To entrepreneur Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of Kind snacks, kindness means more than just being nice.
“If somebody is nice, they’re not going to bully. But if they’re kind, they’re going to stand up to the bully,” he said. “Kindness requires the strength of action.”
It’s a lesson Lubetzky learned from his father, a Latvian Jew who survived the Holocaust. Lubetzky’s father was deeply touched by small acts of kindness, like the German soldier who snuck him a potato or the care shown by the Japanese-American soldiers who liberated him.
Lubetzky, who was born in Mexico and is fluent in Spanish, French, Hebrew and English, also has a passion for bridging cultures. One of his first ventures, PeaceWorks, sold products made jointly by Israelis and Palestinians; this year, he helped fund scholarships for Ukrainian students to study in the U.S.
Lubetzky launched Kind in 2004, honoring his father with the name. The health-conscious brand helped transform the snack category; Lubetzky sold it to Mars in 2020 for an estimated $5 billion.
Lubetzky has invested that into new food brands like Somos Foods, which aims to bring authentic Mexican products to U.S. groceries. He’s also launched charitable foundations and nonprofits like Starts with Us, which tries to overcome political and cultural division.
Lubetzky discussed his career, and what motivates him, with The Associated Press. His comments have been edited for length.
Q. How do you describe yourself?
A. I think of myself as a serial social entrepreneur, meaning someone that loves noticing opportunities for how to create stuff in society that doesn’t already exist that will be both economically sustainable and socially impactful. I think that tends to be one common thread in a lot of the ventures that I do: ventures that use business as a force for having a social impact and doing it in a way that the products can defend themselves and win on the merits of that. First and foremost, this is a business. But there’s an added reason for being. It’s not just to make money. It’s also to try to have a positive impact in society, however small that may be.
Q. What makes a successful entrepreneur? Is it a certain personality type?
A. You have to have the creative vision to identify a problem that has not been solved and come up with a creative idea for how to solve it. That’s No. 1. And then the execution, wherewithal, guts and chutzpah to just go out and do it. And that’s a very hard combination. If you have the first but not the second, you can be an inventor. Inventors are great at coming up with ideas, but they don’t execute on them as well. If you have the second, to execute but not the creativity to invent, you could be a good business manager. If you have both, you can be an entrepreneur.
Q. You tend to tackle really intractable issues, like the U.S. culture wars or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why?
A. The way we’re educated, we’re taught to process and to become factory line workers and to become professionals. But we’re not encouraged to dream about what’s possible and to recognize our power to do things that people thought were not possible. We’re not taught enough about Gandhi, about bring the change you want to see in the world. We’re not smart enough about all these approaches that are essential in society. What’s happening in our country today affects every single person, and it’s going to require every single one of us to be part of the solution.
Q. You’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs through your incubator, Equilibra, and elsewhere. What is your advice to them?
A. I do recommend they think about how they see the world from their vantage point, what’s missing, whether it’s a social element that they want to fix if they’re social entrepreneurs or whether there’s a business opportunity or product or service. What doesn’t satisfy them? What’s missing? What’s not being done well enough? And that’s only the beginning of the journey. If you identify what’s not working, then you need to look at the underlying reason why that’s not working. And then you need to target that and say, “Can I do it better?” It’s an incredible ride, but it’s a roller coaster ride. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, and you need to be comfortable with that. You need to have a temperament where you’re not going to easily give up.