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Kit, a social network for products from startup studio Expa, names its first CEO

TechCrunch TechCrunch 10/05/2016 Ingrid Lunden

One of the startups incubated at startup studio Expa is today taking its next step in developing as a standalone company. Kit, a social network where people can share their favorite products — think Pinterest or Product Hunt, but here assembling your “kits” — is appointing its first CEO, Camille Hearst.

Hearst has been with Expa and Kit since March 2015, after an impressive run at Google, Apple iTunes and transport app Hailo. Kit itself — which launched publicly in November 2015 — was built on a concept and design from both Hearst and Naveen Selvadurai, one of the co-founders of Foursquare who is Expa’s New York-based partner. The move to add the CEO role and put Hearst into it is a signal that Kit is now “fully operational,” the company tells me.

Other startups that have been conceived and incubated in Expa include Operator, Current and Spot.

New York’s startup landscape may often be compared to that of Silicon Valley, but one of the big differentiators has been the role of the “startup studio” in New York, which not only helps conceive and cultivate ideas but helps grow them into startups.

Why do so many of them thrive in New York versus SF? Some think it has to do with the relative lack of maturity in the startup ecosystem, where the landscape is less diverse and a lot less populated than on the West Coast.

These studios essentially fill a gap and act like incubators, but also Petri dishes, and there have been some very notable alums, for example Betaworks spawning the likes of GIF database Giphy, much used thanks to popular integrations with platforms like Slack and Twitter.

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, leaders of three of these — Betaworks’ John Borthwick, Human Ventures’ Heather Hartnett and Expa’s Naveen Selvadurai — sat down with Mike Butcher to chat about what they are doing differently when they turn ideas into businesses.

“A lot of the products that we create at Betaworks, we’re co-founders in those products,” noted Borthwick.

“We fashion ourselves builders and the studio lets us do that,” added Selvadurai.

Unsurprisingly, the studios think their way of doing things, and the smaller scale, makes for a more quality process. “Things are getting funded that maybe shouldn’t be,” Hartnett noted about the state of affairs in Silicon Valley.

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