High Alpha Pilots: Jon Hubartt

by Paige Haefer

VP of Design at High Alpha

Jon, his wife Natalie, and their daughters

The Journey to Designer

Jon Hubartt has always had a creative side. From a very young age he was always sketching. His parents took notice and encouraged his hobby — one year he received a drafting table as a birthday present. Now High Alpha’s VP of Design, Jon Hubartt has found his career merging his creative interests with business — overseeing important facets of High Alpha’s company building processes.

Jon’s early interest in design led him to pick up some volunteer design work with his church. Wanting to help fully with the organization’s design and website needs, he also started learning web development. This self-led dev work continued into college while he received his degree in Art + Design from Indiana University.

A Career in Design

While studying at IU, Jon had his first exposure to a startup — an online, subscription-based coffee company. He was brought on to design the brand and user experience, his first work for equity, and tasked with learning how to build and manage the company’s e-commerce website.

From those first experiences, Jon knew he liked helping people start new things. But as a designer, there are a lot of routes you can go down. Indianapolis-based design and innovation consultancy Studio Science — called KA+A at the time — caught his eye. Although nothing was open at the time, Jon kept in contact with Design Director Nathan Sinsabaugh, and after 6 months of freelance work an opportunity with Studio Science emerged.

Studio Science was moving towards a more digital focus of product and UI and Jon had skills that would align with that. After a 90-day internship with Kristian Andersen, Studio Science’s founder, Jon was hired on full-time. For the next 7 years, Jon worked closely with many up-and-coming Indianapolis tech companies and leaders, helping to create and develop their digital assets. TinderBox, which later became Octiv before its acquisition by Conga this year, was an early client Jon worked with. Max Yoder, now Founder and CEO of Lessonly, also brought one of his early ideas through Studio Science. Jon was deep in the weeds building brands, developing products, and crafting user experiences.

“I remember staying up until 3 a.m. with Max the night before his first product launch getting the last pieces into place.”

As his experience developed at Studio Science, his favorite part of work became the “lab” projects that existed in the organization. Studio Science lab projects were a labor of love, done in addition to client work, and gave the team and opportunity to build digital products from the ground up. So when the idea for High Alpha came along, he was intrigued.

High Alpha’s Design Vision

“I got to make my side project at Studio Science my day job at High Alpha. I love helping people start something new and the prospect of getting to do that over and over again was really attractive.”

As High Alpha’s first Director of Design — and now VP — Jon is integral in making sure High Alpha remains a design-led organization. He looks at Design with a capital D, focusing on an all-encompassing question — how do we design all aspects of our businesses?

“We want everyone at High Alpha to think about how we can use design thinking and methodologies to challenge our assumptions, encourage divergent thinking, and ultimately design better businesses.”

The philosophy of High Alpha actively encourages and pushes our companies to make designers one of their first hires, hold design as a value in their organizations, and dig deep into all aspects of design, product, and user experience from the beginning.

As the organization has grown, we have taken business design to a new level. We now have a team dedicated to corporate innovation, research, and the fundamentals of business design theory — figuring out what industries make sense to partner with, innovate within, or disrupt completely. Additionally, a full-time engineering team enables us to prototype new ideas, provide strategic insight for our portfolio companies, and accelerate time to market. This convergence of the design and engineering teams has allowed Jon to tune-in and ensure the design-led philosophy is seen across all fronts.

“There is a perception that designers and engineers exist in a state of tension with each other. The reality is that they are both passionate about many of the very same things. Learning to have a unified language and collaborative team experience between those two groups is paramount.”

Chad, Mark, Kolby, and Jon — The High Alpha Design Team

The Value of Design

At many companies, design organizations are still in their early stages as they develop their footprint at a higher level. Jon’s vision focuses on design as a core competency of a company that sets the stage for how that company will grow over time. Design is a very high-value piece of a successful business.

Jon’s vision and focus on the value of design also pushes maturing designers to grow and develop a higher level of business acumen.

“At the end of the day, people who chose to go into design didn’t choose a career in art — they chose to go into business.”

The influence and value of High Alpha’s design philosophy is evident in the 11 companies that have launched out of High Alpha Studio to-date. As High Alpha continues to build out its business design practice, hopefully Design with a capital D will become a focus that organizations can’t live without. With leaders like Jon pushing this vision, that future seems like an easily attainable one.