Tell a story in a new way


Tell a story in a new way

Now in its fourth season Fargo, the TV series inspired by the 1996 movie of the same name, is an absolute delight. It’s a black comedy drama, which always appeals to me, but more than that, it occurred to me that because of the way the writers are telling the story I’m watching it in a different way to any other TV show.

I didn’t read the blurb of the new series before I started watching it. While watching the first couple of episodes I wasn’t really sure who was who or what was going on. The dialogue is sometimes fast, quiet and a bit mumbled — I missed a lot of it but I didn’t turn on subtitles. This was all very deliberate. I knew I didn’t know the details, the people or the plot so far and it didn’t matter, I just deliberately let the story flow over me.

Having watched the previous three seasons I know that the Fargo story will build slowly and won’t disappoint. It will become clear who’s who and what’s what. The characters I need to know about will develop; I’ll love some and hate others and then the suspense will build and the twists, tragedies and bloodshed won’t be far behind.

I’m also taking my time. I watched just one episode last night — I could have carried on and binged another two or three but part of the enjoyment is stretching the story out a bit and thinking of it in between.

Tell a story in a new way

In most other TV shows everything seems to happen in the first 10 minutes. The producers think they have to hook their audience with action, surprises, twists and shocks. I guess they’re worried about people turning off in the first 10 minutes and surfing elsewhere. The thing is, even if you stick with those shows they usually end disappointingly so it’s a confusing assault on the senses in the short term and a let-down in the long term.

Entrepreneurs who are in too much of a rush to tell (sell) their story are a let-down too. In some pitches Angel Investors can feel like they’re being bombarded with the latest Jerry Bruckheimer CSI spin-off. Lots of pizzazz, oomph, dynamism, activity and FOMO-pushing.

If they’re going to make a success of this startup they’re pitching then the entrepreneur is likely to be working on it for many years. Whether or not they get every last detail across to an Angel Investor in the first 10 minutes isn’t really going to impact whether they’re successful or not in the decade that follows.

This again reinforces my Rule #1 of investing in startups:

If I meet you for the first time and you are raising investment then I will not invest in this round.

Tell a story in a new way

I did some mentoring as an ‘Expert in Residence’ for Imperial College’s Enterprise Lab last week. I asked, more than once, “In the first few minutes of a first date, do you propose marriage?”. Of course not, they all said!

The initial approach to an Angel Investor is generally over email or a LinkedIn message. So when pitching in this first message why do many entrepreneurs throw everything at it and think they have to explain as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Instead, entrepreneurs could think about what they really want to get from that initial email. A reply would be a good thing to get so do everything, but no more, to get that. And by ‘everything’ I mean think very hard about the (max) two-line email and the closing question.

Build things up. It’s a conversation, it’s relationship, character and plot development! The objective could be to get the answer to one simple question like, “Are you in the zone for Angel Investing these days?”, or “Are you connecting with [AI/FinTech/DTC] entrepreneurs right now?”.

Ending with a short question is a great way to encourage a reply. A question that needs a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is even better. A question that is almost-a-no-brainer to answer ‘yes’, but does allow a ‘no’ if they really must is the stuff dream emails are made from.

Momentum builds. It crescendos. It’s doesn’t go *bang* immediately… then fizzle out.

Does that sound about right?

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Important: None of these posts are investment advice. If you are thinking about investing you should seek the advice of a suitably qualified independent advisor.