Storytelling is an art as old as civilization, but it’s rarely taught anywhere despite the fact that the ability to tell a good story is instrumental to success in many, many fields.
Fundraising is one area where good storytelling can be table stakes, but few founders know how to communicate clearly and succinctly how their idea solves a problem.
Snorkel.AI’s co-founder, and CEO, Alex Ratner, honed his storytelling chops at a Stanford lab, and that ability, he said on a recent TechCrunch Live episode, was key to helping him raise $135.3 million over four rounds since the company was founded in 2019.
“I was a pitch deck nerd even before giving a real pitch deck,” Ratner said. “I had it drilled into me on the academic side, that communication is everything. You could have the fanciest, highest-performing method. Still, it means nothing if you cannot communicate how it maps to real problems and how it is contextualized within alternative solutions.”
Ratner was joined on TechCrunch Live by Saam Motamedi, Greylock partner and the lead investor in Snorkel.AI’s $3.3 million seed round.
Listen to the episode, and it’s obvious Alex Ratner is good at telling his company’s story. Passion and savviness come through with ease, though when pressed, he admits he’s given this talk countless times — and that was the over-arching theme of this episode. Of course, it takes practice to pitch well.
This episode is a must-watch for anyone preparing a pitch. Ratner and Motamedi drew a straight line from a pitch to raising early funds, and the starting point is a clear message.
“I think anyone can learn to be an exceptional storyteller,” Motamedi said, adding, “Alex has been a phenomenal storyteller from the time I met him. But, that said, I think his ability to tell this story has improved dramatically over the last few years.”
Motamedi points to Snorkel.AI’s pitch as an excellent example for entrepreneurs trying to improve their storytelling ability. It’s a critical balancing act between presenting a 30,000 ft. view of the market and the problem the company is solving that adds value to the customer.
“To be candid,” he said, “the startup just needs to get this right.” It can directly lead to seed or Series A investment, along with convincing the investor the company has the right team in place. “These are the two things we look for at seed and Series A.”