‘How I Built This’ (HIBT) is a great podcast to throw on in the car on the way to work or school. It’s pretty simple. The host, Guy Raz, meets with the founders of some of America’s most innovative businesses and asks open-ended questions about their startup. The last question asked is always, “what percent of your business success comes from luck, and what comes from skill?” It’s never 100% skill. It’s usually like 50/50, 60/40, or maybe even 70/30, but never 100%. If you listen to enough HIBTs, you start to recognize some themes and the ratio of skill/luck becomes clearer. Most great businesses showcased on HIBT are started by passionate people motivated to make a difference. What I like about it is that the people are seemingly pretty ordinary and don’t often have a lot of business experience to pull from. I’ve listened to probably 50 HIBTs, and here are my biggest takeaways:
- The best businesses start with people deeply interested in solving a problem. The HIBT guests found something missing or broken and were committed to solving the problem, even if it took years. Creating a business can create the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, it’s often the passion a founder has for their idea that helps them overcome those moments. Check out the HIBT with Burt’s Bees for a good example.
- The people are pretty ordinary but do something extraordinary. They’re so motivated by solving the problem they overcome their lack of experience. They work through problems, seek expert advice, and are always experimenting. A good example is the HIBT’s with the co-founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips and co-founder of New Belgium Brewery.
- They surround themselves with good people. They find their ying to their yang, or a team of collaborative people excited about the same challenge they are. While protecting an idea may be crucial, inviting others to help shape the idea gets it ready for the market. A good example is the HIBT with the SoulCycle, founders.
When we think “problems,” we often think about the deep stuff like poverty, world hunger, or clean water. A problem doesn’t have to be that deep. Good business ideas usually start with, “I wish somebody would do….” Or, “wouldn’t it be nice if….” While we often think of the next greatest tech invention as innovation, it’s not the only form. What do you feel is broken or missing in your home town? Find someone who cares about that problem as much as you and there. We are here to help you make those connections at the JOLT@TU Business Center for Innovation!
-Nathan Woolard, email@example.com