Humankind, an e-commerce technology startup that launched last fall from Indianapolis-based venture capital studio High Alpha, closed a $4.2 million seed funding round.
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 such as Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Quicksilver, Beautycounter and Petsmart.
The company currently has 16 employees, two of whom are based in Indianapolis.
Humankind is a software-as-a-service company whose platform enables retailers to connect personally with online customers via text message. The company’s current roster of clients includes hair care products 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 message who can answer questions and make product recommendations. The platform also allows retailers to stay in touch after purchase, perhaps to alert customers to 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 helpful in situations where customers may have trouble browsing through options and determining which products best suit their needs, Weissman said. “It can be very time-consuming and laborious for consumers to do all that research.”
Humanity is currently focusing on consumer product retailers. Over time, Weissman said, Humankind also sees potential to enter new markets, particularly in the travel industry and in business-to-business commerce, which continues to migrate online.
Weissman said the seed funding will allow Humankind to continue to grow its business to capitalize on the huge opportunity it sees in connecting retailers to online shoppers.
The company has added about six new employees in the past 12 months, and Weissman said he doesn’t expect to add a significant number of employees any time soon. “We have the right people on board to help us on this next growth trajectory.”
But the company expects to invest in marketing. The concept of creating human connections through e-commerce is constantly evolving, said Humankind’s chief marketing officer, 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’s a lot of market awareness that needs to be done,” Carmichael said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”