stories are everywhere - even in software

As well providing many priceless comedy moments, the hit US series 'Silicon Valley' week-on-week also succeeds in telling compelling stories. The series centres around Richard Hendricks, the somewhat accidental creator of a cutting edge compression software program called 'Pied Piper', and explores the perils of having a start-up company when everyone around you is jostling to either invest in, steal from or sue you. Despite its jargon-laden content, it's a great example of how human stories are there in every situation – no matter how complex the data.

Take the below example from episode 4 in the first season where Richard is about to enter a pitch in order to secure the major investment he needs to build the company and realise his dream. He's understandably nervous, not so much at the thought of presenting itself, but about the messages he needs to get across in such a short space of time. The investor is already sold on the 'what' of the product but now needs to understand the 'why' – Why do we need it? Why does it improve people's lives? Why should I invest? He also needs to understand exactly what the vision for the company is.

Richard ties himself up in knots trying to work out how on earth he can quickly sell the wealth of complexities his software is capable of and how that will manifest his long-term vision for Pied Piper. At a point of desperation he eventually asks his colleague Erlich (who up until this point in the series had seemed largely redundant) to give the entire presentation. What follows is one of the best recent examples of effective storytelling in a high-pressure situation (be warned the clip contains a fair amount of swearing).

Erlich employs a simple three part story structure – before, during & after. He tells us of the situation with file sharing and compression that brought us to where we are today, how Dropbox are the current best solution but are falling short in key areas and then how Pied Piper will solve everything in the future: 'we control the pipe, they just use it. That's the vision in Richard Hendricks' head'. Crucially he makes his story about the user from the outset: 'Today's user is looking for…..'. Making your content immediately relevant to your audience is a great way to build engagement quickly and make them a part of the story you're telling.

You really couldn't get much more complex than the technology at play in the world of 'Silicon Valley' yet the stories can be found easily, just as they can in any business or industry.


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