From Monozukuri Hub Meetup: The Power of Storytelling

Joey Ho Nihei

This is a guest post by Joey Ho Nihei, a volunteer supporter for Kyoto-based hardware startup accelerator Makers Boot Camp as well as a student from National University of Singapore (Department of Global Studies). The accelerator holds the Monozukuri Hub Meetup event in Kyoto on a monthly basis.

Additionally, all photos in this article were taken by professional photographer Kengo Osaka.

Makers Bootcamp is Japan’s leading hardware accelerator and the organizer of the wildly successful Monozukuri Hub meetups. These meetups aim to build, support and inspire a community of makers by acting as a platform for international collaboration and knowledge exchange.

In the latest edition of 2016 Monozukuri Hub meetup titled “The Power of Storytelling”, Makers Bootcamp has brought together some of the tech industry’s most seasoned storytellers, investors and start-up founders for an evening packed with insights on how to build and leverage on compelling stories for startups.

This meetup largely revolved around the theme of how powerful and effective storytelling is quintessential to startups in every single way — from picking investor’s initial interest to effectively projecting a startup’s value to consumers. Simply put, storytelling is a powerful tool that must be harnessed by startups in order to secure not only investments but also its survival.

Three main perspectives dominated the evening’s presentations: the perspectives of the story consultant, the investor and the startups. The beauty of this meetup was in seeing the storytelling process from these closely related yet distinct perspectives.

The evening was kicked-off by Sabrina Sasaki from Makers Bootcamp who succinctly introduced the art of storytelling and its significance to a startup’s growth to get everyone warmed up for the magic that was about to happen in the following presentations. Her presentation served as an easily digestible introduction to those unacquainted to the art of storytelling (myself included). One key message that she conveyed in her presentation was how stories play a crucial role in a startup’s marketing and how it is no less important than building a revolutionary product.

Björn Eichstädt, Managing Partner, Storymaker

The first speaker for the evening, Storymaker‘s Björn Eichstädt, offered the perspective of the consultant, sharing snippets from his vast experiences managing a story-oriented communications consulting, PR and digital communications firm. He spoke about how having a powerful story to communicate a company’s identity and value is increasingly important in a world constantly bombarded with a multitude of information, and how originality (instead of jumping onto trends) is the only real way ahead. One of his sharings that left a particular impression on his audience was when he drew parallels between a story and dashi (Japanese soup stock), saying “a story is just like dashi – it can only be made with the right ingredients, and this dashi can be expressed in so many different ways. If customers and the media like it, they will retell it”.

See also:

James Riney, Head of 500 Startups Japan

James Riney, Head of 500 Startups Japan, followed Björn’s sharing by presenting the investor’s perspective to story-telling: What are investors really looking out for when they listen to pitches? One theme that he constantly emphasised on was the need for simplicity when presenting their idea and value and the need to earn trust and confidence quickly in the little bit of time they have to present to investors. The best way to do this, he advices, is to highlight the key strengths of the startup either in terms of traction, team, target market, media coverage or fundings from highly sought-after investors and funds. Simply put, all you need to do is to convey “why this? why now? And why you?”  and just KISS (Keep-it-simple-stupid). He also highlighted the importance of keeping things simple when startups ask for funding — just share with investors how much you need, what you will use it for, and how long this is going to last you.

See also:

The second half of the presentations saw Atsushi Nakanishi (AT) and Shota Takase sharing the stories of Dfree and Blincam respectively. Their stories were living proof of how startups can effectively leverage on powerful stories in order to propel their startups forward.

Atsushi Nakanishi, CEO of Dfree

Dfree CEO Atsushi Nakanishi has pooped his pants before — and he’s not ashamed to share it with the world because that was exactly what inspired the world’s first wearable device that aims to maintain every human’s dignity by using ultrasound to monitor changes in the body to predict toilet timings. His product’s vision to create “a world where nobody has to soil their pants” was as revolutionary as the way he presented his story — he began by asking the audience if “anyone pooped their pants before?” ensuing in a roar of laughter. Such personal, relatable anecdotes peppered with embarrassing examples have proven to be a key element in storytelling which values originality and surprise elements. To close his presentation, he shared Dfree’s future trajectories — a trajectory that would vastly change the way everyone lives in the future by “predicting everything” from toilet timings, appetites, menstrual cycles, aging and even one’s lifespan.

See also:

Shota Takase, CEO & Founder of Blincam

The last presentation for the evening was by Shota Takase, CEO & Founder of Blincam. Blincam’s story started by coincidence at a Startup Weekend session and has since been fueled by Shota’s strong desire capture natural and beautiful photographs of his family. The key inspiration behind Blincam was how Shota could never take candid photographs of his daughter because she would always make funny faces at the camera when she knew her photo was being taken. This desire to capture candid, beautiful pictures of our own children resonated with many people and this vision-turned-startup was what Blincam was all about: A wearable, hands-free camera that captures candid pictures with a blink of an eye. Shota then carried on to share every step of his journey from starting up in a garage all the way to securing a whopping 2640% of funding in Makuake and another 150% in Indiegogo just recently.

See also:

This event saw some of the most insightful stories and had some of the industry’s most seasoned storytellers and listeners (investors). Makers Bootcamp would once again like to extend our warmest regards to every single person who participated and we hope this meetup enriched you as much as it did for us! We hope to see everyone again soon!

Click here if you would like to check the presentation deck from all speakers, with detailed information about each one.