Home Tech Emergence Capital’s Doug Landis explains how to identify (and tell) your startup story – TechCrunch

Emergence Capital’s Doug Landis explains how to identify (and tell) your startup story – TechCrunch

Emergence Capital’s Doug Landis explains how to identify (and tell) your startup story – TechCrunch

How do you go beyond the names and numbers with your startup pitch deck? For Doug Landis, the answer is a straightforward compound gerund: storytelling. It’s a word that gets thrown around late in Silicon Valley, but it could help your startup stand out from the pack amid the pile of pitches. Landis knows a fair bit about the concept. He served as the “chief storyteller” at Box after stints at Salesforce and Google. These days, Landis is the growth partner at Emergence Capital, where he helps tell the stories of the firm’s portfolio companies.

Landis joined us on the first day of the TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising event to offer a presentation about the value of storytelling for startups, whittling down the standard two-hour conversation to a 30-minute version. He still managed to rewind things pretty far, opening with, “400,000 years ago, men and women used to sit around the fire pit and tell stories about their day, their hunt, about the one that got away.”


Connect the dots

More often than not, decks include a series of numbers and charts. A story pitch’s job is to weave a good narrative around these figures.

If you think about storytelling, and you think about the physiological and psychological elements — what’s happening between the storytelling and the listener — we’re looking for the patterns. If you think about it, it’s why those jingles and commercials get stuck in our heads, and we can’t forget it, even though we don’t know much about the product. But we remember the jingle, the commercial; we recognize the brand. Because, as humans, we’re looking for patterns in our communication. Our job is to connect the facts and fill in the holes. And from those connections, we create a story. We make an account in our brain because our brain processes information through story form. (Timestamp 3:20)

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Get to the point

They don’t call it an elevator pitch for anything. And sometimes, even the best storytellers have a habit of rambling. Here’s an exercise for cutting away some excess when attempting to get your story in front of VCs.

When you tell the story at work, ask your peers or the listener to share back with you in one sentence what the story’s point was. Get immediate feedback, and you can then identify whether or not your account was on target. The story needs to be relevant to the audience who’s there, but the reality is you need to be very clear about the point you’re trying to make with a story. (Timestamp 6:33)

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I am a writer and a blogger. In 2011, I started my first blog when I was 16 years old. Since then, I’ve written for blogs like TechCrunch, Huffington Post, Lifehack, BuzzFeed, and many more. I have an MBA from UC Berkeley, and currently work in San Francisco, CA. I write about topics like careers, startups, social entrepreneurship, and personal finance.


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