When you are an entrepreneur, you find yourself having to tell your story over and over. Traditionally we have been taught to master an elevator pitch, which certainly has its time and place. When dealing with investors, you have to paint them your master piece, your Sistine chapel! Don’t let them guess or work hard to get to it. Many entrepreneurs are so focused on their mechanism, their how-they-do-what-they-do, that they fail to show them the baby!
A great framework to help you articulate your story is Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s journey. It involves a protagonist who goes on an adventure, wins a decisive victory after a crisis, encounters some more challenges and eventually returns home, transformed. Sounds familiar? From Finding Nemo to Star Wars, you find this narrative in classic literature, movies and even religious texts. Now, don’t get carried away! You are not writing a Hollywood production! Your business plan, pitch deck, etc. still need to be in an investor-grade format (cf. From MVP to VC: Strategic non-starters and how to avoid them).
Investors want to know who you are: The first step in the Hero’s journey is the “ordinary world” where you learn details from the hero’s ordinary life before he starts on his adventure. It anchors the hero as human and gives us a chance to connect. Translated to business: Who are you? Who are the members of your management team? And how will your experiences aid in your success? Are you trustworthy? Are you coachable?
Investors want to know why did you get started: That is the second step “the call to adventure”. What was your call to action? What made you question the status quo or your comfort zone and undertake this quest? Was it a personal experience, a painful memory, a threat to your safety, your family’s?
“The best startups generally come from somebody needing to scratch an itch.” – Michael Arrington, TechCrunch founder
Investors want to know what your motivation is: Why did you cross the threshold? This is actually the 5th step in the hero’s journey framework as steps 3 & 4 don’t apply here. This is where we discover the protagonist’s commitment to act, to step out of his comfort zone into the unknown. You didn’t choose to work for a company that has a similar cause or purpose, you chose to do it on your own.
In every story, now that you, the hero, is outside of your comfort zone, you are confronted with a series of challenges and tests. You will encounter enemies but also allies. The latter are your early adopters. What’s in it for them? Step outside of your mechanism and shift your perspective 180 degrees to walk in their shoes for a minute. Empathize with your target market. Empathize with your investors. That’s how you will be able to best describe your value and your promise. You will get investors warm and fuzzy, emotionally ready to write that check!
Author: Carine Dieudé, Partner, Director of Strategy, Entrepreneurship Aficionado – Growth and exit strategies, systems and operations, for startup, small and medium-sized businesses.
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