Data-Driven Storytelling for Entrepreneurs

I just returned from a fascinating week in Belo Horizonte (Brazil), where we ran multiple workshops to build capacity to work with data in creative ways.  The trip was organized by the Office of Strategic Priorities of the State of Minas Gerais (they are members of the MIT Media Lab).  This post is one in a series about the workshops we ran there.

We’ve always included a diverse set of audiences in the Data Therapy workshops.  However, I’ve never had a chance to really connect with the entrepreneurial and startup communities.  This changed last Monday in Belo Horizonte, when we had a chance to run a workshops for members of the first class of startups accepted to the the SEED accelerator program run by the state (@SeedMG).  The government created the program to foster an ecosystem of innovation.  They host the in a startup-y co-working space, give them a little money, and offer them access to mentors and such for about 6 months.



We introduced them to our basic Data Therapy brand of story-finding and story-telling.  In addition, we introduced some evocative examples to think about a few ways business use data:

  • getting useful feedback
  • understanding product use
  • improving product use
  • validating assumptions
  • improving process
  • surprising and delighting customers

This workshop included two participatory components (both learnt from the Tactical Tech Collective last summer):

  • visualization reverse engineering – we hang up visualizations and have small groups walk around trying to identify things like audience, visual technique, data used, goals, etcIMG_3096
  • convince me – we introduce some sample data, select volunteers to play personas (like CEO, funder, potential customer), and have everyone try to use the data to convince them of goalIMG_3090

Here’s the presentation content, for any folks that might be interested.



The group of about 15 entrepreneurs enjoyed the chance to focus on their data problems. In particular, the “convince me” activity sparked a great discussion about how and why data can be used to talk to different audiences.  This connected really well with their natural entrepreneurial instincts to hone in on customer personas and narrow focus.  A handful were particularly interested because they had presentations to make to potential investors that day!


The SEED blog has a short writeup of our workshop in portuguese.

PS: You can tell it is a startup space, because they have ridiculous things like a giant pool of plastic balls you can play in!


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