IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you worry about your startup’s story — or rather presenting it.
The pivots, founder feuds, competitors, and development delays are just some of the many hairpin turns that contort your journey into something much more…free-spirited.
You and I have realized that we need to strategically and positively frame our stories to raise a successful funding round. Yet, our startup stories can sometimes seem so chaotic that we might mentally predict failure — how on earth can our messy story look appealing? Who would want to get involved in that? We may even begin envying companies with a seemingly more linear (as far as we can tell) storyline. But regardless of our perceptions, the chaotic story you have can actually be an overwhelming advantage if played correctly. Let’s take a look at this extreme example.
Enter Jon Medved, the CEO and founder of an Israeli startup fund called OurCrowd. In 2012, Medved was in the process of courting OurCrowd’s first investors. These two New Yorkers had never been to Israel before, so Medved decided to show them around Tel Aviv and introduce them to Israel’s startup landscape. After having an enjoyable afternoon of touring and meeting local entrepreneurs, Medved and his guests were on a highway back to Jerusalem when the sound of spine-chilling air raid sirens began to howl. Rocket attacks on Tel Aviv had just begun, the first attack in twenty years.
I pulled over to the hard shoulder and directed my guests to lie down in the dirt by a wall as Israel’s Iron Dome defense system soared into action over our heads. We heard the booms as Iron Dome intercepted the Iranian Fajr missiles overhead, and felt the sickening impact as three of the rockets fired by Hamas exploded a couple of miles from where we were taking cover.
After the assaults ceased and sirens fell silent, Medved and the two investors climbed back into the car. On the drive back, Medved had the sickening feeling that the successful day had just been completely ruined — who in their right mind would invest in companies that were threatened by missile attacks? Upon arriving home, the two investors informed Medved that they would reconsider their investment proposal and get back to him tomorrow morning.
When I arrived at the hotel the following morning, the investors had already made up their minds. I opened my mouth to speak but one of them stopped me short.
“Jon, we must tell you that we’ve decided not to invest a million dollars in OurCrowd,” said my guest, exchanging a glance with his colleague. “After what we went through yesterday, we’re going to invest two million dollars. If those guys from Hamas think they can intimidate us, they’ve never met a real New Yorker.”
I have those two gentlemen to thank for helping get OurCrowd off the ground.
Imagine being told that your company will not only receive the funding it needs but double the amount because of the hardships you’re enduring. Wouldn’t that make you a little prouder of the obstacles you’ve overcome and are overcoming?
I think we often get caught up in keeping our journey as neat and as straightforward as possible at the expense of missing the opportunity to demonstrate how strong we really are. Thus, we try to minimize and skip crucial hurdles instead of giving them proper attention — giving how you overcame and progressed forward its proper attention. This isn’t to say that you need to go into gory detail about every embarrassment and roadblock — don’t do that — but you should discuss the highlights of the arduous journey you and your team have traveled. Such a journey demonstrates that you’ve got skin in the game and, most importantly, that the next time an ugly debacle comes your way, you won’t run and let the company fold.
Because of your nonlinear journey, you and your team are seasoned warriors unphased by chaos. Just as those Israeli companies turned managing the daily threat of missile attacks into a strength inspiring to investors, so can you with your startup’s journey. As VC Mark Suster said of investors, “it takes a miracle to get investment dollars out of them if they’re not impressed with the team.” A difficult journey that your team has persisted through will impress them. It’s up to you to share it.
* * *Mark McKinney is a High Point University Grad Student and entrepreneur. He is the founder of BlueSkyAI. Mark loves reading, writing, photography, and building new tech. You can follow him on Twitter at @MarkDMcKinney and at Thought Science.
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