There are tested techniques to help you stand out from the crowd. (BCV)

How To Tell Your Startup’s Story in a Memorable Way

When all you think about is your company, it can be hard to imagine others not seeing your vision. Here are some exercises that will help you become newsworthy.

6 min read October 24, 2023
The Head Start The Head Start Running Your Company Early

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Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of founders on marketing and communications across my various gigs in-house, at agencies and as a VC marketing head. There has been one near-universal truth: Founders struggle to tell their story in a precise way. They haggle over whether it’s a “platform” or a “solution.” They debate the nuances of specific industry terms and how these phrases apply to the product. The problem is, that’s entirely the wrong thing to spend time on.

Most founders are product people. They eat, sleep and dream about what they’re building. That obsessive drive to get it right is what makes them great builders! But it holds many people back from being great communicators. 

It’s important to know what you’re building for internal reasons. Clarity and precision are fantastic tools for driving alignment among your team.

But for the rest of the world of potential customers, investors and talent? There are bigger fish to fry. 

It’s more important at the earliest stages of your company, when no one knows you or cares about what you’re building (yet!), to connect your story to the wider world.

Force yourself out of your bubble

Consider some examples of companies that articulated  a narrative that helped them become giants in their industries:

  • Stripe isn’t just processing payments. It’s the financial infrastructure of the internet.
  • Facebook isn’t just a social network. It’s making the world a more open and connected place.
  • In the early days, Salesforce didn’t just announce its CRM. It predicted the end of software. 

As the founder of a company, you’ve spent years thinking about the problem you’re solving and the solution you’re building. The average person you interact with – whether that’s an investor, customer, potential new hire or reporter – has spent a fraction of that time and energy thinking about the issue. You need to do the work for them to connect it to the issues that are relevant in the moment you find yourself. 

Put more simply, if you tell people your product is doing X for Y, it simply isn’t big enough news for the average person to care, or the average 10x engineer to spend the next 10 years at your side.

Sharpen your story by answering questions

Here are some exercises I’ve used to help bridge that gap as you’re thinking about how to tell your story. Carve out some time for any or all of these, and write down your answers:

  • Determine what you’re actually building. It’s important to know that and get it out of your system for these exercises to work. What will happen to the industry/world at large if your company succeeds beyond your wildest dreams? What will be lost if it fails? What’s at stake? 
  • As a company, what are you a champion for, and what are you against? 
  • Read an article in the publication you most dream of having your company featured in. Now, write that article yourself. What’s the headline? What’s the money quote? 
  • When your grandmother asks about your company and what it does, what do you tell her? Write it down. Now, do it again and pretend you’re talking to the person you most admire in your industry.
  • If books are written about your company what will the title be? Consider “Delivering Happiness,” about Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s vision; “Shoe Dog,” about Nike founder Phil Knight’s scrappy quest to make Nike cool; the Netflix culture Bible, “No Rules Rules;” and Zuora’s magazine, “Subscribed.” 

On that last note, this work feeds into a broader company narrative that will get everyone internally not only on the same page, but on the juiciest part of the book. 

Your story will continue to evolve

The work you do here won’t last forever. All brand and messaging work is a “living” product that will need to be updated as you scale and achieve greater product fidelity. 

Yet I find that companies that go that important extra step beyond “What are we building?” to “Why does it matter?” at the earliest stages are set up to gobble up an outsized share of conversation when it matters most – before anyone cares.

When I worked for the dating site Zoosk, we competed with 1,400+ other dating sites. It seems every budding entrepreneur has an idea for a dating site, but  it’s a lot harder to do well and our technology story was very interesting and tempting to hang our hats on. We were using machine learning to find people matches before it was popular, and were the first to introduce photo verification using driver’s license uploads. 

But that’s not why consumers choose a dating app. They need confidence that they’re going to find the relationship they’re looking for using that technology. At a time when so many of our competitors were touting their marriage statistics, while others were ways to find one-night-stands, we rebranded around the idea of “Like” and celebrated that moment on a first date where you realize this person has potential. Love and marriage were putting the cart before the horse in our market research. 

In working with deep tech startups in my last role  and enterprise tech here at Bain Capital Ventures, I’ve found that most founders are excellent at product marketing. They want to spend a lot of time on that, understandably. But when it comes to connecting with your audience it’s often not about the technology – that’s part of the story – but what matters more is the impact it will have on their lives and the vision of the company overall. 

If you or your team would like help with this work, we’d love to chip in! Having done a Narrative Workshop similar to the above with dozens of companies, we can spend two 2-hour sessions with you to get this to a good place for your company to do more than generate coverage – to capture imaginations. You can shoot me an email at

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