Founders: How To Tell A Good Story | Sarah Drinkwater

Sie
4 min readJul 19, 2023

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Sarah Drinkwater @ Sie Raise Summit

“Stories are SEO for the mind” — a powerful opener from Sarah Drinkwater to kick off our first Sie Raise Summit in March (you can read our summary here). Sarah is an accomplished founder, expert of all things community, active angel investor and now GP of Common Magic. We were delighted that she could not only join us for the Summit but open the day with a session on arguably the most important aspect of fundraising: storytelling. Here we do our best to summarise her session!

Stories, as we know, are short narratives that entertain, persuade, and explain. Fairytales — ‘once upon a time’ — help us make sense of the world. Company missions are structured to be practical and drive alignment for their products. “Just do it.” Whilst stories build and reinforce the brand, they anchor your product in the mind of others.

There are four levels to tell your story to an investor: the one-liner, the paragraph, the pitch deck and the pitch.

The one-liner is a short and sharp introduction into who your company is, what you do and why. Sarah encourages all founders to have this on lockdown, ready to share whenever asked.

Sarah provided us with an example of her new pre-seed fund, Common Magic:

Common Magic is a pre-seed fund focused on products with community at their core (think; Figma, Github, Unity) built to leverage my background as an angel investor and community operator.

Lauren — co-founder of GASM — shared on the day:

“GASM is reinventing the sexual wellness space, with the world’s first Adult Learn & Play app. We are creating a space for adults to explore and improve their sexual health and relationships”

Sarah — co-founder of Waggle — shared on the day:

“Waggle is an AI co-pilot that helps managers know exactly what to do and when to do it, to drive their team to perform”

Sie’s Founding Partner, Triin Linamagi shared as an example:

“Sie Ventures is a capital platform for female (co-) founded businesses, and investors in Europe. Our ultimate goal is to close the gender funding gap by providing gender diverse founding teams a better access to capital, investor network, and support.

One liners are important in nudging people’s memories so practice, practice, practice — it’s the anchor for everything that follows.

Step two, the paragraph, which builds on the one-liner. This should be the part of your email to investors that drives the excitement for your pitch deck, which you’ve likely included as an attachment.

Here, think about your founder-product-market fit. You don’t need to have come from a technical background for the product to be relevant to you. Lived and learnt experiences are plenty if you frame them right. What did you experience first-hand that led you to build this product? Smooth transitions from ‘I experienced the problem’ to ‘I got things done’ can help the listener to understand your product. However, there is a line between personal and too personal, so make sure to tread carefully.

Step three, the pitch deck. One pitfall that founders tend to slip into is that they delve into far too much detail, without explaining the why. But at the early-stage, investors tend to look for strong teams and clear visions, so in 12–20 slides, highlight:

  • What you’re building: in the simplest language, what are you raising money to build?
  • Why you’re building: tell the investors more about the problem. Early stage investors often invest before any revenue or even a launched product, but they do expect clear thinking and proof points of customer need. For instance, who are the customers and how many have you talked to? How deeply is the problem felt? And, how did you come to this solution?
  • Who’s building: Why are you and your team the perfect team to do this? What are your learnt and lived experiences that best position you to create this product?

Bear in mind that the ultimate aim of a pitch deck is to get you an in-person meeting with the investors, so don’t over-explain or over-design. Leave the investors with just enough information to garner curiosity in you and your product.

Extra: pre-seed companies don’t need a data room. But if you’ve done your research and have more insights that you want to document, be sure to show it to the investors if requested! (This is also how founders can tell if an investor is serious).

Last but not least, the pitch. It’s time to tie everything together and verbally deliver your story. This is an opportunity to convince people you want to bring on the journey. Deep dive into the ‘what’, the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. Mention the progress you’re making and the traction you’re building.

Some additional points to bear in mind as you develop your story:

  • Your message should not be static; update and upgrade your message as your business progresses and grows.
  • Stories are also for a broader purpose, not just investors. They’re for connecting with your customers too.

“We need teams of missionaries, not teams of mercenaries.” Whereas missionaries are engaged, motivated and emphatic individuals, a mercenary sees only the commercial opportunity. Sarah’s favourite kind of founders are missionaries, and so, perfecting your story — why you relate to the issue — is essential to a successful fundraise!

A massive thank you to Sarah for sharing incredibly helpful insights.

We focus on storytelling & pitching during the first few weeks of our program. Applications for our next cohort are open until July 28th, you can learn more and apply here: https://www.sie.ventures/sie-catalyst

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Sie

Capital platform empowering exceptional female founders.