Selling an Idea with Storytelling

I recently read an article on WeWork‘s FullStart.com on tips to bear in mind when pitching a start-up idea.

As a technologist and SMB mentor, its common to sit through idea presentations or start-up pitches that focus too much on the market gap and not enough on what the 2nd and 3rd point of the article brilliantly shine light on i.e. building a story and the solution proposed to the problem presented. In the digital age, the power of story telling cannot be denied as an effective tool for communicating the value proposition.

Lets take the example of the founders behind Appography, who recently bagged investors from the UK and will be incubated at Microsoft Ventures for 3 months to improve and test their IVR product called Vivid. The company is co-founded between a former Telenor manager named Omar Khan and serial entrepreneur Rizwan Chand, who completed the initial prototype of the Vivid app late last year, which literally creates a customer service-user experience such that callers no longer need to be on hold and can be called back by CSR’s after their turn in the queue comes, instead of waiting in line and possibly encountering a call drop. And while the idea or technology is not unique, as per the admission of one of the co-founders, the fact that entrepreneurs have nearly 10 years of experience between them on the BPO and caller side of the phone call allows them to have the sort of knowledge no replicator can demonstrate from the get go – unless they invest an arm and a leg. The duo are confident that their solution has the ability to give them immense leeway in the 288 billion IVR market, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will go far. To learn more, click here for their interview with Express Tribune.

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Another success story in comes from South Asia, with a organic food start-up called NutriNysa and its flagship product Raise D’Bar, which has a strong social impact element embedded within its commercial objectives to streamline the supply chain network and lower inventory costs overall. The idea occurred to CEO Junaid Malik while on a hiking trip in Baltistan, a mountainous region in the northern part of Pakistan, where he encountered farming families with an abundance of dry fruits and sweet fruits, with barely 40% of the yield from the trees being purchased by buyers. As an executive at Telenor, he also knew that corporate culture opted for snacks such as donuts and burgers to satisfy mid day cravings, a habit that was only making his team bulkier and counterproductive in the long run. Couple this with the fact that unhealthy employees are expensive and that a real opportunity existed for farmers of that region, he set out to research the organic food market and create his business which now has a vast distribution in Sindh, the southern province of Pakistan. The social impact element, wherein his team is active in training farming families on automating their yield process and cutting down their costs per trip, has vastly improved the mindset and income stability of the families in Baltistan, sealing the element of giving back.

It’s important to remember that stories are all around us, and research shows that 65% of (memorable) conversations are stories or gossip. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the best of all are told in multiple forms & lengths. The idea of falling for the protagonist’s cause, to see and imagine that person encounter a very human problem really connects with an audience in any story and its no different with start-up pitches. In the era of the digital economy the emphasis moves away from content and towards impact for B2C and knowledge in B2B. When creating a story around your idea, brand or business, there are three types of stories you should have in your portfolio:

  • a contributor to a successful pitch
  • an inspiration for your team and attracts high talent
  • one that connects with the customer and closes the sale

But remember, the story must be true, authentic and come straight from the heart.

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