How to build a startup story and develop a sticky product

Ravi Kurani
5 min readMar 4, 2021

Humans tell stories. This is a fact. Its ingrained in our DNA, epigenetics, and ethos. It’s how we’ve evolved to split from the Neanderthals to our bustling life-web we live in today. We have the ability to ‘congregate’ around an idea, a tradition, a belief, a company, a government, an ideology, a ‘north star’ larger than ourselves. That’s why we’re one of the most disruptive species on this planet. We’re winning, succeeding (to a certain extent). All because of stories.

Stories are core to our being. We’ve been trained to speak and listen to stories for at least 30,000 years. I’ve sensed this from the numerous times that I’ve pitched to VCs (venture capitalists) that invest money, customers that buy our product, and employees that want to commit to a vision of what they’re working on.

The initial gag-reflex is that theres some sort of manipulation behind the theory. It feels like a dirty salesman selling a car.

It’s honestly anything, but.

I (as I was pitching) didn’t really know I was telling a story. I was just explaining the general model that I felt was true to myself, the assumptions I had validated. I started to understand that everyone has problems (big or small), and these people want to hear solutions for those problems.

You got sold a knife set, but you didn’t need it

Just as any amazing sales(wo)man would sell you a beautiful knife set for your kitchen. You probably didn’t need it, but I bet if you dissected why you purchased that set, it’s probably because he or she, convinced you that you had a problem.

  • Your current knife set doesn’t work (a first derivative issue)
  • It takes you too long to cut (a second derivative issue)
  • Your food is bad because you are not good at cutting (a third derivative issue)
  • You have relationship problems because your food is not good, because you cannot chop food properly (a fourth derivative issue)
  • This results in issues with your children, your husband, your spouse.

Just like compounded interest, your issue gets worse the deeper you search. The entire game of marketing (or sales or just solving a problem) is figuring out the deepest issues of why someone needs something (a solution). What they call as the ‘5 whys’. If you ask why 5 times, you will eventually get the core of the issue.

OK — so that was a great setup. I’ll try to get to the meat of this post, quickly.

I was chatting with my buddy Jarie, on how to build a better story. We’re infatuated with how to build products to make peoples lives better, but more importantly convincing them that this solution is something that they should have (and it will genuinely solve their problem).

Photo of Ravi Kurani and Jarie Bolander on a Google Meet

Off of our initial thoughts, we think there are three major vertices to the story-product triangle that helps you tell a great story and build a viral loop.

These three vertices are:

  • Product market survey (which drives the 40% number…more below), and feeds roadmap items into…
  • Product led growth (PLG) as a methodology to build and sell sticky products
  • The story funnel, which allows you to package and build a narrative around features that are inspired by the product market survey

I’ll write more on this in the next few posts. We could probably write a novel on each of these three points, but I digress…

The three vertices of startup story telling and product development

The core model

Vertex 1: Product market fit survey

  • Rahul Vohra in his product-market fit survey basically tries to figure out how disappointed people are if the product is taken away from them.
  • He then asks what features would be necessary, and most importantly to describe who else would benefit from the product.
  • This does two things, (1) tells you who is interested in the product from a segmentation standpoint and (2) what is your core demographic, as defined by the user, which then allows you to segregate users. Which is brilliant, because you have the users defining who they think would best find value in the product.
  • [side note heres an amazing template from Dave Bailey on the strategy. We’ve actually implemented a few of these (will update soon)]
  • The magic number here is if 40% of folks would be DISSATISFIED with having your product taken away from them. A side note, amazingly we hit a 36% dissatisfied metric. I will definitely throw this as a metric to track into our OKRs for next quarter.

Vertex 2: Product led growth (PLG) development

Product led growth (as defined by, is a “business approach where customer acquisition, marketing and sales all revolve around the product itself

“Basically… the different colors are all different teams — marketing, sales, CS, design, engineering — that normally operate on different wavelengths. Instead of separating them, the product-led prism brings these teams together. Their combined wavelengths form the bright, focused light of the user’s experience.”

This allows you to build a strong product that is defined by all stakeholders in the company.

See image below from ProdLed.

Source: ProdLed

Vertex 3: The Story Funnel

This part we’re still working on, but it will basically be a ‘story guide’ to how your entire team should talk about the product, what values it has to users, and why people should purchase it. It’s broken into 3 main chunks and helps you build a flywheel from Rahul’s P/M survey and PLG into a concise narrative that you can implement everywhere you have “assets” that people will see (be it a FB ad, to an email, to a Point of Purchase display).

Thank you!

Tonight was a bit of a cryptic post, but if you have any questions just email me- or comment on this post. I’m more than happy to help and walk through our thinking. I’ll be posting more on the topic shortly!

This is day 4 of my #90DayOfProse challenge.