A CEO gives the same piece of advice to all new entrepreneurs about picking a compelling business problem to solve

kara goldin hintStef Etow

  • The best business advice from Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint, is to solve a problem you've personally faced.
  • Otherwise, you may lose interest down the road.
  • Hint was born out of Goldin's personal health struggles, but the beverage she created wound up appealing to a wider market.

Successful entrepreneurship is about knowing how to build a business from the ground up. It's also about picking the right problem to solve in the first place.

Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint, talks to tons of entrepreneurs in the nascent stages of starting a company. And she gives them all the same piece of advice: Choose a problem you've personally experienced.

"You start to lose interest if it isn't something that you really see is truly solving a problem for yourself or someone you really love," she told Business Insider.

"If you're a founder and you don't have any affiliation with the product," she added, it's tougher.

"It's very rare that I hear entrepreneurs say, 'Well, I've heard all of this from lots of consumers and therefore I've decided to launch a product.' Instead, it typically starts with you or somebody you know. So you're really passionate about it and you're really attached to it in some way and then you go out and talk to people and really see what the market is."

Read more: Taking someone else's startup idea and making it better might sound like cheating - but it's exactly how the most successful founders work

Hint was born out of Goldin's frustrations with her health

This is the approach Goldin took in 2005, when launching Hint, which makes natural-flavored water and natural-scented sunscreen.

Goldin speaks often about her struggles with weight management, low energy levels, acne - and a diet soda habit - around the time she started tinkering with fruit slices and water in her kitchen. That is to say, Hint was born out of Goldin's individual frustrations, but the product ended up appealing to a much wider market.

Goldin's advice recalls wisdom from Brad Katsuyama, the CEO of upstart stock exchange IEX (and the star of Michael Lewis' 2014 bestseller, "Flash Boys").

At Business Insider's 2018 IGNITION conference, Katsuyama said, "You have to have experienced the problems that you're trying to solve" as an entrepreneur.

IEX was born out of Katsuyama's experience as a trader at Royal Bank of Canada: He founded the company in 2012 as a new exchange that would prevent the predatory trading that took place on traditional US exchanges.

As for Goldin, she doesn't hesitate to tell entrepreneurs that they've got it all backward. "When I meet entrepreneurs, I frequently say, if the first few reasons that come out of their mouth are, 'Well, I've always wanted to be a beverage executive' or, 'There's this product that's out there and I heard that they sold it for $1 billion and I think I can do that too,' it's the wrong reason."

That's not to say that just because you've experienced a particular issue, success will come easy. You'll still need to gauge the size of the opportunity and the market. Goldin's point is more that if you start with something more abstract, the entrepreneurial journey will be that much harder.

She said, "The chances of actually being super successful are limited if you can't really put yourself in the shoes."

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