How to Start a Company With AI: Communication
Think about how many people you interact with as a startup founder.
First and foremost, there are your customers - you communicate your product and idea to entice them to purchase and use your product / service.
Next up is your team. You likely have a mentor as you begin your startup journey, along with a co-founder and your teammates. The communication with these individuals helps you to effectively deliver your startup offering.
Then you have your investors. These could be parents, friends, venture capitalists, angel investors, you name it. You are fortunate to have received funding from these groups because they believe in you, your team, and your idea. Their capital is the fuel that helps you bring your startup into the world. Communications with this group are essential for seeking future funding and sharing startup progress.
To spell it out, communication as a startup founder is imperative. With so much interaction between a wide range of stakeholders, your success is largely tied to your ability to inspire the groups you work with.
The challenge? Communication between each of these parties is largely different. How you engage with investors is going to be wildly different from how you engage with customers. Having the linguistic dexterity to change your public tone is a difficult task, and as such, communication is viewed as one of the toughest skills to possess in order to succeed as a startup founder.
How can we make communication easier?
Simple answer: AI.
This article is going to dive into how AI can help us improve our communication skills. The reason AI is the perfect tool for this job is because of its insanely broad knowledge of human language. Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, have learned how to generate human text from studying the wealth of text that humans have produced over time. Indeed, this set of text includes writing styles ranging from Shakespeare to Musk.
Below, you’ll learn how to prompt our AI-cofounder to generate text that assists us in communicating effectively. We’ll focus on two of the three stakeholders identified above: customers and team. In future articles, we’ll return to the task of communicating with investors. The communicative requirements for each group are largely different, so we’ll learn prompts for handling each case effectively.
On the menu:
How to communicate with:
Let’s go for it.
1. Communicating with: Customers
When inspiring potential customers to buy into your startup, you as the founder have to communicate why they should choose you. As we’ve discussed in previous articles (see here for defining your problem statement), it is the founders’ job to identify the problem they are trying to solve for, and cementing their value proposition. It’s all well and good that we as founders know what our value proposition is; now the challenge is expressing that value to your future customers.
This is where the value of a strategic narrative comes in. Andy Raskin, who specialises in coaching CEOs and teams at large firms such as Salesforce and Uber, recently spoke on Lenny’s Podcast (here (1)) on the power of strategic narrative. In it, he speaks of two different approaches to strategic narrative: a claims-based pitch and a narrative-based pitch.
We’re likely familiar with the claims-based pitch. A customer has a problem, we have the solution, and we express to the customer why our solution is better than all other attempts to solve their problem. This ‘diagnosis’ of a problem and provision of a solution earns the claims-based pitch the metaphorical name of the “Arrogant Doctor”.
While this approach is effective if we’re targeting a specific demographic that identifies with the problem we’re solving for, what happens if our startup scales and starts solving broader problems for broader user groups? The Arrogant Doctor approach would result in a narrative that is tangled, superficial, and not applicable to the scope of the problem our startup solves.
Enter the narrative-based pitch. Mr Raskin presents a strategic narrative framework that speaks of a mindset shift from the ‘old game’ to the ‘new game’. How does that work?
- First, we need to identify the old game - what is the current state of affairs in the market that your startup is in
- Next, we need to define a shift from the old game towards a new game, and what the resultant stakes are from this shift
- We then introduce the object of the new game - this is effectively what our offering is and how it is well-positioned to handle the shifts and stakes in the new game
- Finally, we state the obstacles in this new game, and how our startup is ready to tackle those obstacles head-first
The role of the CEO / founder is essential in communicating this strategic narrative. Although I’m presenting it here in the context of presenting to customers, it is a communicative approach that is inspiring for teams and investors as well.
Let’s use AI to produce an example strategic narrative-based pitch for a startup. Inspired by Mr Raskin’s appearance on Lenny’s Podcast, the following prompt includes a full description of the need for a strategic narrative, and what the narrative-based pitch entails. We’ll feed in our company name and value proposition as inputs to make the strategic narrative specific to our needs.
As per, we’ll use the Hoagie Heaven example from my previous articles.
(1) Shift: Traditionally, beach-side dining along the Northern Irish shoreline has meant settling for dull and uninspiring fast food. Hoagie Heaven is putting an end to this old game by introducing our fresh, flavorful hoagie sandwiches. We have opened a new game where both locals and tourists can expect a satiating, quality meal from a beach cafe.
(2) Stakes & Winners: The stakes here are the quality of your beach day meals because we know how important a satisfying lunch is to accentuate your time by the sea. We believe those who choose Hoagie Heaven are the winners. Through choosing us, you opt for beach fare that is not just quick, but also mouth-wateringly flavorful and wholesome.
(3) New Game Object: The new game is about transforming the perception of casual beach fare. Our vision is for you to anticipate the dining experience as much as the gorgeous shoreline itself. What we bring to this new game is our distinctive hoagies, meticulously crafted with fresh ingredients to please even the most discerning tastes.
(4) Obstacles: Naturally, sceptics may challenge the need for elevating on-the-go food at beaches. And yes, competing fast food labels that have been around for years may seem like an easier, more familiar choice.
(5) Overcome Obstacles: At Hoagie Heaven, we believe that simple pleasures like consuming a delicious hoagie by the sea shouldn't be compromised by the status quo of mundane fast food. To prove this, we invite you to try our extraordinary hoagies. Once you experience the unparalleled delight of relishing our hoagies, we are confident that you would happily bid goodbye to your old beach-side lunch choices.
With Hoagie Heaven, a bite full of flavour should always accompany your memorable beach moments. We're not just offering a meal but an upgrade to your entire beach experience. So, next time you plan a trip to the Northern Irish shore, remember – a taste of heaven is waiting for you!
Quite an inspiring narrative! Next time I see a Hoagie Heaven along the shorefront, I’ll have a very vivid image of how it is shifting the game from mundane to amazing beach food. Try out the prompt for yourself!
Bonus prompt: Create focussed summaries of podcast transcripts https://lowtech.ai/matthew/quick-and-focused-transcript-summaries
2. Communicating with: Team
Now we’ll turn our attention to communicating with our startup team. You may have heard of or even read Dale Carnegie’s popular book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, in which he states techniques that can help you improve your communication with others. I won’t be pulling directly from the text, but a lot of the principles are common for most communication strategies.
I’d like to first focus on giving criticism. As a startup founder, you are responsible for people that are helping to bring your vision to life. As such, it is important to hold all work to a certain standard. When such standards are not met, you must be adept at approaching the criticism in a positive manner. These conversations are tough, so it would be great to outsource it to AI to help carry some of the cognitive burden.
Using points made by FasterCapital (here (2)), this is the following criteria I’d like our AI to follow when generating a response to some criticism:
Criticism should be:
- Given in a respectful manner
- Followed with positive feedback
In order to generate an appropriate response, we need to have the following two inputs: shortfall of employee / comment to be made, and a positive remark to make. The hope is that having an AI tool such as this will make it easier for founders to deliver criticism in a timely manner.
From the picture above, you can see that your criticism can be as ruthless as you want! You can absolutely share your most candid thoughts on the person, venting inside the criticism box as a somewhat cathartic experience, safe with the knowledge that our AI-cofounder will distil our raw thoughts into a very productive conversation.
Here is the output for the criticism shown above:
Thank you for meeting with me. I wanted to take a moment to discuss something I've noticed in our recent team interactions. I've seen that you have a tendency to speak up and share your thoughts very often in our meetings, which is usually a positive trait. However, I've observed that this often happens while others are still expressing their thoughts, which can make it difficult for them to complete their point of view.
This isn't just about manners, but also about the effectiveness of our team. We have a diverse and talented team here, and it's important for us to listen to each other to ensure we're working cohesively towards our very best. Sometimes there's a chance that we may miss out on a beneficial idea or insight when we interrupt each other.
Moving forward, I would appreciate it if we could all be more mindful of allowing our colleagues to finish their points fully before jumping in.
That being said, I want to compliment you on your written reports. They are always top-notch and display a deep understanding of our project. I also appreciate your enthusiasm which positively radiates and uplifts the morale in our team. Let's work on improving this aspect of our communication, and I am confident we'll see even better results moving forward.
Thank you for your understanding.
Note, while I recommend such tough conversations ought to happen face-to-face, the output from our AI is not a prescriptive script. It’s a blueprint that can guide our approach to giving criticism, relieving us of the cognitively demanding task of conceiving how we’d go about having the conversation. Use it as a guide. If you don’t like the content, no fear, simply click Re-start beneath the prompt!
The field of communication is expansive, especially for aspiring startup founders who interact with an abundance of stakeholders on a daily basis. This article is by no means an exhaustive exploration of all communication challenges that a founder will face - indeed, as stated in the introduction, communicating with investors is a separate topic in its own right.
The aim for this article was to inspire you to see how AI can relieve us from social pressures of interacting and communicating with others in an appropriate manner. The prompts today helped us with two completely independent concerns in communication: 1) how to express a creative strategic narrative and 2) how to give criticism professionally.
If, after reading this article, you immediately notice ways in which AI can help you with communication challenges, why not create an AI tool on LowTech.ai here - https://lowtech.ai/create
Alternatively, reach out to me on Twitter (@imatthewcollins) with your use cases, and we can craft a prompt that fits your needs.
Good luck expressing yourself.