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Your Pitch is not your Story

15 Mins


By Team Artha

3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. The perfect investor pitch is pitched as a gateway to open doors, for investment and more. There are pitch templates that promise to show you how to build the perfect pitch to wow investors. BUT, not all companies need to even have an investor pitch. It purely depends on the entrepreneurs’ vision and growth plan. And in the haste to build the pitch, the one critical ingredient that gets missed is – THE STORY.

"What's your story?"

It’s the key question that instead needs to be answered for startups, each day in their journey. And that’s a question, not just from the investors. But from the co-founder, from the employees and obviously, from the customers. It reflects in the strategy, the values, the culture of the company. Can we flip the perennial pitch question to build a strong story first such that the pitch really reflects who we are as people and as representatives of our dream, our company? Can that change the pitch from being just a template that looks remarkably similar to the last one which claimed to have raised a big investment round?

Let's look at the difference with an example. AirBnB.


AirBnB’s promise to its customers is this:

“Book room with locals, rather than hotels.”

It’s the promise that the budget conscious and experience hungry traveller looks for when they travel and which they sorely lack in cookie-cutter hotel rooms.

It’s the promise which has now expanded over time, and through the pandemic, into finding staycations and options working for extended periods from different locations at AirBnB. It’s also the promise the company seems to be living upto, through their own story. Instead of coaxing or nudging people back to offices, they are following a similar maxim for their employees as well.

A good customer promise then reflects a benefit that is not just transactional for customers, but can be a ongoing aspiration for them.


The now much publicized pitch that AirBnB made for their first investment round had all the ingredients of a good pitch. The slides, clean and professional and good. And they tick the golden three boxes investors look at understanding in an idea they evaluate, specially at the early stages

  • THE TAM (total addressable market)
  • THE TRACTION (unit economics and business model validation)

But by themselves, they do not tell a story that is sustainable. A story that not just investors, but more importantly, the customers, can believe in. Building a story, specially, for an early stage company that is still trying to test its product market fit, pricing and other modalities, requires the same fundamental elements that a fiction writer would look at before crafting her story -

  • The Character: the customer segment for whom the problem you solve is urgent and big, and who would therefore find the value and pay the right prices for this
  • The Conflict: what’s stopping the character from getting the solution they needed, today. That’s the true value from your solution and why they would choose your solution/production.
  • The Treasure: the treasure your chosen character needs and which you chose to solve. The treasure could be said or unsaid. For example, when it comes to payment, a credit card or a mobile wallet need not be the treasure for a customer. The ability to have the convenience of payment through different options could be the treasure.
  • The Right way: your solution and how you address the problem, acknowledging that there are others who will attempt it in their own way; becoming either your competition or your partners
  • The Result: The end state you would be looking for which has to tie back to the customers’ promise or treasure.

(Reference: Paul Smith’s Lead with a Story)

If the story is something the co-founders spend time in developing, the pitch just becomes an outcome. And it does not become an ordeal, timed in minutes and measured in slides and bullets.


For AirBnb, one of the examples of the story they chose to tell was through a video of two friends who were parted in Germany. And then united years later, after the fall of the Wall. Incidentally, it came from a customers’ real story, shared by the daughter of the one of the two friends. The best stories are often told about us, by our customers, our employees, our well-wishers. This particular story stood out as it involved the structure of storytelling, the creative crafting of a story and a deep understanding of the customers’ promise.

Another company that does this really well is Ixigo. Their videos on relatable travel moments are justifiably real, and viral.

Not just videos, companies such as Stripe and Zerodha have shown the power of consistent, engaging and original written content.

The key, like the hare and the tortoise story is the fact that the story of the company builds over time. Each blog, each video, each customer interaction, each product iteration adds to the story.

Stories are memorable. They are personal. And they inspire action. So the next time, someone asks for a pitch, let’s ask ourselves, are they really giving us a chance to tell our story?

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Team Artha