Business

Why do Founders Often Struggle to Be Heard?

Why do Founders Often Struggle to Be Heard? 1024 655 James Knight

The MICE quotient is an invaluable tool for understanding the story you’re telling.

It’s a concept that comes from fiction but applies equally well to sales and marketing.

By understanding the four MICE conflicts, founders can turn their vision into a captivating narrative.

Good stories are the same — in fiction, non-fiction, or copy. They all revolve around conflict.

The MICE quotient describes the four primary sources of conflict you can use:

1. 🗺️ Milieu
2. ❓ Inquiry
3. 🦋 Character
4. 🌋 Event.

Let’s explore each one:

🗺️ Milieu conflicts focus on the setting of the story.

A Milieu story begins when our character(s) enter a new place.

It ends when they exit.

In Milieu conflicts, the struggle to leave entertains and educates us.

For products, Milieu stories are about our customers returning to a place of comfort.

Something has changed, and they’ve entered a new, scary world.

Our product helps them return to the one they came from.


❓ Inquiry conflicts focus on a question.

An Inquiry story begins when our character(s) discover a question they don’t know the answer to.

It ends when they find that answer.

In marketing, Inquiry stories are best used to entice the customer into reading more.

We open the loop with a question they’re dying to know the answer to (“But how?!”).

We close the loop when we’re ready to move on to the next big question.


🦋 Character conflicts focus on character transformation.

They begin when our character becomes dissatisfied with their life or their circumstances.

They end when the character transforms into the person they want to be.

Character stories are best used as the over-arching narrative our customer moves through.

At the start, they’re not achieving their full potential.

They want more.

Our product or service helps them become that better person.


🌋 Event conflicts are all about changing the status quo.

Something big has happened. Our characters have to respond.

Event conflicts begin when the status quo is threatened.

They end when the character is returned to the status quo or to a better version of it.

Event conflicts are great for discussing your company’s role in the narrative.

They’re perfect for answering “why now?” What changed in your customer’s world to make your product relevant today?

In 2023, there are plenty of “events” to use in your stories.

The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the explosion of AI.

Each one of these threatens the status quo and provides new conflicts your customers have to navigate.


Understanding the MICE quotient can help you craft compelling stories & captivate your customers.

Use the 4 conflicts:

1. 🗺️ Milieu
2. ❓ Inquiry
3. 🦋 Character
4. 🌋 Event.

And watch your vision spread to customers, investors, and the world.


Early-stage founder?

Recession, Who Cares? – Why Founders Should Embrace the Recession, Not Run From It

Recession, Who Cares? – Why Founders Should Embrace the Recession, Not Run From It 1024 667 James Knight

Recession. A big scary word.

When the economy shrinks, there’s less for everyone. Less money in the money stream. Fewer jobs on the job tree.

When markets slow, growth slows.

But not for startups.


Recessions are macro-level events.

They affect the market as a whole.

If you’re at market scale (think Google or Amazon), then they affect you greatly.

Google (~30% of online ad revenue) and Amazon (~40% of online retail spend) are the market.

They’re macro-level companies.

But startups aren’t macro-level.


Macro-level changes aren’t evenly distributed.

Even if the system as a whole is trending one way, parts of the system can trend the other.

Global temperatures have risen ~1C since 1900 [1].

But 2022’s winter storms brought record-lows in many American cities [2].

These aren’t contradictory.

Recessions are no different.

Just like the climate, it’s possible for some areas to cool while others experience record heat.

Startups just need to go where it’s hot.


Macro changes cause migrations.

Rising temperatures in Burgundy threaten the world’s greatest Pinot Noirs.

But that same warmth in England is helping them produce quality sparkling wine for the first time in history.

Startups should be planting in England, not farming in Burgundy.


What does this mean for founders?

For the first time in a decade, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have hit the PAUSE button on their growth.

They’re not throwing piles of money at every tech hire in the country. They’re not investing in new, risky industries.

They’ve shut themselves in the cave, hoping to wait out the winter.

The biggest predators in the woods are sleeping.


As a founder, recessions shouldn’t scare you.

Change runs through your veins.

Fuck the Macro. Embrace the Micro.


Early-stage founder?

Hockey Stick Growth is a Myth—What Companies Can Do to Create True Exponential Growth

Hockey Stick Growth is a Myth—What Companies Can Do to Create True Exponential Growth 1024 690 James Knight

Hockey Stick Growth is a myth.

There’s no magical point at which a startup takes off. True growth is built brick-by-brick.

Let’s see what real exponential growth is made of.


The “Holy Hockey Stick”

In the Hockey Stick Growth model, startups see little traction in their early days before hitting a mystical “inflection point” and trending upwards into exponential growth.

That mystical point is defined as the point when you achieve Product-Market Fit (PMF).

But that’s not how growth works.


Product-Market Fit is a Process

In the real world, PMF isn’t a point in time. It’s a process.

A process that most founders underestimate.

Even amongst *funded* startups, the #1 reason for failure is “No Market Need [1]”. These are companies that had 12–18 months to find PMF.

And they never found it.

A founder’s overconfidence in their ability to reach PMF will doom them.

It leads to over-investment (both in time and money) in their initial version of the product.

It creates an obsession with each successive release, as the founder is sure *this one* will be the one to achieve PMF.

So what can you do about it?


The True Hockey Stick

Since Product-Market Fit isn’t binary, what does the true Hockey Stick look like?

In the hockey-stick model, the period after the inflection point is characterized by “surging” growth.

That’s a fancy way to say growth is “accelerating”.

So how do we increase our growth rate over time?

The real Hockey Stick isn’t defined by an inflection point but rather by an inflection process.

With each change we make to our product or its messaging, we increase our growth rate just a little. These improvements stack on top of each other one by one, building the famous hockey stick shape.

Creating real exponential growth isn’t about finding the mythical Product-Market fit. It’s not about reaching some magical inflection point.

Real exponential growth is achieved by stacking incremental improvements over time.


The real Hockey Stick is built brick-by-brick.

[1. CBInsights: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/startup-failure-reasons-top/]


Early-stage founder?