Use a great narrative to win

As a trained journalist I like a good narrative supported by documented facts. I like to be be drawn into a story knowing that it rests on a solid foundation of insights and things known to be true because those telling me the story have done the actual research and know what they are talking about.

When I meet founders, listen to their pitches and learn about what it is they are trying to solve, and how they aim to go about solving it, I am always surprised by the lack of real storytelling. Of a narrative based on research and facts that truly captures me in ways that ensure, I remember the story, the founders and the startup long after, we have hung up on the call.

I do get a lot of facts, though. Almost every founder, I talk to, takes me through the definition of the problem and how big it is. And that’s all fine and good. But there is just so much potential to do it better.

My first problem is that if you are the 117th person to pitch me a solution towards fx helping people deal with diabetes II, assume that I already do know the basics of how big a problem it is. I have heard it all at least 116 times before. And be able to navigate around that.

By all means do have it in your pitch deck, but just like a great waiter at a top restaurant is able to assess your knowledge about wine and give you the guidance and options you needed versus the person at the next table, you need to be able to distill all the facts and figures, I can and will get everywhere in a compelling narrative that ensures, I remember you and your startup and not the competitor, I got pitched by a couple of days before.

There is a reason why it is awesome when that happens, and that brings me to my second problem in how founders pitch me today: The inability to truly relate to the problem and show me, why you’re the right one to bet on to solve this.

What happens when the pitch is all driven by facts and no narrative is that you invite me into asking a lot of probing questions. Could be questions like “How do you know this?”, “How are you going to truly differentiate?”, “How will you capture this or that opportunity?” etc. etc. You leave yourself open and vulnerable to me finding a hole in your research, and even though I totally understand and accept that those will always be there, it just ads to my assessment of the risk associated in investing in you.

If you pull of a great, cohesive narrative – deeply grounded in fact and research, remember? – you have the opposite effect on me. You give me the feeling that you have such deep insight, knowledge and experience with what you’re doing that you just might have the outsize chance to win, if you get the right backing (and if a lot of other things also go according to plan, of course).

The reason you give me this feeling is that it does take something extra to pull all the facts, figures and insights together into a compelling narrative that just flows effortlessly. It is not easy to do, and it tells me that you have some additional mental capacity compared to others, I meet – a mental capacity that will come to serve you extremely well, as you progress on the journey and have to navigate and mitigate all sorts of different challenges.

It is very important for me to note that the ability to tell a good story is NOT a replacement for knowing the facts and figures and keeping a high level of performance. On the contrary: Those 3 things need to go together in a way that is super convincing.

When they do, you start looking like a potential winner to me.

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