How to craft a winning startups ``sob`` story

I hate “sob stories”.


When I think of a sob story I immediately think of X Factor interviews with prospective auditionees who never fail to mention something that feels  disingenuous and is entirely unrelated to the task at hand – singing.


But the X Factor just does it badly.



The truth is a lot of good can come out of a well crafted sob story.


The definition I now attribute to the term focuses on the ability to use a past experience to convince your stakeholders that you are personally invested in the vision and mission of the business at hand.


A great X Factor sob story would be, “I have loved singing since I was 5 and I joined the church choir. When I was 16, my voice started breaking really badly, and that shouldn’t happen because I’m a girl! By the time I was 18, I was completely mute. I couldn’t speak let alone talk. But I never lost my love for music. Music saved me. This is my first audition after I had vocal chord surgery 1 year ago and my doctor didn’t think I would ever get to sing again. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of music with the world. I think music can help people going through difficult challenges in their lives. I going to make music that saves people, just like I was saved.”


See the elements?


  1. Set the stage with your experience
  2. Refer to the mission
  3. Show the link between your mission and your experience
  4. Instil confidence that you truly believe in the vision
  5. State the vision
  6. Link the vision to your experience.


A well crafted sob story is a subtle art. It hits all the right points without ever feeling mechanical.


In the past few years I’ve found the value in sob stories, and come up with a framework that has helped me and my clients craft sob stories that engage our readers and give them the confidence they need to invest in us.


If you’re interested, you can read through “my sob story” where I pair a life experience with the mission of Do it Now Now.


Let’s begin.


The purpose of sob stories is to pin point experiences in your life that help your readers, and stakeholders feel a much more authentic connection to you as an individual and to the company you founded.



Its through these kinds of experiences that you can instil confidence in your readers, customers and investors, assuring them that you’re truly passionate about your work and that you’re most definitely in it for the long haul. 


Your sob story is your personal WHY.


Its the answer to questions like, “what drives you?”, “what makes you tick?” and “why are you in this?” Questions your customers and investors want you to address efficiently.


Customers and investors alike are looking for authenticity and passion.


Depending on their personality, they may not achieve that level of relationship unless they can feel connected to you through your sob story.


Not every potential customer needs a sob story, but for those who do, having one that is easy to find and linked where appropriate, like in your About page, or your personal bio, will work wonders for your conversion rates.

Creating subtle opportunities for individuals that are that way inclined, will give you the opportunity to maximise your ability to convert those visitors into loyal customers.


If appropriate for your branding, explicitly refer to it as a “sob story”.


The language, with all its negative connotations will ward off anyone who isn’t genuinely interested in your personal trials and tribulations, and excite anyone who enjoys watching those X Factor interviews.


Referring to it as a sob story also brings some levity to it. However, levity may not always be appropriate, especially if the content of the story is similar to the “Letter from the Founder” featured on Wellbeing Africa Foundation’s website.



In that letter, Mrs Saraki, the founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa tells a story of her experience accessing Nigeria’s maternal health system that ultimately led to the death of her child and inspired the mission of the Foundation.


The purpose of her story is not to elicit pity from the reader but to inform them that she is personally connected to the mission and is uniquely invested in the vision of the Foundation. 


For most people, its difficult to find a story in your past that has the necessary elements to build a sob story that can convert into a startup message.


To help you, I’ve put together a list of questions to consider when you’re searching for that story.


You can get access to that list here.


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