Wen Zhang – Founder and CEO, INNW Institute – Founded in FoCo Podcast

About the Guest(s):

Wen Zhang is an innovative strategist and the founder of the Institute of INNW (If Not Now, When?), dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and founders in honing their pitches to secure investments and customer buy-in. With her roots in a small village in southern China, she taught herself English early on and pursued her American dream which led her to significant roles in startup spaces in Chicago and a corporate stint at Dow Technologies handling go-to-market global strategies. Pivoting back to her entrepreneurial spirit, she founded the INNW Institute to contribute to the technical entrepreneurial space by facilitating their growth through effective storytelling and strategic communications.

Episode Summary:

Strategist and innovator Wen Zhang joins Nick to discuss how entrepreneurs and founders can hone their pitches to secure investments and customer buy-in. She unveils her vision of empowering technical entrepreneurs with the art of storytelling, to bring their innovations from the lab to the marketplace effectively.

The discussion centers around the founders’ journey and their need to bridge the “knowledge trap” that separates their deep technical understanding from the awareness level of customers and investors. Wen emphasizes the importance of crafting a narrative that resonates with human motivators to drive engagement and investment. Wen shares her personal story from her origins in a Chinese village to a visionary thought leader in strategic marketing for startups.

Key themes include the psychology behind getting ‘yes’ from investors, the importance of narrating an entrepreneurial journey, and the power of aligning product stories with human desires for health, wealth, community, and contribution. Wen also stresses the significant potential of technical entrepreneurs who solve real-world problems with their creativity and drive.

Key Takeaways:

  • Technical entrepreneurs often face a “knowledge trap,” where their deep expertise doesn’t align with the understanding of investors or customers.
  • An effective pitch must resonate with human motivators such as wealth, health, love, and a sense of contribution to something larger.
  • Wen’s INNW Institute focuses on helping entrepreneurs craft stories that capture their ultimate motivations and the larger impact of their solutions.
  • Storytelling proficiency is a critical differentiator in lifting technical entrepreneurs from great to extraordinary in their fundraising and market engagement.
  • The INNW Institute also provides pitch workshops and resources for entrepreneurs looking to refine their investor and customer pitches.

Notable Quotes:

  • “If you can make it in person, I will highly recommend you come and meet me in person. Say hello and tell me you listened to this podcast and I would love to invite you on the stage or off stage chat about your pitch.” – Wen Zhang
  • “It’s not about another ad tech solution, another AI, incredible software, another all the incredible thing you are building. This is about how do we position our company as a multimillion-dollar investment opportunity today?” – Wen Zhang
  • “This is never about us, about me, about how I speak when we leave me out of the equation. There’s no worry, there’s no concern.” – Wen Zhang
  • “It is our responsibility as a founder, as a business owner to tell the right story so we can bring those incredible investors into our world, seeing the world we see.” – Wen Zhang
  • “And that is where the panel is going to be. So we’re going to come together as you join our session. It will be a pitch session, which is pitch in actions.” – Wen Zhang


Sign up for Wen’s workshop at Founded in FoCo here.

Listen to other episodes and subscribe to the podcast here.

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