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Entrepreneur Office Hours: Issue #184
Some interesting lessons learned about narrative design
In last week’s issue, I mentioned I’d be teaching a Zoom class this week called “Narrative Design.” It’s a class designed to help entrepreneurs think about how to effectively tell stories about themselves and their work to public audiences.
With class wrapping up, I wanted to share a couple interesting things I learned.
First, I learned that I still hate teaching Zoom classes. I’m not suggesting the students were bad. They’ve actually been quite engaged, especially for a class with 50 people. But I hate seeing everyone in black boxes. I much prefer a physical classroom.
To be fair, my dislike of Zoom teaching wasn’t a surprise. But it’s been a while since the days of pandemic classes, and I figured a week of being back on Zoom wouldn’t be too bad. Wrong!
I remember during the early days of the pandemic, everyone was saying it marked the end of in-person education because how successfully classes were being moved online.
Technically, classes can be taught over Zoom. But I’m not sure anyone enjoys them. They’re more convenient, but that’s pretty much the only advantage.
Enough about my hatred of Zoom-teaching. The more important lesson this week has been how much people have become interested in being able to create effective, publicly accessible content. It’s almost like a collective lightbulb has gone off in every entrepreneur’s head that being able to convey compelling narrative across social media is important and valuable.
When I taught the same class last year, nobody asked questions about the relationship between what I was teaching (narrative design) and social media. This year, it’s basically every question.
Personally, I consider this a big win. Social media needs more smart, talented, hard-working entrepreneurs sharing their stories. And I don’t just mean my students. I mean all of you, too!
Even if you don’t care about video games, you can still learn a lot by understanding their similarities with startups.
Entrepreneurs have to meet lots of people, but some of them need to learn better ways of asking for meetings.
Office Hours Q&A
I feel like your article about why VCs refuse to say “no” is being too kind to VCs and letting them off the hook. If they’re going to reject people, that’s their right. But they should at least be willing to explain themselves.
All of their “let’s keep in touch” BS is a huge time waste for entrepreneurs. Why shouldn’t they have to be more direct?
I usually agree with everything you write about fundraising. I especially like how you always hold investors accountable. But in this article, it seems like you’re being too soft. No offense. I was just surprised, that’s all.
Still love everything you write, though. Please keep it up! I look forward to every article.
I definitely agree in principle with the idea that VCs and other investors should be direct and honest about why they’re rejecting entrepreneurs. However, what I was trying to convey in the article (and obviously didn't do a good job of based on your response) is a worry that sometimes the truth is too harsh and too unhelpful.
In the article, I share the story of my friend and his interest in startups. He was so excited about the opportunity he thought he discovered but so woefully ignorant of what needed to be done to pursue it that I didn't know how to help him. There was just too much he didn't understand. What was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to spend three years mentoring him so he’d be able to understand and appreciate my feedback?
I bring this up because, in retrospect, I feel like a lot of my early conversations with VCs were similar scenarios. Sure, I was very enthusiastic about my startups, but enthusiasm doesn't "pay the bills," so to speak. I was so ignorant about startups that no VC could reasonably tell me everything I was doing wrong or why I wasn’t a good investment. In those cases, is it reasonable to expect them to exhaustively explain the issues?
Plus, imagine what might have happened had a VC said, “No… you’re clearly too naive and ignorant to build this company,” rather than “this is great… let’s keep in touch!” In a way, encouraging me was more valuable than telling me I didn’t know anything because the encouragement kept me excited to keep working and learning.
It’s like my daughter learning to play piano. If I said “you suck!” every time she missed a note, she’d have given up after her first lesson. Instead, I encourage her and tell her how great she’s doing (while also giving gentle feedback), and that keeps her motivated and excited. Maybe good VCs know to do the same thing?
Or maybe I really am going too soft in my old age…
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!