Last week Anne and I were invited to Princeton to speak at Ed Zchau’s class on high tech entrepreneurship. It’s always a pleasure and i’ve now done it 4-5 times. Ed is a former congressman, entrepreneur and has taught at places like HBS and GSB. He’s an amazing teacher and has so much knowledge and wisdom to share. Princeton students are lucky to have him.
I usually mingle with students afterward and share my contact info so they can follow up with me, ask questions, get advice, etc. I was surprised by the number of students who wanted to chat afterwards. And I was also surprised by the number of students who have since emailed and said how much they enjoyed the class. It was a much larger response than normal.
I wondered why.
I informally polled a few of the students, trying to better understand what they liked most about the class and why such a positive response.
The common thread: they liked my stories.
I shared more stories than normal — my defeats and my triumphs, my bumps and my bruises. I took them on a ride… weaving in and out of the people, the things and moments on my path of entrepreneurship. I talked about the time when my brothers and I went door to door, asking BYU students if we could take trash out for $0.25 a bag. Holla. I talked about how I didn’t graduate high school cap-and-gown-style, because I was too busy hustling on a website that ultimately became profitable. I told the story of when I got last place at my first business plan competition for a photo sharing site, and how it motivated me to work harder. I told the Zinch story. I told the time of when a VC said he hated my idea, but he liked me as a person (I now know how it feels to be a girl when a boy tells her she’s not very cute, but her personality is nice. No girl ever wants to hear that, and I certainly didn’t wanna hear that from the VC).
I told stories, stories and more stories. I tried to make it as real as possible, sharing my energy and passion. I love building. I love creating. I love #winning.
Great entrepreneurs know how to tell stories. Everything we do is telling some one, some form of a story. We gotta build a product that tells a persuasive story to our users. If we wanna raise capital, we gotta present a case that tells a compelling story to investors. If we wanna turn our product into a real business, at some point we gotta convince someone to pay for something, and that starts with a story. If we wanna hire the best and brightest, we gotta share a vision and story that will end “happily ever after.” And sometimes, we need to convince ourselves of the cause, telling ourselves to keep moving forward.
Entrepreneurs are story tellers. Do everything to master the skill. I know I still have a lot to learn.
Footnote: Listen to Jack Dorsey’s take on storytelling. He’s a tech CEO I really admire. Love his interviews.