Ep. 139 – Hint Inc. COO, Theo Goldin

Ep. 139 – Hint Inc. COO, Theo Goldin

Starting a business with your partner may not be the most ideal thing for some. But for Theo Goldin, it has become one of the greatest decisions he has made. Together with his wife, Kara Goldin, they started Hint Inc. a healthy lifestyle brand known for its delicious unsweetened flavored water. He takes us into the birth of this great company and the role he has as the Chief Operating Officer. Moving us far back, Theo shares his early student career in law school and later on working in IT with companies like Netscape. He also talks about Hint Inc.’s startup stage, including investing and funding, and then what it is like running a company with your wife, revealing some of the mistakes and success points they had along the way.

Theo Goldin, the COO of Hint Inc., manages sales, operations, and R&D. Prior to Hint, Theo served as lead technology counsel for Netscape online services business, and as CEO of ZMedix, an AI-based medical startup acquired by the Robert Bosch Foundation. His earlier career included work in molecular biology research and IT. Theo deal holds a JD from NYU School of Law and is a graduate of Amherst College, where he majored in English with significant coursework in chemistry. Theo, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me on.

I’ve got a couple of things that I wanted to ask you about quickly. The first one is, what year were you at NYU for law?

I graduated in ‘94, so I started in the fall of ‘91.

Do you remember a guy in your class named Monte Baier? He was a Jewish kid from Dartmouth and had come back from backpacking through Southeast Asia. He’s now the Chief Legal Counsel for Panda.

I don’t think I knew him. Although I probably know a lot of people who’d meet that description working for Panda.

He might have been there. He and I backpacked through Southeast Asia together for seven months and I showed up at NYU. He was living in an NYU residence and started law school that September. He dropped out for about six months because of Epstein-Barr. Do you remember what that thing is? He went back in again but he was there around when you were there. It was my first time ever being in New York City and actually found NYU. I found the law school and was sitting in the lobby at the dorm and this guy walks in as I’m asking if Monte Baier lives there. He goes, “Cammy.” I turned around, he was walking in from playing squash.

I wasn’t that connected to the school when I was there. Maybe that sounds weird but in college, everyone immerses themselves in the social life of the school. It’s like your whole life is at school. I worked for a couple of years and I don’t even remember why I decided to go to law school. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

That’s what the smart people did prior to the dot-com era.

I guess that might be right. I thought, “It’s useful.” I run into young people all the time who tell me they’re going to law school and I asked them, “Why are you going?” It’s more because I want to figure out why I went. It’s never, “I want to be a lawyer.” It’s like, “I want to be a sports agent and there are a lot of lawyers who are sports agents.” I always encourage them not to do that. It’s expensive. It takes a lot of time and there are easier ways to become a sports agent. I had fun there. There, I met Kara, early on during school. My life didn’t revolve around school. There were fifteen hours of classes, I probably went to about 10 or 12 of them, and did 4 or 5 hours of homework, worked about 25 hours a week, and did whatever I wanted to. It wasn’t that hard, but it was a way to get a legal degree and get started.

I can’t believe you’re graduating from NYU law school and telling me it wasn’t hard. The only undergraduate degree in Canada that had a law major and I went to school in Ottawa, Carleton University, so I did four years of undergrad law and I studied my ass off to get a solid 2.0 or 2.2 grade point average. I loved it.

For me, there’s a zeitgeist to it. It’s the way people think, the way they talk about cases, once you see the pattern to it.

I didn’t study hard enough. I was also starting eternity and ski racing for the university. I was all over the map but I love contract law, employment law, and the international import-export stuff. It was fascinating. Do you take a lot of your skills from law and carry it with you in business now?

It’s definitely useful to us on a regular basis, multiple times a week. I’m pretty dialed into the legal issues that could become important. We’re relatively organized about the paperwork and all that stuff. When someone starts working, we have all the agreements in place. When we do a deal for whether it’s marketing or production, I don’t need to ask a lawyer, “What does this mean? What should we structure it?” It’s useful. A lot of what I used isn’t stuff that I learned in law school. It’s the stuff that I learned when I was practicing, so I spent a few years at a big firm in San Francisco, I went to Netscape and was their lead technology counsel for their online services business.

How many years were you at Netscape?

It was ‘97 until the end in ’99 until they got acquired.

Marc Andreessen, Jim Clark, and Jim Barksdale were they as crazy as I’ve read, like the ADD Bipolar manic?

By the standards nowadays, no. Back then, maybe they seemed crazy but no one had met Elon Musk yet. There’s a whole new level of crazy. It ratchets up every couple of years.

It does. I had met Elon Musk back then. I was a reference for Elon in his first round of funding in January of 1995 for Zip2 and because Kimball, his brother, worked for me in ‘93 at College Pro Painters up in Canada. His cousin, who builds SolarCity works for me as well, Peter Rive. There is a whole new level of crazy now. They wouldn’t back Elon Musk back then because he hadn’t done anything, he was unproven and he was too crazy. They wanted to back Kimball based on his operations experience of having run a house painting business now.

SIC 139 | Hint Inc.
Hint Inc.: If you had a fund and you only invest in serial entrepreneurs, you would probably not make that much money.

 

I’m always amazed at the thinking that goes into whether you decide to back someone new, someone who hasn’t done something big before, because if you look at it, the biggest things tend to be done by the people who’ve never done anything before. Not that people can’t have a repeat win but there are definitely serial entrepreneurs out there. If you had a fund and you only invest in serial entrepreneurs, you would probably not make that much money.

You’d be bankrupt. You’d be in a lot of trouble for sure. What did you see at Netscape? It’s extraordinary that you got involved with them at such an early stage. You look back and you go, “Of course, I’d work there,” but you got there in ‘97 when the internet was still evolving.

I went to law school in New York and I love technology. I had worked in it for a couple of years before law school. I came to tech late in life, because my parents were not engineers or anything. When I went to law school, I had in my mind that I would want to be an in-house attorney at some tech company. I didn’t know that much about tech companies, but I knew I like technology and I wanted to work at it. I wasn’t an engineer. I couldn’t go in as an engineer. Although looking back on it, I probably could have done that.

When I got out of school, I needed to probably get a little experience at a big firm and make sure I know what I’m doing because I didn’t learn any of that in law school. I found a great job in the Business and Technology Group at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, which was a great firm that has since gone. We did work with all these tech guys. I did it for a few years and I felt I learned what I needed to know to be able to do deals in Silicon Valley. It was time to go and I thought, “I’ll go to a startup.”

Unexpectedly, I got a call from a recruiter from Netscape and I thought that this is such a dumb idea because it’s already public, I’m not going to make that much money going there but what I saw in them was it’s this still fairly small company that created the first commercially viable browser. They’re up against this phenomenal threat from Microsoft that has all this power to exclude them from the operating system. They were starting to bundle their own thing. It seemed that they were going to have to scramble if they were going to survive.

I thought, “I’m going to learn more in a couple of years at a company like that than I’ll ever learn in a startup.” In a startup, I’ll deliver value. I’ll know how to do deals, I’ll help them succeed, and I might make a lot of money but if I go to Netscape, I’ll see what it takes to take on the big guys. I couldn’t have been more satisfied with that aspect of it. In the first week I was there, I did a deal with Amazon and it was an 80 or 90-hour week. I was sleeping in the office stealing Captain Crunch out of the developer’s desk for dinner. It was crazy.

Amazon hadn’t even started. Amazon was a speck in ’97.

Amazon was a bookstore. They were up against Barnes & Noble. The question was, “Were they going to be able to beat Barnes & Noble?” No one would even think about that now. They were tough negotiators. There were a series of deals that I did that I was working 70 to 80 hours a week for a couple of years until that merger. I don’t know where I could have possibly learned more.

I know this is a hypothetical question, but do you think that your few years at Netscape would have given you more experience than ever having done an MBA? Knowing what law school was, do you think you got the MBA equivalent working there?

Yes and no. The most valuable thing you get with an MBA from a top school is access to the network. You’re plugging into some amazing business people who can help you get shut down. I’ve met a lot of great people at Netscape and I have relationships with a few of them that are helpful, and I learned a lot, but there are some business things I didn’t learn until we started Hint.

I want to switch gears into talking about Hint, but I’m also curious about one other thing. You said that you have an incredible network of people that you can plug into that can help you get things done. When we went to school, like when you were in law school, and I’m about the same age, we had to be the smartest people in the room or you at least had to memorize everything because there was the library. We didn’t have the internet. I didn’t have a computer in undergrad. You can’t look anything up because there was nowhere to go to look at anything and now it’s no longer about being the smartest person in the room, it’s how do you know who they are. Did you have to learn that as a skill to scale the company that you no longer have to be the one to know it all?

Kara often says, “When you’re hiring, you should hire people who are better than you are at the thing that they do.” We’ve had some good success doing that like Julio Pekarovic, who’s our CFO. He is someone who we brought in early on as a board member and later as CFO. He ran sales finance at Google and he’s got a lot of skills and experience that we didn’t have, so he’s a great member of the management team. In running a beverage company, you do have to be the smartest person in the room. I love our team. They’re amazing at what they do. We’ve put together one of the best teams in the beverage industry, but they’re not necessarily each the smartest person. They’re smart. We don’t hire stupid people, but there’s a lot of management that you have to do. There is stuff you’re going to see as a founder and a senior member of the team that other people aren’t going to see.

They’re not going to recognize it.

I was in EO, Entrepreneurs Organization, we talked about that and there was talk about how you need to find your way from working in the business to working on the business. That’s what it is to scale it. You have to get to where you’re managing other people who are doing the bulk of the work. Of course, we’ve had to do that. We have about 200 people in the business, so we can’t do everything but there are still some things that are important to do where you have to think it through.

Let’s go back to when you and Kara started the company. When did you start Hint and what were you thinking?

I still think about this. In 2004, we had three kids. I felt like we sort of had a handle on the family. Kara had had some personal struggles with her weight and her health. Each time we had a kid, she gained a little weight and didn’t lose it afterward. I didn’t think she looked bad but she looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize herself. She’d seen doctors like nutritionists and no one gave her a clear answer. One day, she realized, “I have all these diet cokes all day like 8 or 10 of them a day and after each one, I feel a little hungry so I’ll have a cookie, a piece of a muffin, or something. It adds up throughout the day. I’m addicted to diet soda.” She said, “I’m going to try to drink water for two weeks. Only water and maybe some coffee in the morning.”

I didn’t think she could do it because she had this Big Gulp in her hand like it was glued to her hand. She did it and she came over to me after a couple of weeks and she said, “I stepped off the scale and I lost over twenty pounds in the last 2.5 weeks.” It is so insane how big a difference it makes, but it is also mind-numbingly boring to drink water all day. I’ve got to figure this out. She started slicing fruit and putting it in the water, letting it sit in the fridge overnight with different variations of that and it got her over the hump. It wasn’t fantastic but it was better than plain water. This idea started to form in her mind that maybe there’s a business there because she looked around and she didn’t find any product that seemed like that in the store.

Honestly, I was working on ZMedix, I wasn’t paying any attention to what she was doing other than we would work out together every day but I didn’t know she was thinking about starting a beverage company. Until one day I walked in after playing with the kids in the backyard and Kara said, “Theo, sit down.” That’s never a good thing. Every guy knows that’s not going to be a good conversation. She’s like, “No, it’s okay. Sit down. I have to talk to you.” She said, “This thing with unsweetened flavored water that I’ve been playing around with all summer, it’s going to be a business. I can launch this business in less than nine months, which is around when we’re having our fourth kid, so I might need your help,” and she stared at me. That’s how she told you she was pregnant. 

That’s ridiculous. That’s the classic entrepreneurial seizure if there ever was one.

SIC 139 | Hint Inc.
Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters

I was like, “What are you talking about?” She said, “The flavored water.” I’m like, “No. The kid. We weren’t going to have any more kids.” She said, “You know how I had that cold a couple of weeks ago, and it was a bad cough and I was taking antibiotics. It turns out antibiotics and birth control pills are not compatible.” I verified that with a doctor right away. Evidently, a true thing but neither of us knew that at the time. They should put a bigger label on there. Justin is a great kid and the water thing is working out nicely years later. That’s how we got into it. She was like, “I’m going to be pregnant. I’m not going to be able to do a bunch of stuff but I want to get this thing out there quickly and see if it’s something that people like.”

You were the classic second in command because here’s your wife who’s got the entrepreneurial seizure. She’s got the idea she wants to start the company. You’re sitting there going, “Oh crap.” What did you do? Did you keep your job with ZMedix and funded it until you got it up and running?

We were in the process of winding that down, not winding it down, but selling it off. The founder and I didn’t see eye to eye on how to commercialize. It was an AI-driven patient interview that got much better info out of the patient and enabled the doctor to care for their patient more proactively and better. It’s a great idea and it works well. I wanted to do a consumer app and he wanted to sell it through doctors.

It was probably a couple of years too early. It probably would have been great now.

We gave it a good home. The Robert Bosch Foundation owns a whole bunch of hospitals in Europe, and they bought it. Presumably, they’re still working on it. I thought about what Kara was saying and I realized that the reason I wanted to help my business partner with ZMedix is that I wanted to be able to help make America healthier. If we could get even a small number of people to fall in love with water instead of sugary drinks or diet drinks, that might make a much bigger difference in their health. It seemed the next logical step. It was sitting there in front of me, and I didn’t even have to think anything up. Kara had already come up with the perfect idea and we didn’t know whether we could do it or not, so I said, “Sure. I’ll try and do it.”

In the business world, it’s already tough enough to have partners or work with other entrepreneurial leaders in that startup stage so you’ve gone through that together. Marriage is historically pretty tough. I don’t know what it is but 50% of marriages fail and 85% of businesses fail. You guys have overcome some serious odds. What’s worse? How have you gotten through it? I can’t say it’s been easy or hasn’t been easy?

No. There have been enough challenges to fill a book and more. Kara launched her new book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters. I wrote a good chunk of that with her. if you want to see all the different challenges you could run into, you could read the book and you could probably still talk to me for 8 or 10 hours and there’d be more challenges. It’s not that easy. Kara and I have always had a relationship where we help each other with our careers. We have complementary skills.

When she was doing sales at AOL, I’d help her put together spreadsheets and think about how to structure things. When I was doing stuff in Netscape and if there were weird political stuff going on, Kara would always see through to understand what was going on with people. We’ve learned a lot from one another. We’re both a lot better and more rounded people than when we first met in ’92. We’ve known each other for a long time.

It didn’t seem a big thing to start a company together. I know that might sound crazy, but it seems like that’s what we do. Why don’t we actually make that a job? There is a good reason not to and the good reason not to is you don’t have any money. You’re both trying to start something. There’s no one who has a stable job but we had traded off having one of us having a stable job, while the other took a chance back and forth a few times. We’d done pretty well with AOL and Netscape and we figured we could afford to take a chance.

It’s working out. There are so many stories of people that have tried to start up the beverages and get destroyed by the Cokes, the Pepsis, or whomever. What do you think has allowed you to be successful in this space?

From day one, we’ve been all about the product and the proposition for the consumer. We’ve been guided by making the consumer happier and happier and we’ve been patient brand builders. We didn’t try to make this thing take off in two years and sell it to somebody. We did things that always made sense for the brand, never to look good to investors. That was hard sometimes like in ‘08 and ‘09 when everyone thought the sky was falling. There was a lot of pressure on young brands to be able to show growth. We saw lots of beverage companies going out and doing Buy One Get One Free deal to get into stores. We were asked to do that too and we said to the stores, “We can’t do that because we want to be here tomorrow.”

We’re not going to do it by making stupid deals, losing a lot of money, and go into investors and saying, “We have no money but we have momentum.” We’ll get destroyed. We’ll lose the whole company. We had a flat year. From ’08 to ’09, we did not grow but we did have plenty of same-store sales growth, we didn’t have any new accounts and we were able to get the company funded and keep going and doubled in 2010 and lots of success ever since then. There are definitely tough times that you run into.

How many rounds of funding have you done?

That’s a complicated question because we self-funded originally, which was a continuous round of writing checks into the company as needed until we were confident that we had something that people weren’t going to lose their money on. We had lots of friends and family in the first three years who thought it was a great idea and wanted to invest. We didn’t take a dime from any of them. We wrote every check ourselves until we solve the one big problem of how do we make this a shelf-stable product that we know we can scale up through regular distribution. There’s a whole story about that. That’s a good story in the book. We did a common round and because we’d put all this money in, we didn’t need to have a traditional preferred and common structure and we wanted everyone to have the same incentives.

Our initial thought was, “Let’s do common stock.” You’re not giving employees a big discount on their options but who cares that that’s not critical. We never had trouble hiring anyone because of that so we did ’08, in the middle of the crisis in ‘09, and did one more common round in 2010. Those were all tiny rounds that you might not even call them a round. We were in a pretty tough financial situation and had agreed to some complicated things that I wish we hadn’t done that made it hard to bring in outside investors other than our existing outside investors. We cleaned up the cap table and basically went to a preferred stock structure that’s much more traditional. We did our Series A, we had a Series B and a Series C and none of them have been that big. We’ve raised about $100 million for more than fifteen years.

What was the stuff that you wish you hadn’t agreed to or the stuff that was hard?

We were obsessed that we didn’t want to do it down round. There are a lot of reasons to try to avoid doing a down round but if there’s a global economic crisis, do what you have to do.

For anybody who doesn’t know what a down round is you raise money. The valuation is lower than the valuation you probably raised.

We didn’t want to do that. We thought we had good reasons. In hindsight, we were making things too complicated, so we came up with this complicated warrant structure where, upon liquidity, the investors in that round in ‘09 would have gotten additional chairs for free right before a liquidity event, so wouldn’t change control of the company. The problem is because they were all contingent on what the valuation was at the time of a liquidity event, they were complicated. Anyone looking at the company and trying to value it would assume that they all would be issued. It was like if you went for outside investment, they will treat it like you did a down round anyway. It was so complicated that it confused people. That was the one thing we did that I would probably do differently. In the end, it hasn’t changed anything, but it was a lot of mental anguish that could have been avoided.

SIC 139 | Hint Inc.
Hint Inc.: Remember, you wouldn’t have a job if there weren’t so many problems because that’s what you do. You’re there to fix those problems. Don’t get upset.

 

How about in terms of the rest of the growth from 2010 until now, what do you think have been the real keys to your success now? Has it been the distribution? Is the brand? Is it marketing? Is it the customer?

For a beverage company, we always focused on improving same-store sales by basically strengthening the brand every year rather than increasing distribution. We grew distribution a lot slower than most beverage companies and as a result, if you look at our sales per store, every single year for fifteen years, it goes up. Almost nobody who’s growing fast can say that they’re increasing their sales per store at the same time. Our CARG is almost 50% in the last few years and we’re still growing same-store sales.

We hit a point about a few years ago where we were missing an opportunity to grow the footprint a little bit faster. We expanded the sales team at that point. At the same time, we have direct to consumer. DrinkHint.com is our site. We ship those cases. During the pandemic that March and April 2020 timeframe when things were scary, we had over 50% of our sales via eCommerce. I’m pretty sure there’s no other beverage company that did that.

That’s crazy because there was a bit of a water thing. It’s interesting. I’m not your target client. I’m either drinking water out of the tap in Vancouver or I’m probably still drinking out of filtered water instead of the fridge or whatever or it’s wine and I haven’t drank soda in forever. One of my kids hasn’t had anything but water in years and he’s excited to try this because he decided a few years ago to drink water. I’m like, “Alright.” He’s like, “Nothing else can be good for you.” It was because of a friend of mine, this 80-year-old guy named Joel Weldon. It was more than 35 years ago on a plane and was drinking Diet Coke.

He said, “This can’t be good for me and I want to live a long time. I’m not going to drink anything except water starting now. No coffee, no juice, no nothing. Only water.” Joel water skis the same number of times in a year as his age. In 2020, he did 80 days of waterskiing. I’m talking hardcore slalom cuts crazy stuff. He was up on one of those new things that they’re doing. He’s hydroplaning. He’s like, “It’s water. It’s good for you.” I’m like, “Yeah.” How are people finding out about this stuff? I heard about it first a few years ago from Allison Maslin and my sister bumps into your wife at some mastermind events and she can’t stop talking about Hint and my girlfriend’s talking about Hint. What’s going on?

It depends on who the people are. Silicon Valley embraced Hint early on, so the first chef at Google had discovered Hint and served it in their cafeteria. When they had these micro kitchens and break rooms, modern break rooms, they started putting it in there. As people have moved from Google to other ventures, they’ve been asking, “Do you guys have Hint water?” We actually got calls from recruiters saying, “How do we get Hint water?” That’s the number one question that trips me up when I’m trying to get a candidate in here. We got all these foodservice distributors in the valley and a lot of the financial companies like the VCs, and some of the banks started carrying Hint. Deloitte has a big training center down in Texas and they have Hint water there. It’s a big resort that they built. That’s one.

That makes perfect sense because I remember back in ‘99 and 2000 when I was working in Seattle in the dot-com era. I can’t remember the name of the company. Starbucks funded them and they were delivering stuff to my office but they used to deliver my Fiji Water. I’d get a case of Fiji. Fiji Water was the big thing years ago if you were in the dot-com era but it’s only water. It has no good flavoring.

It’s from a dictatorship across an ocean.

Exactly. That was one and said you invested in sales.

We got into Target a few years ago, and we’ve built a big business with Target. They had a hard year in 2020 with the pandemic with a lot fewer customers going in there but we’ve continued to do well there. We’ve built out most major grocery accounts and are still growing fast in all of them even the ones we’ve been in the longest. There’s the direct to consumer business, which we launched in a serious way, about a few years ago. We’ve found that even though it’s expensive to ship a heavy product like water, we’ve figured out how to make that work for us and we spend a lot of money on advertising. Advertising often leads to sales on DrinkHint.com but it also leads to sales on Amazon, Walmart.com, and in grocery stores as well because most people don’t buy beverages online, they buy them in grocery stores still.

When you’re measuring your cost per acquisition against your lifetime value of a customer are you considering that if I spend $1 and make $1 direct to consumer, I’m also making 3X because of where they’re buying it the rest of the year?

We are pretty conservative so we don’t factor in that big halo effect even though there’s reason to believe it’s actually bigger than the direct effect. Our cost of acquisition is around $50 and our lifetime value online is close to $300. To justify what we’re doing, we don’t need to factor in and we want to be conservative about that because it’s a changing world. We want to make sure that business can stand on its own even though we know that it isn’t only that. There’s a lot of growth in grocery stores.

What’s not working for you guys now with marketing? What used to work a few years and you are moving away from, avoiding the P word?

We’ve gradually evolved our marketing and it’s working well. We never did a lot of celebrity stuff. Back in the day, I used to go get a basketball player and put them on a billboard holding up the bottle saying, “Drink this,” even though he didn’t drink that. Everyone eventually figured that most of those celebrities don’t drink the things that they’re pimping out there. We have multiple celebrity investors, but we don’t talk about them because we’re not using them for marketing. Advertising works. We did a lot of radio in 2019 that worked great. We did some TV as well. We even have a Super Bowl commercial.

Radio works for products like consumer packaged goods.

People forget about radios

Radio is amazing. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has gone from $100 million to $450 million because of radio and they’ll continue to scale but it’s a different service but to market water via radio is amazing.

It’s not the main way that we market water, but it’s in the mix and people respond to it. There are companies that have built beverage businesses largely on the radio like Nantucket Nectars. If you talk to Tom First, who built that along with another Tom, who his partners with they did radio ads. It was them on the radio. You won’t hear me on the radio because I don’t think that’s my thing. We do radio ads and they work. We did some fun TV ads and we put one of them on the Super Bowl in San Francisco and New York in 2019 and it worked. It’s always hard to measure that stuff.

Why did you do the Super Bowl ad that intrigues me? It doesn’t seem your target demo.

It’s partly a vanity thing. The 49ers and we’re a San Francisco company. We waited until the last minute, and we had three commercials we shot in over two days that were funny and engaging commercials. One of them was a classic Super Bowl commercial and we said, “We’re not going to spend millions of dollars on a Super Bowl commercial.” If at the last minute, the San Francisco market is cheap enough, we’ll buy some airtime and that’s what we did.

You didn’t buy North America wide. You bought a couple of markets. That’s smart.

We bought key markets because we wanted to see what that would do. Would we get a lot of phone calls? Would we people notice that we did it? They liked it. It was fun.

I like that you did it in the Bay Area as well, which is where you’re actually placing your flag and growing off that influencer base too. It’s funny. I’ve gone to the main TED conference for the last couple of years and I keep wondering, now we got to get the Hint water to be at TED because every time I go to TED some new consumer product is launching. Do you remember Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups?

The crazy thing is we are at TED and we have them. I don’t think there was a TED in 2020.

No, they had to cancel in 2020, so I rolled my ticket into 2021 but they’ve already canceled that too.

The problem is they only will let us send 3 or 4 pallets of product because they want to be fair to people or something.

It’s stupid. They’ve got six types of water. It’s dumb.

Everybody who knows him who goes to TED, they’ll get there early and grab it out the fridge. You’re going to walk by the fridge and there’s no Hint.

I end up with something out of a box. I’m like, “I don’t want water in a box. This is a terrible idea.”

They got convinced. There’s a Canadian firm up there that says that’s more eco, but it isn’t. It’s actually way worse. Recyclable bottles are good. Nothing’s perfect but they’re pretty good environmentally. The box has plastic, paper, and aluminum laminated together. How are you going to turn that into anything?

It doesn’t even feel good drinking water out of a box or something. It feels weird. It’s like wine out of a box, too. It’s not supposed to be. If you were to go back to give Theo some advice, you’re graduating from your undergrad, you’re graduating law school and you’re going to give yourself some advice that to be true now, but you didn’t know back then, what would you tell yourself? What advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself, “You’re a great problem solver. You’re there to solve problems. Don’t get upset about problems. That’s what you do.” Early in my career and even probably into the middle of my career, I’d run into a problem and most problems are because someone did something stupid, careless, or both. I’d be like, “I cleaned up this place and now you’re messing it all up.” That’s not the right attitude to have. All it does is it hurts yourself. It can become a real health problem. It hadn’t for me, thankfully but I’ve seen people who destroy their health over having anxiety.

I have a second in command on Ops, my VP of Operations, who’s grown up at the company. There’s a lot going on and sometimes they’ll get stressed. I take them aside and I always tell them, “Remember, you wouldn’t have a job if there weren’t so many stupid people in the world and so many problems. That’s what you do. Don’t get upset. You’re there to fix those problems. Hopefully, before they become a big issue.”

My old business partner, we are building an auto body chain. He used to have this one guy, Joel, who pissed him off every day. Terry, finally one day wrote on his to-do list, “Get pissed off by Joel.” By 10:30 AM, Joel pissed him off and he crossed it off as accomplished. I’m like, “That’s brilliant.” Theo, thank you so much for sharing with us. Theo Goldin, the COO for Hint Water. Thanks for being on the show.

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About Theo Goldin

SIC 139 | Hint Inc.Theo Goldin manages sales, operations and R&D for Hint Inc. Previously, Theo served as Lead Technology Counsel for Netscape’s online services business and as CEO of ZMedix, an Ai-based medical startup acquired by the Robert Bosch Foundation. His earlier career included work in molecular biology research and IT. 

Theo holds a JD from NYU School of Law and is a graduate of Amherst College, where he majored in English with significant coursework in chemistry.

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