(c) Gerrit de Heus

Startup in Residence 2017 is in full swing (part 2):“Most of all, startups need to have conversations”

Collaboration Innovation Startup in Residence Startups

The 2017 edition of governmental accelerator program Startup in Residence The Hague is in full swing. It’s one of the many efforts in ImpactCity that is geared towards enabling successful startups’ growth, introduced via the city’s ‘Impact Economy’ startup program. Six startups have been selected to participate and are now immersing themselves in an intensive training program. Local storytelling expert, Jonathan Talbott, is in charge of helping them build a powerful story that sells. We checked in with him and the participating startups to hear their thoughts.

“I get to help the startups talk about what they’re doing and what they need,” Jonathan explains. “My journey with them is a communications journey. We are so used to the idea that startups need money, but this is not necessarily true. Startups need so many things. They need advice, help, space, mentoring, a constituency.”

Successful startups have conversations

“That’s why I encourage them to have conversations, as opposed to standing on a stage and pouring out their story,” he says. “Startups like to give lots of information, because they’re often coming from a data perspective. But if you want people to join you on your journey they want to know that you’re a decent person.”

He adds, “So we spend a lot of time thinking about how the audience needs to feel, and how we can make the audience understand that this is something worth working on by addressing both the logical and emotional side of the audience”.

“There’s this ideal of the rock star attitude, which I find to be damaging in many ways. If you go on stage and tell everybody how great you are, nobody is going to want to help you” – storytelling expert Jonathan Talbott

No rock stars

“There’s so much testosterone-driven communication out there in the startup world. There’s this ideal of the rock star attitude, which I find to be damaging in many ways,” he says. “In storytelling, we don’t love the characters that are perfect. Quite the opposite, we bond with the ones who aren’t. If you go on stage and tell everybody how great you are, nobody is going to want to help you.”

“That’s why Demo Day shouldn’t be just a performance,” Jonathan argues. “The whole point is in doing something that will stick in people’s heads. It’s about creating future relationships. They’ve done well if, at the end of their presentation, they have the right person in the audience come up and talk to them.”

The story behind the facts

“Jonathan has made me realize that it’s not enough to produce a good quality product. You need to know how to communicate it to the right people,” Hala Alhamed of startup One Stop Shop shares. “He’s helped me name and present things differently.”

Daan Meily of startup One Day The Hague adds, “ Jonathan has made me realize that you only get your audience’s attention when you present your pitch in a storytelling kind of way. That’s why it’s important to steer away from just telling facts and involve a storyline in the pitch. He’s taught me not to just mention the facts, but to tell the story behind the facts.”

“To be honest,” Roberto Viana of startup Avenieuw says, “Jonathan has made me realize that pitching is not for everyone. You must practice, practice, practice before you get it right. We are far more aware now of the story we tell and the vision we convey.”

Altogether new solutions

The startup accelerator program, Startup in Residence The Hague, aims to kickstart startups and connect them to the City of The Hague to encourage collaboration. The program is inspired by the notion that startups are perfectly positioned to come up with altogether new solutions to the problems the city faces.

Over the course of the spring, the municipality of The Hague called on startups to submit their creative ideas. After consideration by a professional jury, six startups were selected to participate in this year’s edition. In August, they started their four-month co-development track featuring also this intensive training program that will end on Demo Day, on 19 December, when they will present their prototypes.

A brave thing to do

“I’m thrilled this is happening. It’s an amazing idea, the program itself as a concept,” Jonathan says about the overall Startup in Residence program. “The municipality is stepping well outside of its comfort zone in an altogether new approach to find solutions to its pervasive challenges. This is brave thing to do.”

“However,” he adds, “once you initiate this type of innovation, how do you make sure it is implemented?” He reflects, “It’s clear that the Startup in Residence program is accepted on a theoretical basis. On a practical level, it has some room to grow. We have to continue to practice accepting risk and expand our willingness to experiment.”

Interested to stay informed? Keep an eye on Startup in Residence The Hague’s website, and hurry back here for the latest.