Unleash the power of storytelling to draw investors in
Imagine you’re the CEO of a startup with an important new product. You’ve developed a device to create an instant communications network after a disaster. The prototype works great and users are excited; now you need investment to produce the devices. You’re in a room filled with investors, but they don’t even understand the difference between 5G and wi-fi. So you start to explain – cells towers can take weeks to fix so you’ve developed a temporary replacement. As you move to the next slide you look up at your audience. Half the room is chatting with each other; the other half playing with their phones. You’re thirty seconds into the presentation and you’re already done; you might as well go home.
Imagine yourself that evening. You have a few drinks to kill the pain and hate-tweet that investors are idiots who’d rather invest in yet another energy drink than real technology to improve the world. That might be true but you still need a better presentation, one that will draw investors into your specialized world. So put away the cheap whiskey and let’s rewrite your pitch.
What your presentation is missing is the power of storytelling to draw investors into a world they don’t understand. The more technical the product, the more you need to unleash the power of storytelling to help investors understand what your product does and why it’s so important. Take advantage of that uniquely human gift – the power of imagination — to let investors experience the world through your users’ eyes. Tell us a story.
Imagine starting your presentation with the story of a young man named Brad. After Hurricane Maria, he flew to Puerto Rico to help as a volunteer. But when he arrived, there was nothing for him to do. Why? Because all the cell towers had been toppled and the power lines were down. Communications had been cut off all over the island. There was no way to find out what was happening in every remote town, and no way to communicate back to the mainland about what supplies were needed. There was no way for people who were trapped on roofs, or dying in hospitals without power to call for help. There was no way to know where to send volunteers and no way to organize them. Brad was there to help, but without communications, he was useless. People were dying while he and thousands of others had to wait for the power lines to be restrung and cell towers to be rebuilt. Stuck in his tent near the airport, Brad vowed never to let this happen again.
So Brad returned home and put together a team. They came up with ways to make a simple network for basic communications. No Netflix, but emergency phone, text, and short emails. Not 5G. Not even 4G. The older technologies work over much longer distances and require far less power. They designed a system that could run on solar energy and created a kit that can be assembled in under an hour.
Now that they had an idea how to help disaster recovery, Brad contacted FEMA to talk to them about their requirements and procurement processes. He talked to the FCC about special permission to use regulated frequencies. He talked to USAID, the military, National Guard, the United Nations, and a bunch of other aid organization. They were all enthusiastic.
So Brad and his team scrapped together $50,000 from friends and family to build a prototype and got it working. Now they need $500K to build devices to begin deploying with pilot users. This is where investors come in. The market isn’t huge, Brad admits, but it’s far bigger than you’d think – there are a lot of disasters every year and government agencies and relief organizations with budgets already allocated for communications. With a small investment, it’s easy to make the business profitable. Not only have companies that provide disaster relief equipment already signed up as partners to bring the product to users, but a couple of those partners have already expressed interest in eventually acquiring the company. The product will not only save lives, Brad tells the audience, but this is the lowest risk investment they’ll ever find from a startup.
Notice how by telling Brad’s journey, the pitch has been transformed from a description of boring communications equipment to a story about joining Brad on a mission to save lives while building a profitable business ready for quick acquisition. It starts with the world “imagine” then layers in concrete details of a person in a difficult situation, maybe the founder, maybe a typical user.
Read the first paragraph of this article again. A person much like you. You imagine yourself in that room. In front of that audience. Already thinking through how you would solve the problem. You’re not only paying attention to the problem, but working the problem with me. You get it. You’ll remember it. Because instead of yet another market with a $10 billion TAM, you now imagine a thousand Brad’s who are desperate to get their hands on this system.
But don’t use Brad’s story as your introduction alone. Continue the story through the entire pitch. Brad’s problem drives the solution. The solution drives the need for a particular team of experts to develop unique intellectual property. The industry drives Brad’s go-to-market strategy which dictates his funding needs. It all fits together, from problem to eventual exit. And investors understand now useful your product is because you’ve pulled them into your world.
So sit down and rewrite your pitch as a story. Imagine a story where in the end, your company exits in a big acquisition, making you the hero to all the investors listening to your pitch.
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