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TSS #043: Build a Better Founder Story

Oct 29, 2022

Read time:
 3 minutes

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Have you ever noticed that nearly all relatable founders have a compelling backstory?

It's commonly referred to as a "founder story" and it's the narrative of how a startup company came to be. The story often helps build deep brand loyalty among the company's user base.

If you're building a personal brand or one-person business, creating your own backstory can also be a great way to deepen your connection with your own audience.

When I say "creating" a backstory, I don't mean, "making a story up."

I simply mean telling your true and authentic backstory in a format that is most likely to resonate with your audience.

Here are 7 simple steps I use to create my (true) backstory, my personal examples, and how I stitch them all together.

Step 1: The Obstacle

To begin, it's important that your audience can relate to your backstory.

You can have a different job, a different level of experience, or come from a different country.

But there is one critical thing that's very relatable: overcoming an obstacle. And, everyone has overcome an obstacle in their life.

My example: I got fired 3 times by the time I was 28 and was basically a failure heading into 2010.

Step 2: The Internal Struggles

Internal struggles are how we feel inside because of the obstacle faced in step 1.

Internal pain is captured with words like fearful, insecure, or anxious.

My example: I had zero confidence after getting fired again. I was worried that I was never going to be successful at anything.

Step 3: The External Struggles

External struggles can generally be seen or heard.

An over-drafted bank account, a lost job, a poor living situation, etc.

My example: People ridiculed me for losing my job, and for living in tiny towns across the US. A girlfriend even dumped me because I had too much debt.

Step 4: The Change Event

The change event is the one critical decision that you made that leads you from your struggle to your newfound transformation.

My example: I took a bus ride from Allentown, Pennsylvania to New York City to interview at a small technology company called ZocDoc.

Step 5: The Spark

The spark is that magic moment when you realized everything was about to change.

That moment when you went from feeling completely disconnected to reinvigorated.

My example: My spark was an intersection of four things that changed my life: the brilliance of the ZocDoc team, a product I was truly passionate about, the energy of New York City, and my own maturation and readiness to change.

Step 6: The Guide

The guide in the story is the person who lifts you up and helps you see your potential for what it really is.

My example: After years of making no sales in my previous jobs, my boss Ryan went out with me on my first day and helped me make a sale.

Step 7: The Result

The result is the continuation of the story to even bigger and greater success, leading up to your present situation.

My example: I never looked back. I got promoted multiple times, eventually reported to the CEO, and went on to become an executive at a startup company in Los Angeles at age 33.

Stitching the steps together to tell the story

I stitch together the 7 steps to tell my backstory on nearly every podcast, video, or speaking appearance I make. I've also told this story via content on LinkedIn, Twitter, and in articles written.

Sometimes I tell the full version, and other times I tell shortened versions or use snippets of the story when it makes sense.


  1. Telling a compelling backstory isn't just for startup founders.

  2. Everyone who has a backstory you admire has absolutely crafted it.

  3. Being vulnerable with your audience allows them to see you in a very transparent and human light.

  4. Practicing your backstory using the 7 steps above gives you a consistent answer to the "give us your backstory" question on any podcast or show, or for writing it in your content.

I hope that you found this helpful. This was a fun one to put together after reviewing some old story documents of mine. 

I've linked to some specific times in podcasts and videos where I've told the story (full or parts) below.

Thanks for reading.

Go out and start building your better backstory today.

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