he ended up shutting down the company because he ran out of money before he could grow the business.
“Direct-to-consumer is very challenging for a young brand, because customer acquisition is very hard and expensive,” Weissman said. “It’s very hard to do it profitably.”
Weissman still saw promise in the online concierge model, so he decided to launch Humankind as a way to market the concept to business customers.
Weissman said he was looking for a venture partner that could help support his fledgling business, and through research he discovered High Alpha. Weissman knew High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey’s name from Dorsey’s days at ExactTarget, and he was intrigued by what he learned about High Alpha.
After several phone calls, Weissman flew to Indianapolis last fall to meet with High Alpha’s executives in person.
“We hit it off right out of the gate,” he said.
Weissman said High Alpha has already offered Humankind two rounds of investment capital to date, but both he and High Alpha declined to disclose how much.
“Every e-commerce brand is looking for high-impact solutions to elevate their customer experience,” High Alpha Partner Kristian Andersen said in a written statement. “Humankind is the first platform that truly puts the customer front and center and provides the level of personalization and attention that today’s shoppers are increasingly demanding.”