Full confession: I am a startup fanatic. I love everything about building a disruptive business from scratch, from concept creation through go-to-market execution. But what intrigues me the most about startups is the mindset, motivation, and energy of company founders. Their passion and leadership styles are truly inspirational.
Having met with dozens of founders across multiple industries, I have noticed a key difference among them. It is so striking, that I now find myself categorizing these entrepreneurs into two distinct groups: Those who have it and those who do not. The founders who have it are routinely more solution-driven and far more successful.
So, what is this magical quality that propels founders to greater success than their counterparts? Quite simply, it’s the ones who are solving their own problem.
Founders who build companies out of their personal need to solve specific problems have intimate knowledge of the pain points felt by those in their industry. They understand the challenges, objectives, and opportunities inherent within their spaces, and know intuitively how their solution will impact the end users. Without this knowledge, founders often miss the mark and then wonder why their products are not resonating with their target markets.
Founders who build companies out of their personal need to solve specific problems have intimate knowledge of the pain points felt by those in their industry.
RetireUp is a perfect example. They are a fintech startup that provides a platform for financial advisors to more effectively engage with clients in a collaborative planning discussion. By creating a solution that addresses a core gap within the retirement planning process, they were able to develop this disruptive platform because one of the cofounders previously worked as a financial advisor. He has firsthand knowledge of the pain points felt by other financial advisors because he lived in this world.
Armed with the understanding of the problem and an innovative way to solve it, RetireUp devised a platform that strengthens the advisor-client relationship while enabling advisors to optimize their productivity and income. It’s lightning in a bottle.
It is unlikely that this revolutionary platform could have been created without insider knowledge. And it’s not enough to hire industry consultants to share this information, since they do not have any skin in the game. A financial advisor cofounder brought expertise, passion, direction, and invaluable knowledge to the venture. Not only does he understand advisors’ pain points, but he also knows the existing technologies, processes, and competitive landscape. It’s the secret sauce behind the tagline: “Created by Advisors, for Advisors.”
Of course, industry experience by itself is not enough to build a company. RetireUp’s founding was a collaborative effort that included world-class leaders, programmers, and growth engineers. They harnessed the pain felt by an industry insider and built a company around it.
Another great example: I recently had a terrific meeting with the two founders from Lit Hit, a company that provides “live-fire gamification with reactive smart targets.” These entrepreneurs are passionate target shooters who identified something missing from their range experience. The developed a solution and built a business around it. Their passion and energy were palpable. They have the industry experience and proper mindset to build something extraordinary.
Attempting to solve a gap from the outside without experiencing the pain from the industry is a tall order, indeed. The next time you hear a story about a successful startup, you can bet that at least one of the founders intimately understood the need that the company satisfied.