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Your startup story

Updated: Apr 30

So, I hear you’ve started a new business, what’s it doing?

If you’re starting your own business, you’ll hear this question a lot. So, how do you respond?

You could draw from hyped-up YouTubers and start raving about 5am cold showers and living and breathing your startup. Alternatively, you could realise that your startup is a story.

It’s a story that you need to learn to write and tell, because, without a story, you won’t know what you’re trying to sell. If you don’t know what you’re selling, nobody will buy it. Plus, your friends, family, well-wishers, and potential investors won’t be able to help or advise you in a way that helps make your vision real. You might believe in your business passionately, but others need to be convinced. They need to see what you see.

So, what are the elements of a good story?

1.  Setting

Describe the problems you’ve seen, how the status quo and your potential competitors are failing to deliver. How are they letting people down? What opportunities are they missing? 

This is the starting point to understanding your customers’ problems. It’s only once you tune into their needs that your plot begins to make sense.

Ask yourself these questions:

·         Where is this problem encountered?

·         Who is experiencing it?

·         When?

·         What are the symptoms and costs?

·         Why isn’t someone already doing something about it? 

2.  Plot

The plot is the journey taken by your reader or listener as you guide them through your story. 

In business terms, this is how you and your team are going to make a difference for the world and your customers. These actions need to have a reason, to be clear and compelling. They need to change things and make the world a better place.

3.  Characters

Now that you’ve described your actions and the setting of your business: who’s going to be a part of your story? A friend of mine once described the perfect business as one with no suppliers and no customers. Unfortunately, this business doesn’t exist. To run a business, you need suppliers, and you’ll have to solve your customer’s problems. These are integral parts of a business’ vitality.

Think about who you’ll help and who will be involved in providing that help, because you won’t be able to do it all on your own. I can guarantee you’ll need tools and support.

4.  Point of view

Is this story going to be about you? Is it going to be all about the customer? Will it be some blend of you, your team, your customers, and suppliers?

When you create your story, you’ll be telling it from a perspective. It’ll probably be yours if you’re interested in describing how you’ll solve problems in the world. 

Alternatively, you might find the story more compelling when you tell it from the perspective of a customer – how that customer struggled to deal with a particular problem until an amazing new solution was offered by a wonderful supplier!

If you’re trying to draw in your audience, say someone like an investor; you could describe the story from, or introduce, their perspective, and explain how their contribution to the business makes life so much better.

5.  Conflict

Conflict sounds like the last thing you want to experience in a business. I prefer to use the word ‘tension’. It explains the balance of power between the different characters in your story, and it’s essential to an interesting narrative. 

Constructive tension is a powerful and positive force that generates amazing outcomes, which just aren’t possible in a smooth, orderly process. Smooth sailing is just as likely to generate complacency as dynamism. 

Examine the relationships in your story and seek out likely points of conflict and tension, then describe how you’ll manage these to find a better outcome for all. It’s been said that the measure of a good business is in how they deal with problems, not how they deal with day-to-day delivery. Dig in there and see where things could go wrong. It’ll inspire confidence in your audience that you’ve thought it through, and it’ll save you trouble later.


Map out your startup story. It may not be as simple as you think to write something both succinct and interesting. When you’re doing it, take your time to bring the story elements together in a way that means something to your audience. 

Keep in mind, while the key elements may be the same, you might need to vary parts of your story to address the specific interests of your listener.

Your business is a story. A well-constructed story will guide you through the struggles to get your business off the ground and will bring others behind you in support. When you change your concept, as you will certainly have to, adapt both your business and your story. Refreshing your story will keep your vision fresh.

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