Launching a startup isn’t just figuring out numbers, analytics, or sales. Your product or business needs to have a good story behind it – a story that is personal or relatable. You will be sharing the story with investors, customers, employees, and partners for the rest of your startup’s life, after all.
In the latest episode of "Think Like a Startup," co-founder of Onshape and chief evangelist at PTC John Hirschtick was joined by David Riemer, a professor at Berkeley-Haas School of Business and Amazon best-selling author for Get Your Startup Story Straight: The Definitive Storytelling Framework, to discuss the power of storytelling and how it can make or break your startup.
A preview into the discussion with Jon Hirschtick and David Riemer. Watch the full video on LinkedIn.
Storytelling as a Strategic Tool
As an expert storyteller, Riemer has had a chance to work with several startups who request his help in refining their product’s story, however, he says a lot of time they end up changing their story.
“Through a series of questions and structure that I bring to people, it forces them to more deeply consider who their best customer is,” says Riemer.
He says once they put the customer at the center of their storytelling, it may even change what their overall goal was.
“That’s the power of using storytelling as a strategic tool,” he adds.
Storytelling Basics to Build Your Narrative
A story structure requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. The structure affects how the plot unfolds and including enough details will help keep the interest of your audience.
“Every good story also has a protagonist, someone you’re rooting for, and that protagonist has something they want to accomplish, and then there’s something standing in their way that they are trying to overcome,” says Riemer.
With all that in mind, he asks himself, how can I apply all these basic story elements to someone building something new?
Riemer shares his storytelling framework tool. It starts with the protagonist or customer, which he also wants to make clear to startups, “You are not the protagonist of the story unless you are the customer.”
You will then identify the obstacle they are facing, what specific problem you can help them with, what is the benefit of solving that problem, how the product comes into play to help solve that problem, and when to consider alternative solutions.
Riemer explains how storytelling is part of being human.
The Best Stories Are Authentic Stories
A big challenge that startups face is having the mindset that no one wants to hear their product’s story, they just want facts and figures. Riemer says not true.
“Storytelling can be the difference between getting and not getting funding,” he says.
Riemer shares the story of Surbhi Sarna who met with Tim Draper, an American venture capital investor while working on a women’s health initiative. Sarna had not shared the story behind her product with anyone because she felt it was inappropriate.
During that meeting, Draper asked why she was so interested in that area of science and that’s where she finally shared her story. She explained that when she was younger, doctors tried to figure out if she had ovarian cancer, but because that type of cancer is hard to discover in younger women, undergoing tests to find a diagnosis would either render her infertile or take her life.
It was that experience that inspired her mission to solve women’s health problems starting with the early detection of ovarian cancer.
Telling your story can show how passionate you are, how committed you are to solving a problem, and how well you understand the need for your product to solve this problem.
Reimer encourages founders to share their stories.
Another tip he offers is to be authentic to your story. The best stories are true stories.
The Ultimate Objective of Storytelling
Riemer shares the ultimate objective of a startup’s story is to make your audience feel like they are the customer that your product is going to help. If they can feel the pain of the struggle, they will be rooting for people to solve that problem – they will be rooting for you.
Start your presentation with a protagonist and make that emotional connection right away, he explains. That’s the power of storytelling.
To stay up to date with future “Think Like a Startup” webinars, follow Onshape on LinkedIn or on YouTube. Webinars are broadcasted live and listeners have the opportunity to ask Jon Hirschtick and his guests questions in real-time.
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