Adam Tratt - Startup storytelling for the win


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  • Good morning everyone and thanks for coming today. My topic is Story-telling for the win and the reason I wanted to talk about this is because whether you are an entrepreneur or a wantrepreneur this is the single most important thing you can do to influence the success of your startup. Today I’ll tell you why its important, how to craft your story, and provide 3 tips for making your story awesome.  But first, I’d like to start with a story. It began with a shoebox and a guy named Richard Tait. Some of you may know Richard, who left Microsoft after many years doing a wide range of Microsofty things. He came to me one day with a box just like this. Before he showed me what was inside the box he told me his story. It was a story about going on vacation in the Hamptons with his wife and another couple. The weather was crummy and after they had exhausted their supply of videos to watch, their friends proposed a friendly game of scrabble. Little did Richard know, his friends were hard-core Scrabble players… The kind that keep their scores on the fridge. Richard and his wife were quickly obliterated and cast their revenge by pulling out Trivial Pursuit. A game in which the dominated the other couple- leaving them feeling stupid and inadequate. The revenge was sweet, but the negativity of the moment really stuck with Richard. At the end of this experience, Richard wondered why there wasn’t a game that gave everyone a high-five moment so that nobody in a group felt like the village idiot.
  • This realization led him to develop a new brand that would be all about giving everyone a chance to shine. I still don’t know what’s in the box. And frankly, it didn’t even matter. By the time Richard showed me the crude mockup of the game, I was hooked on the promise of the brand. It didn’t matter that inside the box was a crude, hand-drawn mock up of the game that would become Cranium. It didn’t matter that the idea for the game was really just 14 other games put in a blender. What mattered was his presentation of the idea. Richard went on to build an amazing team that sold millions of games around the world. The company was later sold to Hasbro.
  • Hopefully now you’re inspired to make your story great. Now let me spend a few minutes breaking down why storytelling is important for entrepreneurs The first is that your audience is not as interested in your thing as you are. Most entrepreneurs are completely obsessed with building their idea, studying the market, analyzing the competitors, and plotting a direction. This is BORING to everyone but you. I promise. You need a story to engage people before they pick up their phone like this guy.
  • The second reason stories are important is that they make your idea real. When you’re just starting out, even before you have a prototype, all you have is your story. You’re pointing at a cloud in the sky and trying to convince people that it’s an F-18. If you can’t convince them that you believe there’s an F-18 in the cloud, you’re toast.
  • Reason 3: Ask any investor what they look for in an entrepreneur and it comes down to passion. Your story is your way to put your passion on display. Your story sets the bar for how enthusiastic people will ever be about your business. Nobody will ever be more enthusiastic about your business than you are. You need to show your enthusiasm through story-telling.
  • Reason 4. Memorability… I’m sure some of you have read Brain Rules by John Medina. This is a book that’s all about the science of the brain and insights that can be drawn from the research. Medina’s fourth brain rule is that people don’t remember boring things. It’s proven. It’s also proven that our brains are hard-wired to remember stories better than facts.
  • If you take one thing away from my talk this morning, it’s this insight from Simon Sinek, who gave one of the most viewed Ted Talks of all time. He says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you only talk about what you do and how you do it, your story isn’t good enough. Start with Why. It’s the title of his book and it is the most important thing to remember when you craft your story. I’ll tweet a link to it in a few minutes.
  • To give your story resonance, focus on the insight, experience, or moment that drives your Why. For Richard, it was that scrabble game in the Hamptons. For Haiku Deck it was the experience of losing our designer and having to go back to making our own pitch materials. I’ll come back to that in a few minutes.
  • Listen with your eyes. As you tell your story over and over again, remember that it is a work in progress. Watch how customers react. Watch how investors react. Watch how recruits react. Watch how partners react. Adapt, iterate, and refine so that you’re always striking the right emotional chord.
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