Coalesce lands fresh capital to transform data at ‘enterprise scale’

Coalesce is a startup that offers data transformation tools geared mainly toward enterprise customers. Today the company closed a $26 million Series A funding round led by Emergence Capital with participation from 11.2 Capital and GreatPoint Ventures, bringing the company’s total raised to $31.92 million. Co-founder and CEO Armon Petrossian tells TechCrunch that the cash will be put toward building out Coalesce’s product and ecosystem.

Petrossian met Coalesce’s other co-founder, Satish Jayanthi, at WhereScape, where the two were responsible for solving data warehouse problems for large organizations. (In computing, a “data warehouse” refers to systems used for reporting and data analysis — analysis usually germane to business intelligence.) Their clients often encountered challenges in transforming data, Petrossian says, as well as documenting these transformations in a way that made intuitive sense.

To Petrossian’s point, a survey commissioned by data integration platform Matillion found that as much as 57% of the time involved in analytics projects is spent tackling data transformation hurdles. Moreover, 75% percent of data teams feel that outdated migration and maintenance processes are costing them productivity and capital.

“Companies have been struggling with data transformation and optimization since the early days of data warehousing, and with the enormous growth of the cloud, that challenge has only increased,” he told TechCrunch via email. “We are on a mission to radically improve the analytics landscape by making enterprise-scale data transformations as efficient and flexible as possible.”

Coalesce offers tools designed to simplify modeling, cleansing and governance of data primarily in the Snowflake cloud, powered by what Petrossian describes as a “column-aware” architecture that leverages metadata to manage data transformations with an understanding of how the data is related or connected. Users can take advantage of data transformation automation templates that can be edited, packaged and shared, either with code or a visual design tool.


Image Credits: Coalesce

Often, companies approach Coalesce with specific problems, Petrossian said, like needing to transform data from different databases, apps and systems to follow a certain spec or standard. Other customers seek to speed up business intelligence queries by removing the need to search across multiple data sources and formats.

“Our product solves the largest bottleneck in analytics today by combining the speed of an intuitive graphical user interface with the flexibility of code, plus a healthy dose of automation, to enable rapid data transformations,” Petrossian continued. “With Coalesce, the data can be organized in an easy to access and read fashion while using automation to streamline the process and limit the amount of time needed by highly skilled engineers to code manually.”

Petrossian sees Coalesce competing with “extract, transform, and load” data integration vendors, including Informatica and Talend. The aforementioned Matillion also occupies that space, as does Incorta and Etleap.

Fortunately for Coalesce, the ETL market is massive, with one estimate putting it at $10.75 million as of early 2021. While demurring when asked about revenue, Petrossian claimed that Coalesce’s business is quite strong, with “multiple” Fortune 500 customers paying for the startup’s services.

“Our company was born during the pandemic and has given us an opportunity to serve enterprise Fortune 500 companies that are resilient to the potential looming recession,” Petrossian added. “The Coalesce platform is easing the burden of companies struggling to find talented data engineers or architects by providing them with a tool that empowers their existing teams to be much more efficient without compromising flexibility at scale.”

Coalesce currently has 40 salaried employees, spread across locations in four different countries. Petrossian wouldn’t commit to hiring a certain number this year but said the plan is to invest generally in Coalesce’s marketing, sales and engineering operations.

Coalesce lands fresh capital to transform data at ‘enterprise scale’ by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Federato raises $15M to help insurance customers manage risk

Will Ross and William Steenbergen were AI researchers at Stanford working on climate and atmospheric modeling and reinforcement learning, respectively, when they began to collaborate on wildfire modeling and hurricane modeling initiatives for the insurance industry. They were surprised to learn how big of a difference there was between what the data told insurers to do and what carriers were actually doing, according to Ross. After studying the problem, Steenbergen and Ross launched Federato to provide insurers a unified view of information to select and price risks.

Now, Federato is raising new capital to grow the business. Emergence Capital led a $15 million Series A round in the company, which recently closed with participation from investors, including Caffeinated Capital and Pear. A portion of the cash will go toward expanding headcount, Ross told TechCrunch via email, from Federato’s current 23 employees to 50 by the end of the year.

The way Ross sees it, the insurance industry faces three major challenges today: climate-related increases in natural disasters; “loss uncertainty” in insurance risks, including state-sponsored cyberattacks and ransomware; and payout inflation caused by verdicts against insurers in a litigious environment. He pointed to Russia sponsoring cyberattacks on U.S. businesses, which might or might not be covered under the “war exclusion” clauses typical in cyber policies, and recent rulings related to the opioid crisis, accidents involving commercial trucks and asbestos that raise questions about whether corporations should be allowed to transfer risks.

“Many insurers come to Federato looking for a tool to help create operational efficiencies, something the unified underwriting workflow element of the platform does very well,” Ross said. “The reality is, they end up buying because they come to understand the value of the reinforcement learning driven approach to portfolio management, which provides invaluable insights for managing portfolio risk, balancing and growing their book of business.”

Using the platform, customers — primarily insurers — can visually monitor risk and manage their policy portfolios, leveraging workflows aimed at minimizing the need for manual tasks like hunting for risk data and coming up with underwriting guidance.


Image Credits: Federato

Federato also claims to use machine learning, creating a common framework for portfolio management while ensuring it’s optimized to each organization’s constraints. The platform uses a “mathematical representation” of underwriting strategies to identify trends, Ross says, fine-tuning from there as necessary.

“[T]he beauty of Federato’s approach is that all of its customer contracts are quite clear that it does not share or pool customers’ proprietary information,” Ross explained. “[Any] meta-learning that occurs based on very-high-level usage data still allows for some level of moat to be developed, but customers know that their customer data and loss experience is not being shared.”

Ross positions Federato as an alternative to in-house services providers like Accenture and EY, as well as legacy vendors such as FirstBest and Pegasystems. He declined to disclose how many customers the startup currently has, but he identified several by name, including Insurate, QBE North America and Propeller Bonds.

Ross says that Federato will likely break even in terms of cash flow in the second half of this year.

“The property and casualty insurance industry is in a uniquely countercyclical moment as inflation and high interest rates mean that property and casualty stocks are actually up over the last six months, while other industries are suffering,” Ross aid. “That dynamic, combined with a greater emphasis on talent (the Great Resignation) and digital tools and workflows due to the pandemic (the move to remote work), has actually accelerated Federato’s growth … Prior to the pandemic, insurance was heavily reliant on manual processes — and it still is.”

Federato raises $15M to help insurance customers manage risk by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Regal secures capital to grow its platform for branded calls and texts

Getting prospective customers to answer sales calls and texts can feel like a Sisyphean task. According to a 2020 LinkedIn report, roughly 69% of prospects accepted a call from a new salesperson in the previous year, but it took an average of 18 calls to connect with the buyer. That’s not surprising — few folks appreciate unsolicited pitches, after all. But some people argue cold calling can be successful if it’s approached in the right way.

One of those people is Alex Levin, the CEO and co-founder of New York City-based Together with Rebecca Greene, he launched Regal to build a tech stack for powering calls and messages that might provide customers — as well as sales and marketing teams — a better outbound calling experience.

“After [our] experience building a phone sales team at Angi on traditional omnichannel contact center software, Rebecca and I realized there had been a massive underinvestment in outbound calling technology, which limited how sales and marketing teams could use the channel,” Levin told TechCrunch via email. Before Angi, Levin worked at Thomson Reuters as a product manager, while Greene was a senior product manager on Amazon’s digital music team. “We founded Regal to build an entirely new tech stack for [calls] that would … give brands the tools to drive more revenue though this critical channel.”

Investors appear to believe in the vision. Regal today closed a $38.5 million Series A funding round valuing it at $350 million post-money, with Emergence Capital leading and Founder Collective, Homebrew, Flex Capital, Inspired Capital and Operator Collective participating. The new cash brings Regal’s total capital raised to $42.1 million, and will be put toward go-to-market and engineering initiatives as well as hiring, Levin said.

Regal’s call and text management dashboard. Image Credits:

Regal offers a dashboard with call and text messaging tools, information about where customers are in the sales pipeline and areas of possible friction. A “journey builder” enables users to trigger calls and texts to “high-intent” buyers at particular moments; the platform determines intent based on data like customer website usage, customer relationship management data and other general behavioral info. Another feature, Branded Caller ID, changes the caller ID on cell phones from an unknown number to the name of the brand so that customers know who’s calling.

“Every digital brand uses a stack of one-way marketing automation tools to try and re-market to ‘abandoned’ customers, and they are seeing diminishing returns in those one-way channels,” Levin said. “The key to higher conversion is conversations. Regal’s solution leverages event-driven customer engagement to drive a conversation with a knowledgeable human at key moments — it’s the personal touch for the digital marketing age.”

In a sign Regal’s vision is resonating with at least some customers, the platform now powers more than a million conversations a month for brands including Angi (formerly Angie’s List), Career Karma, Fidelity Life and SoFi. The startup’s customer base now numbers more than 100 marketing and sales teams.

It’s impressive momentum, to be sure. But the trick will be maintaining it in the face of competition from companies like Five9, Genesys, Talkdesk, Twilio and Plivo — many of which have millions or even billions in financing behind them. Levin argues that Regal’s advantage is its focus on a niche others largely miss, namely business-to-consumer businesses that sell online and need human intervention to convert a customer when they’ve abandoned a cart or purchasing flow.

“Particularly in a downturn, companies are focused on converting more of the existing prospects that come to their site. This focus has been positive for us as that’s a part of the funnel we impact positively,” Levin said. He added that Regal plans to double its 80-person headcount within the next 12 months.

Regal secures capital to grow its platform for branded calls and texts by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Pitch deck pro tips from a leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist

Lotti Siniscalco is a partner at Emergence Capital, where she invests in early-stage enterprise software companies. During TechCrunch’s Early Stage event, she headlined a session dedicated to giving feedback on pitch decks. What follows is a small slice of Lotti’s input from the session.

Constructing pitch decks is part art and part science. And they’re always a work-in-progress. Each week on TechCrunch Live, a founder and investor present an early pitch deck that won significant capital investment. The events are free to join, and after looking at the pitch deck, startup founders can practice their pitch with the investor and founder.

TechCrunch is also kicking off a series of posts digging into real pitch decks that raised rounds that we’ve covered. The first entry diving into the Minut deck is here. Enjoy!

On pitching the right investor:

“The first thing is: Know your audience. Do a little bit of research, and try to tweak the email to make it personal,” Lotti said, adding that cold emails are okay, but they’re better if they’re personalized. She gave this example, saying, “Hey, Lotti. I’m sending you this pitch deck. I’m the founder of company XYZ, and I’m sending it to you because I saw that you were on the board of this other company, which is somewhat similar, and I think there are some potential learnings in what you could bring to the table.”

Conversely, Lotti explained that if she receives a deck from a company outside her area of focus, like consumer companies, she’s not even going to open the email.

Create lasting memories of your deck:

Pitch decks are a way to tell a startup’s story, and there are ways to make investors and customers better remember your pitch.

According to Lotti, one of the best ways is to make an emotional appeal. “People remember feelings,” she said. “If you want someone to remember what you’re saying, find a way to associate a powerful feeling to it. Fear is a great one. Excitement is another, but the stronger the feeling, the stronger the memory.”

VC Lotti Siniscalco shares dos and don’ts in the Pitch Deck Teardown at TC Early Stage

Perfect pitch, a singer’s ability to produce any given musical note without a reference tone, is a rare phenomenon — only 1-5 people out of every 10,000 have it. While your odds of creating a perfect pitch deck that captures coveted VC interest aren’t quite that dire, they’re not exactly in your favor, either.

Venture capital shattered records around the world in Q4 2021. The number of startups seeking funding increased 33% YOY, and the time investors spent looking at individual pitch decks dropped to an all-time low: 2 minutes and 28 seconds. That’s a 12% decrease from the previous year.

When competition for investor time and attention is this intense, you need a stand-out pitch deck. It’s the most powerful tool you have to convince investors they should schedule a meeting to learn more about you, your product and your company. 

The road to a perfect pitch deck is paved with countless revisions, and a source of constructive, expert feedback can be invaluable. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce that Carlotta “Lotti” Siniscalco, a partner at Emergence Capital, will lead an interactive session called Pitch Deck Teardown at TechCrunch Early Stage on April 14.

During this session, Siniscalco will dissect and critique actual work-in-progress pitch decks submitted by audience members. She’ll call out which elements work and which ones fall flat — and she’ll explain why on both counts.

Siniscalco is the first female partner at Emergence Capital, and she earned that distinction as a result of the extraordinary impact she’s had on the firm, the team and EC’s portfolio companies. She invests in early-stage enterprise software companies, and her portfolio includes Convex, High Alpha, Oyster, Talent Hack and Whistic.

Prior to joining Emergence, Siniscalco served at Advent International — a large global private equity fund — as an investor in financial services and financial technology companies and also as an observer on the Transunion board.

Her early career, which began as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, includes a stint in the BizOps group at Nerdwallet and as an early-stage investor at Ribbit Capital, a fintech-focused VC.

A pitch deck has but one job: get the meeting. It’s the entry point for everything you want to come next. Take advantage of this opportunity to look at pitch decks from an investor’s point of view. Join Lotti Siniscalco and learn the mission-critical dos and don’ts for building a perfect pitch deck. 

TC Early Stage sessions provide plenty of time to engage, ask questions and walk away with a deeper, working understanding of topics and skills that are essential to startup success. Register now before $249 founder tickets sell out!

Forma raises new funding to make employee benefits more flexible

Companies across the board are fighting to recruit and retain employees as the war for talent rages on. Employee benefits are no longer viewed as a cookie-cutter, standard set of offerings — rather, they are valuable tools employers can use to differentiate themselves from competitors and attract top candidates.

Forma, which just changed its name from Twic, offers a discretionary benefits management platform that helps human resources professionals select benefits vendors, process reimbursements, and monitor plan usage through a digital wallet. By streamlining these processes for HR professionals, Forma’s product ultimately allows companies to offer customizable, lower-cost benefits to their employees.

Corporate benefits have typically been deployed to employees through a top-down model where companies determine what their employees need, which is inefficient both for employers and employees, Fan said. Forma’s core mission is to flip that relationship by designing employee-first benefits programs, he added.

The startup participated in AngelPad’s three-month startup accelerator program in 2018, shortly before TechCrunch reported that the company had $265,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR). In the past year, Forma has increased its revenue 4x and grown its customer base by 330% to over 125 companies today, co-founder and CEO Jason Fan told TechCrunch in an interview, though he declined to provide further detail on the company’s revenue. Forma’s customers include Twitch, Stripe, Zoom, Lululemon, Palo Alto Networks, and Square, and the company says it has a 99% customer retention rate.

Forma partners with providers to offer benefits in six broad categories — family & relationships, education & career, wellbeing & lifestyle, basic health & protection, money & wealth, and work & performance, Fan said. Forma’s customers can design the benefits program they’d like to bring to employees by picking and choosing offerings from these categories based on their internal budget and strategy, he explained.

To implement a benefits program, Forma needs to know a company’s budget and its preferences on how and where its employees will be able to spend that budget, Fan said. The company can then design a benefits program “pretty much only limited by [its] imagination,” he added. Wellness, work-from-home, and caregiving support programs are some of the most popular offerings among Forma’s clients, but customers can opt to provide less common benefits, too, such as electric vehicle charging credit, which Fan said one Forma customer is offering employees as part of an initiative to lower its carbon footprint.

Forma's benefits marketplace

Forma’s benefits marketplace Image Credits: Forma

“For the employer, there’s actually a ton of flexibility, because before [Forma], they were working with single individual program providers one at a time. Now, they don’t have to do procurement renewals or individual contracting anymore, [they] get to really design the strategy behind the scenes,” Fan said.

Once a company defines the details of its employees’ benefits spending accounts with Forma, employees can use the funds in two ways. The first is on Forma’s curated marketplace of over 250 benefits products, which are typically offered at a 10 to 30 percent discount to retail prices, according to Fan.

“We proactively contract and work with program providers, benefits providers, service providers, and we embed these solutions into the marketplace,” Fan said. “We give employees the chance to pick and choose based on their needs, and sometimes we bundle up [services] and personalize the experience so that employees can find out about programs that they otherwise wouldn’t have, right before coming in. We also allow the companies to let us know which types of solutions that they’d like to see, so we expand that marketplace both ways.”

The second option is for employees who want to spend their benefits budget outside of the marketplace. In that case, Fan said, the company issues a pre-programmed debit card, which allows employees to shop anywhere a Visa card is accepted, spending their benefits allowance much like a consumer.

Forma's spending history interface for employees

Forma’s spending history interface for employees Image Credits: Forma

Forma announced it has raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Ribbit Capital, with participation from all of its existing investors, including Emergence Capital, Stripe, Designer Fund, Upside Partnership, and AngelPad. Angel investors including Shopify founder Tobias Lutke and Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia also participated in the round. Forma last raised $15 million from Emergence Capital in its 2020 Series A round, as well as $2.5 million from Stripe and Upside Partnership in 2019.

The company plans to use the capital to grow its product offerings and double its team size by 2023. It has already scaled its employee base from 22 people at the beginning of last year to around 140 today, Fan said.

Looking forward, Forma hopes to expand beyon lifestyle benefits into the core benefits space of pre-tax products. Fan shared the examples of flexible spending accounts (FSAs) for healthcare and commuter benefits programs.

The company plans to launch some of these pre-tax products later this year, starting with the examples Fan noted and eventually moving into offering healthcare, dental, and vision insurance benefits as well as retirement savings plans.

ThreeFlow raises $45 million to scale its employee benefits placement software

ThreeFlow, which provides software for insurance brokers selling employee benefits, announced today that it raised $45 million in Series B funding. New investor Accel led the round alongside existing investors Emergence Capital, Equal Ventures, and First Trust Capital Partners.

The Chicago-based company, formerly known as WatchTower, raised $8 million for its Series A round in January 2021. The latest round brings its total venture funding to $53 million since its founding in 2015.

Since the Series A, the company has grown from roughly 20 to 84 employees and hired four new executives to oversee engineering, sales, marketing, and product, CEO Ryan Sachtjen told TechCrunch in an interview. Sachtjen said the company will use the proceeds from its latest round to double its employee base in 2022 across these functions.

“A big part of our plan progression here for next year is making investments on the engineering side so that carrier integrations are more widely adopted,” Sachtjen said. The company will also announce a broader API strategy to strengthen connectivity with insurance carriers next year, which Sachtjen expects to be a major growth driver.

ThreeFlow co-founders Ryan Sachtjen, Richard Perrott, and Shaheeb Roshan. Image Credits: ThreeFlow

ThreeFlow’s product falls within a new category of software that it calls a “benefits placement solution” for insurance brokerages. Brokerages aggregate plans from insurance carriers and sell them to companies. In the past year, ThreeFlow facilitated over $600 million in transactions — double that of the year prior. 

The brokers using ThreeFlow represent 7,600 employers and 40 insurance carriers across 34 US states today, and the company plans to continue its geographic expansion. The company now has over 100 enterprise contracts, up from 28 in January.

While the medical, dental, and vision insurance markets are “very mature,” Sachtjen said, companies are now looking to grow their offerings by adding new plans for employees including fertility, mental health, and financial wellness benefits, presenting new opportunities for ThreeFlow.

Brokers require a high degree of customization in their sales process because of the complexities of designing plans suitable for a variety of clients, a need that Sachtjen said has historically been filled by outdated, highly-manual systems like Microsoft Office. 

ThreeFlow’s solution hinges on three key tenets, per Sachtjen — it is purpose-built for brokers’ specific needs, supports the entire placement process end-to-end, and serves as a true shared system of record between insurance carriers and brokers.

ThreeFlow’s deep relationships with brokers and carriers provide it with a trove of data it plans to leverage.

“We help pull that information together and provide it back to leadership on both the broker and carrier side, to help them make better decisions fundamentally at a leadership level, and to actually help them engage together more effectively between carriers and brokers, because there is a very dependent relationship structure between the two,” Sachtjen said.

Talent Hack raises $17 million led by Emergence to power the fitness creator economy

The Great Resignation, the pandemic-caused seismic shift in the way we work, play and live, and the boom of the creator and influencer economy has led to a surge in apps designed to serve those creators. In fact, we had a very long-winded discussion about it at TechCrunch just this week.

It’s hard to know which apps are going to change the game and which are going to sink, but Emergence is betting big on a platform called Talent Hack.

The company is today announcing a $17 million Series A financing round, led by Emergence, with participation from existing investor Global Founders Capital.

The startup was founded by Alexandra Bonetti, making Talent Hack the first Latina female-led startup in the Emergence portfolio.

Before Talent Hack, fitness creators were stitching together a handful of platforms to run their business, from Paypal to Wix to email automation software, and more. Or, they were working for a studio or a big box gym without the freedom and flexibility to set their own course.

Talent Hack provides software that streamlines all of that, complete with payment processing, website design and publishing, scheduling software, email automation, and CRM.

This allows fitness creators to focus on their clients and their classes, rather than dealing with running their business via software.

Talent Hack says that creators that switch over to Talent Hack increase their revenue by an average of 280 percent.

One differentiator between Talent Hack and some of its competitors is that it doesn’t aggregate fitness creators on behalf of the customer, but rather focuses on letting the creator build out their audience with the tools they need to be successful.

“We’re building a model that doesn’t attack the creators’ relationship with their clients,” said Bonetti. “We’re not building a marketplace or shopping talent around to other clients. We really protect them and our client philosophy is we never get in the way of the client/talent relationship. We really go out of our way to build that out.”

Talent Hack makes money by charging a processing fee for sessions booked through the platform, which is paid for by the client and not the creator. This fee ranges anywhere from three to 10 percent, and is algorithmically based on geography, spending patterns, and attendance at their classes, among other factors.

The startup also provides educational tools and courses to creators who are looking to grow their business. The new funding will be used to expand this program, and will also be used to build out Talent Hack Co-Spaces, which will give creators the ability to train in one-on-one sessions.

“The biggest challenge we have is a very exciting market with a lot of capital, a lot of investment, both horizontally and within our vertical,” said Bonetti. “And this is a very fragmented industry and that’s the value in bringing these creators in one place. Once once we’re able to really do that, there is so much to build to serve them. But like any industry that’s starting to aggregate for the first time, that’s a hard challenge.”

High Alpha opens third venture studio: co-founder calls venture market ‘hot and crazy’

Venture studio High Alpha launched its third studio Wednesday, continuing to create, launch and scale enterprise cloud companies.

The Indianapolis firm typically begins a new studio every three years, and is a model of entrepreneurship that combines startup creation with venture funding. Co-founder and managing partner Scott Dorsey told TechCrunch this is coming at a busy time for venture capital.

“The venture market is so hot and crazy right now,” Dorsey said. “Venture firms are having to move earlier to be competitive to get deals they might miss. Given what we do, we are as early as it gets, so I think we are ahead of that curve with the venture studio model. We are also going through all the trials and tribulations of starting companies, so we have that empathy and operator background. Not many firms have that background.”

All of that wild and crazy activity is a positive shift and providing a bigger field for seed investors, he added. There are more firms now that can write big checks, so if High Alpha is able to get companies up-and-running in the first year, the startups will need that next level of capital for the next stage of growth.

High Alpha Studio III raised $18 million from repeat investors Emergence Capital and Foundry Group. It comes seven months after the venture studio announced a $110 million fund. As part of the investment, Foundry Group’s Jaclyn Freeman Hester and Emergence Capital’s Carlotta Siniscalco joined its board of directors.

Dorsey, along with Eric Tobias, Mike Fitzgerald and Kristian Andersen, founded High Alpha in 2015. Since then, it has raised over $260 million and founded and launched more than 30 companies, including Zylo, Lessonly, MetaCX, Mandolin, Casted and Bolster.

The first studio had 11 companies and the second had 17. This new studio is starting out with three, two that are in stealth mode, Dorsey said. Among all of the companies, there have been seven exits so far, most recently Seismic’s acquisition of Lessonly, a training, coaching and enablement company.

Over the years, High Alpha has examined different sectors, from the gig economy to the talent marketplace to technology knowledge. When the way people worked changed in 2020, High Alpha kicked into high gear and started a record number of companies, 10, compared to its typical three per year.

“We saw an opportunity to solve problems for the new way we are living,” Dorsey added. “We are in a brand new world now. Being more funded means we can make more meaningful investments and compete in the market.”


Emergence Capital’s Doug Landis explains how to identify (and tell) your startup story

How do you go beyond the names and numbers with your startup pitch deck? For Doug Landis, the answer is one simple compound gerund: storytelling. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot of late in Silicon Valley, but it’s one that could legitimately help your startup stand out from the pack amid the pile of pitches.

Landis knows a fair bit about the concept. Following stints at Salesforce and Google, he served as the “chief storyteller” at Box. These days, Landis is the growth partner at Emergence Capital, where he helps tell the stories of the firm’s portfolio companies.

Landis joined us on the first day of TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising event to offer a presentation about the value of storytelling for startups, whittling down the standard two-hour conversation to a 30-minute version. Though he still managed to rewind things pretty far, opening with, “400,000 years ago, men and women used to sit around the fire pit and tell stories about their day, about their hunt, about the one that got away.”

Connect the dots

More often than not, decks include a series of numbers and charts. The job of a story pitch is weaving a good narrative around these figures.

If you think about storytelling, and you think about the physiological and psychological elements — what’s happening between the storytelling and the listener — we’re actually looking for the patterns. If you think about it, it’s why those jingles and commercials get stuck in our head, and we can’t forget it, even though we don’t even know much about the product. But we remember the jingle, remember the commercial, we remember the brand. Because as humans, we’re looking for the patterns in our communication. Our job is to connect the facts and fill in the holes. And from those connections, we create a story. We create a story in our brain, because our brain actually processes information through story form. (Timestamp 3:20)

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Get to the point

They don’t call it an elevator pitch for nothing. And sometimes even the best storytellers have a habit of rambling. Here’s an exercise for cutting away some of the excess when attempting to get your story in front of VCs.

When you tell the story at work, ask your peers or the listener to share back with you in one sentence what the point of that story was. Get immediate feedback, and you can then identify whether or not your story was on target or not. The story needs to be relevant to the audience who’s there, but the reality is, you need to be very clear about the point you’re trying to make with a story. (Timestamp 6:33)