Here is how a ‘story’ comes into play
Last night, I was out with three of my closest friends. After a few drinks at some random pub, getting dinner on curry row, and hitting up a roof top party, we decided we needed to take the night to someplace a bit more low key. We all agreed that we wanted it to be a wine bar. I decided to take them to The Immigrant.
Now, there are literaly HUNDREDS of wine bars in the city, many highly rated on Yelp. The Immigrant was not even within the vicinity of where we were and yet, that was still everyone’s place of choice. Why? Because I had a story to tell them about this particular wine bar. It wasn’t much. I just said “its this awesome wine bar, they have a reasonable selection, but its run by these two guys that run it like they OWN the place. They really go out of their way to make sure you’re happy.” That story was enough for my friends to get back on the FDR and make the trek.
What does it mean for startups?
It means that having a character, a story, a personality is SO much more important that your idea, and your product. It seems like there is SO much emphasis on these nitty gritty details about your business plan, term sheet, acquisition strategy, people are forgetting the single thing that will get people to use your product: A STORY.
I drive a BMW because I buy their story of a joyful driving experience. I use Twitpic over the million other photo sharing services because I think Noah Everett is a great guy and has a great story. I use 37Signals products because I buy their story that says simple tools can help you get shit done. And finally, my friends all agreed to go to the Immigrant because they bought the story of choosing the place where the owner is serving you and REALLY taking care of you.
The moral of this story
Now the important thing is, just telling your story isn’t enough. You have to actually back it up. I wouldn’t keep using 37Signals if their tools weren’t actually simple. And similarly, my friends wouldn’t have had a good time if they didn’t get the experience my story promised. A great story will attract people to your storefront, but a great product is what will make the sale.
As for The Immigrant, when Jason (who indeed turned out to be one of the owners) saw us trying to get in through the door in the crowded place, he ushered us in, and lead us to the back where there was plenty of room. He shook my hand and said “its been a while!” and then proceeded to take care of my friends. When we asked him about the crowd, he said “yeah, we’ve been open for 2 months and its starting to get real busy.” That’s no surprise. That’s a great story and a great product in action right there.
The moral of this story? Its okay for you to create the 100th Twitter client or iPhone app of the same genre, just make sure you have a compelling story to tell. That is what people want the most.