How to tell a billion dollar story
How to tell a billion dollar story

Powerful stories can be worth billions.

With the right story, you can close investors, captivate customers, and inspire your team toward your next big milestone.

The most powerful stories have 3 key ingredients β€” and the way you tell them will make or break your startup. Let's dive in…

Finding your story: the hero's journey

As Superhuman's CEO, I tell the company's story to media, investors, and our growing team. And as an angel investor, I listen to other founders share their own origin stories, eureka moments, and stratospheric ambitions.

The stories are legion, but the goal is the same: your listeners should fall in love with you, your product, and your vision!

How to do this: Structure your story around the Hero's Journey. This is the narrative arc framing ancient myths, the Star Wars trilogy, and some of the best pitches I've heard. Use 3 key ingredients:

1. Call to adventure

Even if your story is short on elves, barbarians, and clashes of sword, you can still compose a gripping tale. Your story needs a hero β€” your customer! Appeal to resonant truths: deeply held beliefs about the human condition, like our drive for success, and persistence through adversity. Β 

Example: The hero is stressed, behind on their email, and struggling to be a great colleague, partner, or parent. But our hero believes that success comes to those who strive for it. The hero hears a call to adventure: Superhuman! Perhaps they could do their email twice as fast…

2. Victory over crisis

The hero struggles to overcome adversity; their foes might be pain points, or even your competitors. Fortunately, a wise sage guides the hero's path. In Star Wars, this is Yoda. For your startup, it is your team or product!

Example: First, our hero hesitates. They're busy, stuck in old habits, and Superhuman is a great unknown. But finally, they heed the call to adventure β€” and are trained by the wise sage β€” aka Superhuman's onboarding specialists. Armed with formidable new email powers, they face their greatest challenge: the myriad fears that fester at the bottom of their inbox. The hero survives and triumphs!

3. Transformation

Your story doesn't end with your hero surmounting a challenge; they must be transformed for the long-term. Look to the enduring benefits your product creates β€” and the emotions they inspire.

Example: Our hero achieves Inbox Zero and their workflow is forever transformed. They are free to be their best self, as a colleague, partner, or parent β€” and inspire others to do the same!

Remember: storytelling isn't spin, it's strategy. So if your story doesn't flow, something is missing β€” and you can use the Hero's Journey to figure out what.

Telling your story: the power of neural coupling

Your heroic storyline will command attention. But telling it in a fluent, personal way will elicit emotion. Your story will then have impact long after it has been told: emotionally engaging narratives inspire post-narrative action.

Whether you orate over Zoom or converse over coffee, great narratives have incredible impact: neural coupling. Your listeners' neurons will fire in the same pattern as yours β€” as if they are experiencing the story themselves!

Here's how to do this:

  • Adopt a laughing mindset. Set up callbacks, then reference them later in the story. This mimics the rhythm of a 2-way conversation, flooding your listeners' brains with oxytocin β€” the neurochemical elixir that builds trust. Β  Β 
  • Use the Bar Test. How would you tell your story to a stranger at a bar? Practice telling your story without visual aids, to someone who has no context. This forces you to be succinct β€” you'll focus on the most exciting elements, and this will make your story memorable.