Building a successful startup business on your own is very challenging.
Luckily there are many options for startup entrepreneurs who need help building their businesses.
One option is to bring on a technical co-founder, and another is to join an incubator or a startup accelerator.
Another route which is becoming increasingly popular is to work with a startup studio.
This guide will take an in-depth look at startup studios and cover the following topics:
🚀 What exactly is a startup studio?
🚀 How do startup studios work?
🚀 Types of startup studios.
🚀 Who are the top startup studios?
🚀 When should you work with a startup studio?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about startup studios in 2023.
How Do Startup Studios Work?
A startup studio creates a pool of resources and uses them to aid the success of all of the businesses it is working on or with.
Some startup studios generate the majority of their business ideas internally, but most will also partner with other businesses and apply their resources to help make them a success.
Startup studios usually provide investment to a business they decide to work with, either as financial investment or sweat equity.
But they also employ people with a diverse set of skills, all of them relevant to building startups.
Startup studios will typically have experienced teams who can take care of all relevant aspects of building a business, including its day-to-day operations, product development, management, marketing, design, and sales.
This differentiates them from venture capital firms in that startup studios don’t just provide capital, but also function as co-founders who apply their resources and expertise to help build the business.
This means that entrepreneurs partnering with startup studios benefit from working with expert teams to build their businesses.
It also means that founders who have startup ideas or very early-stage startups can partner with startup studios, which is not usually the case with venture capital firms.
One of the first examples of a startup studio is Idealab, which was founded by Bill Gross in 1996.
It is a great example of how effective the startup studio model is.
According to Sunny Shuoyang Zhang, in her article celebrating Idealab’s 25th birthday:
Idealab’s company success rate is 70%, 35% of successful companies IPO’d or were acquired, and 5% of companies became unicorns. In contrast, VC-backed companies had a success rate of 33%, with 28% exits, and 1% unicorns.
Types of Startup Studios
According to Wikipedia’s article on startup studios, there are two types of startup studios.
Builder studios generate ideas internally and build them into successful businesses.
A venture studio partners with external founders and early-stage startups and helps them grow their businesses by providing investment and expertise.
Who Are the Top Startup Studios?
Since our focus is to help startup founders, we will only be giving examples of the “venture studio” startup studio type.
Here is a list of five top startup studios you can partner with in 2023.
Although the original Idealab is a builder studio, i.e. they only work on ideas generated internally by their team, Bill Gross founded Idealab Studio as a venture studio in 2008.
They are both based in Pasadena, California.
Idealab Studio is supported by the team at Idealab and can draw on the knowledge acquired by them over the last 25 years, during which they have “created over 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs and acquisitions.”
Their areas of focus include:
- AI & Robotics
- Clean Energy/Environment
Some of the notable companies they have partnered with and invested in include:
Idealab Studio identifies startups they want to partner with from their side, so they do not accept business plan submissions, but you can get in touch with them via their website.
Hexa takes the portfolio concept of a startup studio one step further, by combining three startup studios into a portfolio company of startup studios. Or, as the founders prefer to call it, a startup ecosystem.
Their story starts in 2011, when Thibaud Elziere and Quentin Nickmans co-founded the startup studio eFounders.
According to Hexa’s Medium article, Introducing Hexa, the concept of eFounders was “based on the premise that building companies in teams achieve better outcomes.”
eFounders was incredibly successful, and “launched over 30 companies, including three unicorns, in partnership with over 80 incredible founders who now work with a total of 2,800 people all across the world.”
However, eFounders was focused specifically on companies within the SaaS vertical. Following the success of the eFounders startup studio, the two founders decided to create two more startup studios, each focused on a different vertical.
This is how LogicFounders, focused on fintech, and 3founders, focused on web3 applications, were born.
At the end of November 2022, they announced that they were combining all three studios into Hexa, based in Paris.
Hexa’s areas of focus include:
eFounders focuses on product-led SaaS. Some of the notable companies that they have partnered with include:
LogicFounders focuses on fintech applications and has partnered with the following companies:
3founders focuses on web3 applications and has partnered with the following companies:
Hexa operates slightly differently than other startup studios. They generate their own ideas, which they then pitch to founders who have gone through their assessment process to identify whether they want to work with them.
If you think you have what it takes to work with them on developing an idea into a successful startup, you can apply to be a founder here.
MOHARA is a startup studio and digital product development agency that was founded in 2015 by Richard Sams and Ben Blomerley.
Richard Sams explains:
Our innovative sweat equity model makes MOHARA unique as a startup studio. We take an equity stake in exchange for providing our skills and expertise, meaning that we are invested in our partners’ success.
We provide our expertise at cost, meaning you access some of the world’s best startup creators for a fraction of the price you’d pay anywhere else.
And we only make a return if your startup works.
We have over ten years of experience developing software solutions, and a team of more than 75 product managers and engineers who have built thousands of products.
We can function as your tech co-founder and handle all responsibility for developing a winning product, from ideation to execution.
We have collectively functioned as the tech co-founder for more than 20 startup ventures.
So whether you’re an early-stage startup or a scale-up, we can provide the perfect place to build products that translate into results.
We are based in London but have offices in Cape Town, Bangkok, and Guadalajara.
If you are a pioneering founder with a great startup idea or an early-stage startup, get in touch with us to become a partner.
Builders is a startup studio that was founded by Michael van Lier in 2015.
According to their website, they are “a startup studio that empowers entrepreneurs to build impactful software companies at scale within Europe by combining our experience in early-stage validation, operational excellence, and pre-seed funding.”
The way that they work is by conducting market research to identify trends within their target markets. They then look for opportunities they think will be impactful within these trends and partner with experienced entrepreneurs to co-found startup businesses around those opportunities.
They are based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Some of the key areas they have identified that they think currently offer opportunities are:
- Tenant Commerce
- Streamlined Communication
- Access and Visitor Management
- Tenant Engagement
- ESG Monitoring Software
Some of the notable businesses they have partnered with are:
Similar to Hexa, Builders generate their ideas and then work with co-founders who have gone through their approval process.
If you want to co-found a startup with them, you can apply to build with them.
Expa was launched in 2013 by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp to “support the next generation of founders.”
According to their website, “Expa Studio combines design expertise, operational support, and capital to turn bold ideas into category-defining companies. As a founding partner, we work with visionary founders by providing hands-on guidance with branding and positioning, product design and development, and fundraising for future rounds.”
Expa is both a startup studio and an early-stage startup investor.
They generate and develop their own ideas and partner with founders to develop their startup ideas through Expa Studio.
They also invest in early-stage startups through Expa Ventures and provide those startups with other resources, such as advice and access to networks.
They have offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and London.
Expa doesn’t have any specific areas of focus and will work with startups in any sector.
Some of the businesses they have helped to launch are:
Expa only works with a select few companies at a time but they are always open to receiving submissions, so if you think you have a disruptive business idea you can submit it to them via email.
When Should You Partner with a Startup Studio?
As we have seen, the benefits of partnering with a startup studio are myriad.
Startup studios can provide startup founders with combined resources and knowledge that would be difficult for them to obtain on their own.
They can help with product development, strategic advice, access to investors and funding, and assistance with business processes like sales and marketing.
This means that any early-stage startup or a founder with innovative ideas can benefit from working with a startup studio.
Get in touch to discuss your startup with MOHARA.