How to spot a good wine and a good startup: the power of storytelling

What makes for a good wine?

We’ve been asking this very question since wild grapes were first fermented in the Areni-1 cave in Vayots Dzor, Armenia.

(That was 6000 years ago).

You might believe the best wines sit on the highest shelfs, with the highest price tags.

But a wine’s quality has nothing to do with money.

Taste matters, obviously. And a good wine will to be balanced between flavors and aromas — raspberry, or cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, citrus…

Taste is both intuitive and complex. Sniffer, swirler and all-round vino connoisseur Tim McDonald captures this well when he says:

“The taste is confirming what you sense. Good is the combo of all of it, the sum of the parts.”

Yes, a good wine must be flawless.

Yes, a good wine must be well-balanced.

But more importantly, a good wine must have a story behind it.

(That’s what we experience when we taste it).

How to spot a good wine and a good startup: the power of storytelling Image-1
Lucien Arkas Vineyard, Izmir / Turkey

As you take your first sip, an old locomotive passing through Aegean plains flashes behind your eyes: pouring an honorable black smoke, ripening the flavor of the old wise oak.

An old farmer is carrying hay at his farm; children are playing blind man’s buff.

Once the first sip touches your soul, it should taste like your hometown.

Startups are no different

It’s their story that makes them. And often, that story will remind us of home.

You know how some parents frame their children’s nursery sketches on their wall, or can’t resist talking about the college their 18-year-old got into.

It can be irritating, I know (RIP George Carlin).

But I get it, too. Because it’s not just about showing off, and being proud (although that’s definitely part of it).

It’s also about children coming into the world, and growing up, and a narrative (of two, or four, or 18 years) culminating into something (a drawing, a place at college).

Part of what proud parents want to share is the richness of that story, the story of their home.

And I believe that startups are no different. Their creation and growth is a story, and they have stories embedded in them.

And often, startup stories feel similar to those of bringing up children.

Gross Domestic Product Inc founder Scott Bell points to that similarity:

“A new business or startup really is a child in the family, and if everyone isn’t onboard with the sacrifices it will take to raise that child, you’ll be a single parent/entrepreneur eventually.”

That’s why you see founders talking everywhere about their startups, like proud parents.

Some founders or collaborators do drop out in the course of the journey of a startup. But other startups continue to have many family members; and in some cases founders and employees will be eager to tell the stories of their company.

A story shared

Jotform is a company like that. Its story is not one of overnight success. But there is a lot to tell — the big story and many smaller ones.

More than a hundred posts were published on the Jotform Blog within the first half of 2018. Many of them were written by Jotform’s founder, Aytekin, but many others weren’t.

They were written by members of the Jotform family keen to share their experiences.

And it’s not all technical stuff, either. It’s about how to use music to boost office productivity, or about the importance of remaining optimistic.

I once met a guy who claimed he would jump to his thirties — sacrificing ten years of his youth — if it meant he would end up with a perfect life.

Is that what you’d want?

Me, definitely not.

Because think of all the stories you would skip. Your big story would have this huge hole in it. And for what?

A story is never about perfection. It is about what is, every single minute of every single day. The picture, or the college place, may look or feel perfect briefly — and then life goes on.

How to spot a good wine and a good startup: the power of storytelling Image-2
Pencil illustration for “Earthsea” , by Ade McOran-Campbell

Minutes after doing that drawing, your wonderful four-year-old will probably have a big fight with her sibling. And 25 years later, that may be the germ for a novel, or the two siblings may have a brilliant idea for a startup.

In Every Breath Matters. Ursula K. Le Guin, the great queen of science fiction and fantasy, says:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

The journey gives rise to the story. And the story creates the startup, or the wine.

So instead of just staying a follower of the Jotform story, I have decided to join the crew and be one of the writers that help chronicle the journey.

A journey that tastes like wine.

A good one…

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