Founder Profile: Dana Kim
Tell us a bit about your company
Highlight is a next-gen product testing platform that makes product testing faster, more flexible, and turnkey than ever before. Launched in 2021, this CPG-focused company is already being leveraged by the world’s largest CPG companies for new product research, including P&G, Nestle, Mondelez, Pepsi, and more..
What inspired you to start your business / what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
I went to Wharton with a mission to make product testing more efficient. Quantitative and qualitative research was getting better, faster, and easier via digital tools, but physical product testing was still incredibly difficult — I wanted to solve this. Now, only a couple of years later in 2021, my company has evolved into Highlight, a fast-growing product testing platform leveraging high-tech methods to bring the research into the 21st century.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
In November of 2020, HearstLab and Sixers Innovation Lab announced their investment in Highlight saying, “We’re thrilled to welcome the Highlight team to HearstLab. We were impressed with Dana and Ethan’s product testing platform and their ability to connect brands with targeted, valuable consumer insights. The depth and uniqueness of their data — combined with their high user engagement rates — is compelling, and we look forward to partnering with them.” In just 10 months, Highlight has helped over 100 brands test, improve, and launch their products. Thanks to our team, community of Highlighters, clients, and investment partners who believed in us.
What about your personal background, experience, or perspective fuels your passion for this venture?
For years (before attending Wharton), I worked as a market researcher, collecting important consumer insights to inform product innovation, development, and marketing at big CPG.
What has been one or two of the biggest learnings so far?
#1 Test your hypotheses and start small. Highlight began as an idea — a pitch deck with hopes and dreams and vision… but no data. To prove that what we believed to be true would actually manifest in building out our product, there were many little hypotheses we needed to test. Would consumers ‘pay’ for products with time? Would pre-screening articulate consumers ensure quality data? Would consumers who say they’ll give feedback, actually give feedback? In order to efficiently audit our past, calibrate in our present, and orient towards the future, we need to constantly be asking ourselves what assumptions we’re making, how we can test those hypotheses, and what we can learn from those tests, to keep pushing in the right direction.
#2 Companies are longing for more agile, efficient processes. Companies are begging for it. Sometimes, especially in traditional industries, big machines can get stuck in their ways. When you come along and question that status quo, you get a lot of positive feedback and revelation. Highlight is really changing the way product testing can be done. Building this tech is making our processes faster and more efficient, allowing us to do more tests, earlier, faster, and better allowing products to avoid market failure. Oftentimes, our competitor is no one. We’re allowing for product testing in places and times that weren’t previously possible. The more we talk to people, the more we’re realizing that there’s an incredibly acute need for this problem to be solved.
What is an obstacle you anticipate grappling with as you continue to build this venture?
We learned a lot and took the extra time up front to make sure that we had something that was going to work for not just 10 brands or 100 brands, but 1000s, or millions of products tested. We built our technology for scalability, using a lot of the same technologies that most firms in Silicon Valley are using. We took what was a traditionally manual, legacy process and said to ourselves, how do we bring this into the modern era?