Storytelling lessons from Flipboard, Nest, Beyond Meat, and Dropbox

Remember the last time you wrote an important document or email but then accidentally deleted it and had to rewrite the whole thing? Sure it was painful but as you got going, the doc came out better than the first time because you already had the experience of doing it once before. You knew what to say, what points made sense, and what ideas needed to be made clearer.

Now, what if we hit delete on all websites and wrote them all over again from scratch? How could we reimagine websites and web browsing to make the experience better for everyone — publishers, readers, and advertisers alike — especially as mobile devices become the dominant way to consume the web instead of desktop browsers? For two decades now, I’ve worked at the very forefront of web rendering at my startup Paper Software and then later Netscape. All that time, I’ve been trying to make digital storytelling as visual, thoughtful, and beautiful as print storytelling is, but never got there. Until now.

You can curl up on the couch with a good book or magazine. With Flipboard, we’re making it possible to curl up with a good website.

Flipboard: turning the web into your ultimate personal magazine

The story behind the business story

Flipboard wasn’t just a great idea. It was a great articulation of a great idea. And we can break down Mike’s articulation into 3 parts:

  1. Framing: describing the business opportunity in a way that feels natural bordering on obvious
  2. Proximity: demonstrating that the founder / storyteller has a unique relationship with the opportunity that makes them ideally suited to tackle it
  3. Relatability: making the opportunity feel relevant to the audience

Framing of Nest

When co-founders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers unveiled Nest, there were many different ways to tell the story behind their startup. They were building a cleantech company to improve energy efficiency. They were creating an Internet connected device for home automation. They were making high tech wall art that would spark conversation. But here’s the way they told their story when I first heard Matt and Tony pitch in 2011: “We reinvent unloved home products to create simple, beautiful, thoughtful things.”

Proximity of Ethan Brown

I first met Ethan Brown ten years ago when he was raising capital for his startup Savage River Farms, which would later go on to incredible success under a different name: Beyond Meat. Ethan’s story for his company at that time was as clear as it was ambitious:

We provide a near-perfect replication of meat through a platform that can drive pricing below that of meat, and in doing so have the potential to make meaningful contributions to greenhouse gas emission reduction, efficient global resource use, human health, and animal welfare.

Relatability of Drew Houston

Many of us have heard the story of how Drew Houston came up with the idea for Dropbox before: as a college student, he kept forgetting or misplacing his USB drive that had his class work on it and thought why can’t these files be stored online somewhere instead of on a physical device I keep losing? Dropbox was born and just over a decade later, it’s now a $10 billion dollar public company with more than 600 million users who have uploaded a half trillion files to their servers.

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Eric Feng

Eric Feng

7.2K Followers

Current: Co-founder of @cymbalxyz, Co-founder of @GoldHouseCo Ventures. Past: @Meta (via Packagd), GP at @KleinerPerkins, and CTO of @Hulu and @Flipboard.