Storytelling: an essential tool in the founder toolbox

May 27, 2024

Every founder will tell you that communication is one of the most important skills they use in launching and growing their business. Entrepreneurs are continually conveying the value of their product and business to a host of audiences including investors, customers, partners, suppliers and employees. But are founders paying attention to the importance of communication? And what’s at risk if they don’t? We spoke to Tovit Neizer, an expert storyteller and founder of Yellow Bricks, one of the newest Innovation Support Members in the Natural Product Innovation Cluster to learn more.

Why is storytelling important for startups?

Every week I meet startups who participate in different accelerators. Most of the founders, in the initial stages of the programs, struggle to explain what they’re working on. But the founders who tell a good story and know how to deliver it will stay in my mind. I later think of their challenges and make relevant connections whenever I can. Their storytelling creates a stronger mark.

Tovit Neizer, Business Storyteller, Yellowbricks

A similar thing would happen following a meeting with an investor. It might not be a good fit or timing to invest, but if they rose above the noise, they’ll be remembered. Storytelling is the glue that connects individuals and ideas and is an effective way to make people listen and subscribe.

Telling stories is a powerful tool that is easy to use and worth implementing in your day to day communication with your different audience groups – investors, potential customers, future collaborators and employees.

What’s the difference between branding and storytelling?

While storytelling is what you tell your audience, branding is what your audience thinks of you when you’re not in the room. It’s the perception of your company.

Branding is built upon the story and executes it – it’s the colors you choose to associate your startup with, the design of your physical product’s packaging and the font on its label. It’s also the website look and feel as well as the words you keep using to describe your work online and offline.

Consistency plays a crucial role here, every meeting point with your startup should share the same tone, voice, and visuals. This means repeating your messages in different forms in order to create a connection with your audience. Great brands stem from a simple and clear story and reflect the company’s vision, mission and values.

Most of our clients have deep tech solutions to big global issues like environmental sustainability. Doesn’t the science or solution speak for itself?

Unfortunately no. Nowadays, people are bombarded with messages coming from everywhere – social media, billboards, the news. Everyone is competing over the most expensive resource their audience will never get back, and that is time.

Additionally, humans’ attention span is quickly decreasing and is now only a few seconds. Having a worthy noble cause is definitely a great start, but it’s not enough. We have to communicate it well and build around it a narrative that expresses emotions and paints a picture people can relate to.

What makes a good story? How do you know if your story is good?

A good story should support the goals you have outlined. This could be getting people to download your app or try your product. It could also be to make people curious and want to learn more. In addition, a good story needs to be clear, simple and involve the different senses in order to activate the audience’s imagination.

In recent work for a growth stage tech company, I helped build a talk for their corporate event. They invited their stakeholders to learn about the challenges of driving a massive organization that constantly grows, while growing it further. The theme of the talk was ‘flying the plane while building it’.

While there was a lot of knowledge throughout the slides I looked for a meta story to give the audience meaningful takeaways. I chose to add an interactive aspect to the talk that would correspond with the main theme – flying and building a plane. We placed origami papers on the tables and in every few slides we added a step by step guide to building a paper plane.

There was a short explanation about this activity in the beginning of the talk. But only in the end, when the speaker invited the listeners to fly the planes they had built, did they realize the many challenges involved in building while flying.

Were there many planes up in the air? No. And they didn’t really fly far. But the talk and the story worked out well.

The interactive bit showed how difficult it is to learn new things while listening to an ongoing presentation. The origami exercise served a purpose and corresponded with the message. The audience’s positive response was a strong indicator that the story was good.

What if you’re not a natural born storyteller?

Not all of us are natural born storytellers, and even those that sound like it, probably took some coaching classes and for sure worked on their pitch over and over again. In order to improve your delivery and storytelling skills you need to practice. Rewrite the story and locate the essence that captures people’s attention. Deliver your story in front of different people and finetune according to the feedback you are given.

It also helps to use a personal story since the delivery comes more naturally and it’s easier to remember.

But what if you don’t have a personal story?

I worked with a founder that develops an organizational ai platform for large corporations. Although he worked in big organizations for 2 decades, he struggled to locate a personal story to open his talks with. So I asked him to describe his ideal customers. How will they use his platform and in what ways would it change their day to day work?

While sharing his thoughts, he started to create a character based on all the people he interviewed, as well as his former colleagues that represent his future users. The story wasn’t his own but rather his customers’, and by addressing their challenges he was able to form a narrative that would feel familiar.

How do you help founders tell a better story?

My strategic work always starts with locating the passion that led the founders to start this rollercoaster journey in the first place. I encourage them to answer many “why” questions, and to explain in simple words what is their attraction to their domain of practice.

While working with a medical startup that developed a unique insole for diabetes patients, I asked the founders what brought them to develop this product. The CEO, a podiatrist who has seen many patients throughout his career, shared figures on the disease, described the current state of things and explained the need for this solution. But there was something missing.

When his engineer co-founder started to describe how he designed the insole, you could see it touched a soft spot. Diabetes wasn’t something he nor his relatives suffered from. But he shared a story from his highschool days, during which he hurt his back in a way that limited his mobility and affected his social life. These were true scars that he wanted to heal and his motivation resulted in this invention. His passion served as the story’s foundation.

To learn more about Tovit and Yellow Bricks, visit the website.