Of tech founders and movie sets

Paolo Danese
5 min readMar 22, 2023
Photo by Leuchtturm Entertainment on Unsplash

All happening in this episode of my stories from Storya’s journey:
- First in-person meeting with my fabulous co-founder & CTO Praveen Kumar S
- First business trip to India as founder of Storya
- Pitching our first big B2B clients in the publishing and cinema industries
- Spending an evening on a movie set!

TL;DR — Being a founder is hard, but lack of excitement is certainly not an issue. 😉

Singapore → Kochi, India

No, I have not (yet) decided to take up a career in acting! But as I did end up on a movie set in India a couple of days back, I thought I’d take a moment to share more about the latest from Storya. This week I am in Kochi, a lovely city in Southern India and an important hub for the publishing and the movie industry in the primarily Malayalam-speaking state of Kerala.

I am here with my co-founder Praveen Kumar S for our first in-person meeting after working together remotely for 15 months, and with our new team member Roshithlal V (more on him in a second!) meeting clients for Storya’s new B2B offering.

I have not been able to share too much detail of what that looks like primarily because things are just moving too quickly. But the gist is this: we are pitching the capabilities of the Storya platform as a tech-enabled content and publishing solution for clients to expand their reach to multimedia, multilingual audiences. And yes, Storya will also be integrating the “tool-that-shall-not-be-named” (the new C-word, the Great and Powerful Terminator, I think that’s what it means, right?? ).

More on the B2B pivot

The client pitching has become slightly more complex since we embarked on the B2B pivot, as we are in conversations with clients not just in our core area of publishing.

In a bit more detail we are starting with two segments:

  • Traditional publishing: we are already in conversation with a major regional publisher, and we will meet two more media conglomerate groups before the week is over. The publishing industry has been traditionally very slow to uptake digital solutions, but we know the tsunami of innovation unleashed by AI will require even very traditional businesses to sit up and take notice. Needless to say, the commercial opportunity from this disruption is massive, so the pressure is on!
  • Movie industry: I surprised a few of my friends and fellow founders this week when I texted them at the end of my first day in Kochi from a movie set! There is a great team member behind this development, and his name is Rosh. He is the most recent addition to our team, taking the lead in our B2B sales efforts, starting with India and Singapore. Crucially, he has tons of experience as a writer and is also a movie producer himself! In short, he is a perfect match for the Storya team. We are working on delivering a version of the Storya software that is adapted to helping script writers with AI tools (more details later!). Selecting the right scripts is a massive financial gamble for producers, and we are working on a solution that will take some of the guesswork out of the equation, saving producers tons of money and time. The response has been awesome and we already have an important producer of Mollywood movies (as the Malayalam movie industry is known) looking to come on board as a first client.

There is much more cooking, but we are also conscious of balancing this push with available resources and not stretching ourselves even thinner.

What about fundraising?

The Storya project is changing. I am personally so excited about this new direction where I focus 100% on client needs and solutions rather than continuing to spend so much time on investor pitches. The more I look back, the more it feels like I was trapped in a vicious cycle, something I fear too many fellow founders get caught up in as well.

The cycle works like this: founders are constantly told to find validation for their ideas from the market, but the VCs demand a form of validation that is so specific to their business model (the pitching and all the crazy “growth math” that goes with it) that founders end up having “split personalities”. Trying to both build something that works in the real world and generates revenue, while also having to build a story that is hyperbolic and “familiar” enough for investors to care.

The more time I spend doing this, the more convinced I am that the problem with our fundraising challenges was never the Storya team, our vision, product, or traction but the implicit biases of VCs against diverse and truly innovative global teams. We simply don’t fit the boxes most of them would want Storya in.

I am starting to be ok with that, in a way.

I have not posted about some of the more recent and appalling investor conversations we have had, which demonstrated, again and again, the shocking lack of understanding about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion for building future-ready businesses.

I may write more on that later, but, to be honest, I’d prefer to focus on being a DEI-focused organization in our own right rather than constantly have to be educating and confronting VCs, angels, and accelerators who should know better. They certainly have the resources to better educate themselves if they want to be ready for a future that looks more like our team and less like theirs in most cases.

We are making and will continue to make a difference by doing things our way.

We will continue to build for diverse storytellers with reality in mind, as my amazing co-founder and COO Lweendo Hamukoma (she/her) would say.

We are not selling out on our values just so that we can fit into a broken VC investing model. If there are investors who truly understand this out there, I am sure we will eventually meet them.

For now, onwards and upwards.

Peace!

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