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A story worth telling at work

Source | | Sowmya Rajaram

Why pay for a buffet when you’re only going to have soup and salad?” That is how Ravitej Yadalam began his pitch to investors last week. He was talking about his company, Lightwing, which helps firms pay only for what they use on the cloud, thereby cutting their cloud spending by up to 70%. But just 24 hours earlier, his pitch deck said something like, “Consumption-based automation that optimizes cloud spend”. The transition from jargon to a direct, engaging message was the result of a storytelling workshop he attended with Ameen Haque, founder of Storywallahs, a company that helps firms leverage the power of stories. The workshop was part of an accelerator programme at NetApp, a data management firm.

Like Yadalam, entrepreneurs are discovering that stories communicate business concepts better to investors, customers and employees, than gobbledygook on a PowerPoint slide.

So, on a Friday morning at NetApp Bengaluru’s office, Haque took apart Yadalam’s presentation. He teased metaphors out of dry data and applied experiences of bus journeys to buying cloud storage on AWS and Microsoft Azure. As a result, the investor meeting went “extremely well”, Yadalam says. “We modelled our presentation on the workshop, and were told it was really good.”

WHERE Words count

Haque has been helping entrepreneurs tell their stories for five years. “Startup founders often have technology backgrounds, and get stuck on the minute, transactional details. Sometimes, all you need to do is zoom out and help them tell the right story,” he says.

Like in the case of Swapnik Jakkampudi, co-founder of Curl Analytics, a startup that is also part of the accelerator. The story of the company’s product Paras, which helps companies automate their artificial intelligence solutions with greater accuracy and easy setup (“machine learning on steroids”, as Haque called it) was getting lost in the dense minutiae of “blockchain” and “noise complexity”. “When you’re involved in a project for so long, you develop a tunnel vision. We were focused on Paras’ technical strengths. A fresh pair of eyes helped us see how to approach it from the customers’ point of view. We will now emphasize Paras’ functionality,” says Jakkampudi.

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