We are all storytellers, we all discuss events that might have happened in a certain way or another. And as we have stories of our own so do the projects and products we develop.
Every startup has a ‘why’ and a story to tell even if the product might not have catchy features.
Describing your product is a matter of perspective, especially when pitching to investors or selling it to users. People are not only attracted by data but also by the emotional value that your business can come with.
Storytelling for startups is relevant because you have the unique opportunity to create a raw and authentic story behind your small or upcoming product or business that can really resonate with your target audience. The story can be personal or just a creation of the team’s imagination but as long as it tells the main message you want to share to your target audience then it is good enough.
One of the most known ways of telling your story or approaching your audience is creating the Golden Circle, a method launched by Simon Sinek after a research done within multiple companies that are successful and sell different products. He noticed that some of them sell their products more because of their way of thinking and communicating with their target audience.
He noticed that they understand their ‘why’ which is the purpose of the organisation, what the people inside it believe in, they know their ‘how’ - what the company does so that why can be fulfilled, and they know ‘what’ products they sell, and from these 3 questions he created the concept of the Golden Circle, a method through which companies can create their story and culture.
In this article there are 5 startups that are known worldwide today, mostly because of their hard work and their well chosen metrics but also because of the story they shared with a few users and investors in the beginning, and then the world.
Airbnb is one of the biggest platforms for renting places when travelling. With a unique value proposition and a clear mission in their head they managed to become a trusted platform by millions of people worldwide.
This startup’s story began in 2007 when two guys in San Francisco had to pay rent but not money whatsoever. Their idea came when they thought they could rent 3 mattresses to strangers and serve breakfast while making some money out of it to pay the landlord. And ever since then they have also used their story to gather millions of users and investment rounds. Their mission and their why, how, what are strongly related to that story and to what they do as a startup every day for their users.
"Wherever you go we have a place for you"
WHY - Belong everywhere - we are a community of individuals with shared values.
HOW - Driven by trust and transparency, a trusted community marketplace enabled by technology
WHAT - Rent unique places to stay with local hosts
Started off as a simple idea: ‘What if you could request a ride from your phone?’ The founders were in Paris at the time on a cold evening and they couldn’t find a ride when this idea popped in their minds.
Fast forward a few months and they created the ride-sharing platform Uber whose goal was to make moving in traffic more efficient.
"We create industries that serve people."
WHY - Moving efficiently
HOW - Merging people with technology
WHAT - UberX, self driving cars, UberPool, Uber Eats and all of their other products
Spotify was founded in 2006 in Sweden as a response to the growing piracy problem the music industry was facing. The founders realised that this cost the music industry millions of dollars each year so they thought that a streaming service platform that is better than the pirated ones would solve both the needs of the artists and of the listeners.
Besides the platform and features they also thought about what message to send to their audience when pitching it and they thought that the story of the platform is one where both artists and listeners can break free, get creative and enjoy music.
“We envision a cultural platform where professional creators can break free of their medium’s constraints and where everyone can enjoy an immersive artistic experience that enables us to empathize with each other and to feel part of a greater whole."
WHY - Unlock the potential of human creativity
HOW - By giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.
WHAT - Having a two sided platform where you can stream music, listen to podcasts and having an on-demand, offline, ad-free listening experience
In 2007 the founders, Eric and James, realized that sensors and wireless technology had advanced to a point where they could bring amazing experiences to fitness and health.
They created a wearable product that would change the way we move. They saw the opportunity in that direction and they went for it creating a story with a mission around it.
"To empower and inspire you to live a healthier, more active life. We design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so you can achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be."
WHY - To empower and inspire you to live a healthier, more active life.
HOW - Building products that help transform people's lives and achieve their fitness goals whatever those might be
WHAT - Smartwatches, trackers and so on
Couchsurfing was founded in 2004 by a small group of travel and cultural exchange enthusiasts determined to change the world by providing greater access to the kinds of meaningful travel experiences that depend on connecting with people.
Their story connected really well with their target audience, the millennials, whose needs were to find a cheap place to stay due to lack of money while experiencing the culture and meeting new people. The idea caught up with both investors and the world and today the platform is used worldwide by both travelers and locals.
"We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect."
WHY - We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection.
HOW - Connects members to a global community of travelers.
WHAT - Have a platform for both hosts and travelers where they can connect with each other and find a place to stay or share your home.
This process can be applied to any organisation including service-based one, so we decided to run the method on our company as well. At Activize we used the Golden Circle method as well to set a clear vision and tell our story to our target audience. See below how it looks like.
"We organise the Eastern European startup-related information and connections delivering it to the world in a meaningful and useful way"
WHY - growing the Eastern European startup ecosystems
HOW - organising the information and delivering in a meaningful way
WHAT - startup scouting, consultancy, advisory, acceleration programs, competitions, workshops, reports, overview content, presentations, cross-collaborations
Even though in this article there are only B2C startups, storytelling applies to B2B or B2G ones as well. You and your team created its story, you and your team talked with your buyer persona and validated it, you and your team came up with an idea so the story should come easy no matter what type of product you sell.
Lastly, always keep in mind these three questions when creating it or pitching it in front of a group:
Who is my target audience?
What message do I want to share with them?
How do I connect with them?