Want to Start a Company That Changes the World? Look at the Problems You Face First

“want to start a company that changes the world? look at the problems you face first” was originally posted by hint Founder & CEO, Kara Goldin, on LinkedIn here:

I spent fourteen years in the media and tech industry at Time Warner, CNN – most of that time as VP at AOL. After those companies merged, people in tech approached me and said ‘What are you going to do next’? I answered by asking myself: “What is the difference I want to make in the world?” Somehow, I always thought that meant I would be doing something in the nonprofit world. But that didn’t work for me.

Nonprofits moved slower than I was used to, working a crazy Internet startup. And there was a bigger problem: around that time, I started to realize that didn’t feel well – at all.

When I was leading meetings, I was constantly having a Diet Coke. I was drinking between 10-12 cans a day. (Now that I’ve talked with people at Coke over the years, I’ve learned that there are more just a few of us heavy users. Even if it’s not in cans, a lot of people drinking Diet Coke are drinking at least that many ounces a day.) But at the time, I was moving so fast that I was in denial that it was having an impact. When I started to change the food I was putting into my body, including what I was drinking, I started to feel better. I also discovered my way to make a change in the world – by noticing how I lived.

Plain water was boring, so I would throw a bunch of fruit into water and keep the pitchers around my house. Friends would come by. They really liked the taste. They also knew things about the “water” industry, just starting to emerge at that time — things like the fact that the original Vitamin Water had more sugar in it than a bottle of Coke. I didn’t understand at first that I was getting an education on the industry while I was consuming the product I’d made for myself.

That flipped the switch for me. “Can it really be this easy? Can I make a product I like and others would as well?“ I decided to pull some money out of our bank account, money that I’d earned in the tech world. I went to Whole Foods. They said said if you bring me 10 cases, I’ll give you a shot. A week later, they called and said, ‘They’re gone. We need more product.”

I still didn’t view this as a mission to start a beverage company. For me, this was “I want to change things,” for myself and for my family first.

My advice for looking to make a difference: the key is to look right in front of you at problems you would like to solve. Look at Sara Blakely and what she did with Spanx. She was solving a personal problem she had, making her own pants look and fit better. That became a billion dollar business. I also admire Method soap – they originally developed their line because they were surprised by some of the ingredients in products, including animal fat in fabric softener.

Just because you want to make positive change doesn’t have to mean joining a large nonprofit. If you want to change things, the first place to look is at yourself.

“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi