Startup Storytelling

Jim Vasconcello CSUF Startup Incubator Event about Storytelling

Recently at the CSUF Starutp Incubator we welcomed Jim Vasconcello to give a talk about startup storytelling. Jim, a former military intelligence specialist, shared his knowledge on the importance of putting together a quality story for any startup and went into detail about how to actually develop that winning story.

What follows are some bullet point notes from John Bautista, the intern for the CSUF Startup Incubator this semester.

  • When you are pitching your business you are telling a story
  • “What I’m going to give you over this course is give you very important considerations for what you are trying to do when you are pitching your business”
  • “When they see you under stress and you are handling it well then they will bit [and invest in your company or buy your product]”
  • “If you are doing a startup you have chosen to be a leader”
  • “Leaders need to always find the answer, even if they don’t know it themselves, they must find those who do”
  • “If you can’t inspire, you will lose opportunities”
  • “All important decisions about you are made after you leave the room”
  • “Self-awareness is always the most important thing when someone is trying to be a leader”

All great points!

To those points, I would add the following:

  • Understanding your customer is key; what is it that they really want from you? Why are they passionate about going to you over your competition? Or, if you’re just starting out, why are customers in your industry passionate about the products/services that they use?
  • Understand your milieu. If you are in an industry that has a certain vibe or way of talking, make sure that you mimic that spirit to one degree or another. As your abilities as a storyteller grow you can deviate from the industry norm but, until then, don’t stray too far away from the trodden path. (The caveat to this is if you are a great storyteller, you know the ropes and all that, then you probably will have a good handle on the unwritten rules of communication within your industry and you will be able to play with those rules at the outset.)
  • Stay consistent with your value proposition and evolve your story. These two things are not contradictory, especially for startups that will or already are experiencing rapid growth. At first, you can position your company and yourself as the scrappy upstart in the industry that is looking to disrupt the status quo in an effort to make whatever it is that you do better. But, as you grow, the story will evolve to highlight your experience and maybe even your stewardship in your industry. The message is still the same, you are providing specific value to your customer but the trappings of that value have changed from scrappy upstart to wizened veteran.
  • I especially liked the bullet point from Jim’s talk about self-awareness. As a storyteller, and this goes for entrepreneurs or anyone else that has to tell stories (i.e. salespeople, managers, comedians, actors, parents, teachers, and almost everyone else you can think of), you need to know who you are and why you are doing the things that you are doing. It’s akin to having a personal mission but it’s more than that. Your mission could be to become the CEO of a unicorn startup but right now you and two of your buddies are huddled together in your garage tinkering with another version of your product. Focus your story on the end goal but also do an honest assessment of where you are at and tailor the story to that reality.

Thanks to Jim for giving his talk and thank to our intern, John, for taking such great notes (I really think he caught the essence of what this talk was about).

CSUF Startup Incubator

Entrepreneurs who are accepted into the CSUF Startup Incubator work with our entrepreneurial experts over a six month intensive launch period that includes: access to office space, quarterly investor pitches our entrepreneurs can participate in, free events, a dedicated one-on-one coaching relationship with one of our more than 700 startup experts, and so much more! If you are ready to learn the right way to go from concept to launch, please go to this page or contact a CSUF Startup Incubator representative at csufentrepreneurship@fullerton.edu.

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