Storytelling & Branding For Early-Stage Ventures (S7E3)


In this episode, we begin with the season’s inaugural Blox-Off. For those not in the loop, let’s break down the Blox-Offs: Winners from each pod face a spontaneous challenge presented individually before the audience, while the other pod victors head to a soundproof room. Judges then rank the contestants on a scale of 1 to 7 based on their Blox-Off performance. These evaluations, combined with the daily challenge and consult rankings, decide the top three competitors of The Blox, and these three teams will earn the season’s first red jerseys, marking them as prime targets. This jam-packed episode also delves into another daily lesson and its ensuing Bloxer challenge.


At the beginning of the episode, we see seven terrified Bloxers about to enter their first Blox-Off, a long-form pop quiz. Not only do the pod winners have to define terms from the day’s lesson like “build, measure learn,” “innovation accounting,” and “split testing,” they also need to apply the concepts to their business – on the spot. The Blox-Off goes better for some than others, and with that, the first top three teams of the season are announced and given their red jerseys – and – surprise! – it’s not necessarily the top three from the Blox-Off.

After an intense first night, some contestants take the time to relax, play some pool, and reflect on the day. Things get really emotional, and it’s a moment where we see just how much support is needed in our entrepreneurial journey and why communities like The Blox are so important. In similar fashion, the pod winners and judges gather for breakfast the next morning to discuss their businesses and begin the day by strategizing.

Day two’s lesson is rooted in storytelling and branding and why it’s so important to pitching – because real life is not like Shark Tank, and pitching is much more than just asking for money. It’s about getting the other person to resonate with your brand as quickly as possible. The contestants also learn the importance of reading the room as well as how we can change people’s perception of us by dripping bits of information to them based on what we want them to see and feel.

With multiple Bloxers having major lightbulb moments, only the day’s challenge will tell if they really grasped the concept or not. The task seems simple enough: present their Idea Introduction Patterns – but is it as easy as it sounds? Stay tuned for episode four to get a glimpse at the consults and see who won the day.


Oren Klaff, the author of “Pitch Anything,” sets the stage for this class by highlighting a significant disconnect between how we pitch ideas and how they’re received by our audience. This results in a lack of effectiveness during crucial moments of persuasion, where our essential messages struggle to break through. Pitching often gets tied to fundraising and showcases like Shark Tank, yet it spans far beyond that – whether it’s presenting at the bank, recruiting team members, negotiating leases, or collaborating along the supply chain. The challenge lies in the wide array of situations – virtual or in-person, spanning seconds to months – which makes preparation a puzzle. The solution lies in understanding how people process new concepts and framing our narratives to resonate effectively.

The Presenter’s Problem emerges as our deep expertise often becomes a barrier when we explain complex ideas to those less familiar. Our knowledge can turn into a weakness if not managed properly. A significant revelation is that while we’re experts from the neocortex, the listener’s brain filters everything through the crocodile brain’s lens, creating a disconnect. Communication begins after passing through the croc brain, the gatekeeper blocking the way to comprehension. This mechanism seeks to mark non-crucial matters as “spam,” reacting with boredom, caution, or a need for radical summarization. To navigate this, we must tailor our stories to fit the crocodile brain’s criteria.

The reality of how new people interpret our ideas involves their tendency to ignore, focus on the big picture, respond emotionally (often through fear), have a short attention span, and demand concrete facts over abstract concepts. The Idea Introduction Pattern offers a structured way to present ideas to them. Context, such as the length and type of conversation, plays a significant role. Perception is a power that influences stock prices, recruiting efforts, sales, pricing strategies, and more, and you dictate how people perceive you by defining your brand. Defining your brand involves assets like videos, pictures, written stories, and social media content. Turning these assets into a brand requires aligning them with the crocodile brain’s thinking, effectively telling your story to resonate with your audience.


  1. How do we pitch to different groups of people? The answer is we understand the root of how people interpret new ideas and then frame our stories to sit nicely within them.
  2. There’s a huge disconnect in pitching: while our expertise comes from our neocortex, our listener’s brain first interprets it through the lens of the crocodile brain.
  3. When a fresh face encounters your new ideas, it seeks solid evidence, veers away from abstract concepts, and craves verified facts.
  4. When pitching, context matters. Ask yourself: How long do you have to talk? Is this a conversation, a pitch, a Q&A? What is the actual point of this meeting? Who is leading the meeting?
  5. Perception of your brand is everything. Perception increases stock prices, makes recruiting and retaining employees easier, makes sales easier, increases what you can charge for your product and more.

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Meet The Judges

Brittany Garth-Freeman
Brittany Garth-Freeman
CEO of Pinq Inc - Atlanta, GA

Brittany Garth is an award-winning business coach & international social media consultant, coworking space owner, and owner of a business development agency for women-centric brands. Brittany has worked with brands including Disney, Microsoft, Harvard University, Bank of America, and Hyatt Hotels. Brittany has provided coaching and consulting to small and mid-sized businesses nationally and internationally within the US, U.K, South Africa, India, Dubai, and more. Brittany was selected by Forbes Magazine as a top professional Coach for the Forbes Coaches Council and was selected by Cosmopolitan Magazine as one of their top 50 social influencers for 2017. Brittany is an experienced TEDx speaker, has provided corporate training to Microsoft, and has spoken on “Global Entrepreneurship for Female Minorities” at Columbia University. She is a former contributor for the Huffington Post and and has been featured nationally and internationally as a leading life coach for women in Essence Magazine, MTV, CBS, and other major media outlets. Brittany is a 2x best-selling author of her books “Dear Pinq” and “The Plan C”. In 2018, Coach Brittany was honored with a proclamation from the Governor of Virginia for “National Life Coaches Week”, to honor her work in the industry of life coaching. She is the first person to receive this honor within the industry of Life Coaching nationally. Presently, Brittany is the owner of Pinq Inc. a global brand that provides business development services for women-centric brands and corporations where she is the CEO and lead corporate consultant.

Courtney Carini
Courtney Carini
Creator & CMO, Crazy Go Nuts - Fresno, CA

Courtney Carini is the creator, co-founder, and chief marketing officer of Fresno, CA-based Crazy Go Nuts, where she and her team manufacture a variety of walnut snacks and walnut butters. Coming from a musical theater and comedy background, Carini is self-taught in the food manufacturing industry. She now wears many hats at Crazy Go Nuts—from graphic design, and photography, to R&D and sales. Raised among walnut and pear orchards as a native of Lake County in California, nestled in the mountains just above Napa Valley, Carini is a life-long advocate for the environment and healthful practices, and she is proud to incorporate these values into Crazy Go Nuts. When not cooking delicious treats, Carini enjoys performing in many television shows, writing sketches, and telling inappropriate jokes on stage, along with educating and advocating for ADHD.

Farhan Abbasi
Farhan Abbasi
CEO, & Angel Investor - Boston, MA

Farhan is the Founder and CEO of Nue Holdings, a leading real estate private equity and management firm specializing in multifamily, single-family, coliving, and vacation rental real estate. With a focus on providing investors capital-protected growth and income opportunities, Nue Holdings also operates, a management brand that offers flexible accommodations for guests and enhanced income for property owners and developers. Farhan holds an Advanced Management in Real Estate Development degree from Harvard University’s AMDP program and serves as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence with Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs. Prior to his current role, Farhan excelled as a Manager and CPA at Ernst & Young LLP, overseeing global teams and serving Fortune 100 clients such as State Street Bank, Charles Schwab, and hedge/private equity fund complexes. He also contributed as a MassChallenge Judge and Mentor and served on the MIT Enterprise Forum Board, enhancing innovation across industries.

John Allen
John Allen
Managing Partner Calibrate Network - Media, PA

John Allen started his first company, Attingo, as a junior at Temple University. Attingo is a social media marketing agency that helps companies build brand awareness. Following Attingo, John and his partners launched Boho Outfitters, an online jewelry retailer that quickly grossed up to $40k monthly. John and his partners leveraged Boho into the creation and launch of Ivory Ella, a $30M online brand that has donated over $2M to saving elephants and other charitable causes. As the company’s CEO, John managed operations, including 150 employees. John then served as an investor and the interim COO of Proof Ice Cream, a company revolutionizing both the food and alcohol industry before he moved on to become the CEO of Alta Gracia, the only independently certified Living Wage apparel company in the developing world. Alta Gracia’s products are sold in over 500 University bookstores. After successfully exiting two companies John and fellow entrepreneurs launched Calibrate Network a funding and operations group looking to help other online businesses get through the hardships brought on by the pandemic and vastly changing digital marketing landscape. John has been recognized for his entrepreneurship, employment, and charitable efforts by Apparel Magazine winning the Top Innovator award and sits on the Forbes Advisory Council.

Kaitlyn Lemus Portillo
Kaitlyn Lemus Portillo
Owner, Money Mindset & Magic Mastermind, Freedom Automations

Kaitlyn has been leveraging her expertise to help companies create structure around their ideas and scale their businesses for over a decade. In her signature program Money Mindset & Magic, she and her team coach entrepreneurs on how to create systems that support growth at their unique starting point. She is known for her raw, authentic coaching style and encouraging her clients to connect to their authentic selves so they can elevate at exponential rates. After signing her first major publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing, Kaitlyn’s work was featured on Disney’s “A Cinderella Story”, Rebecca Black (It’s Friday!), as well as HGTV shows.

Luke Wade
Luke Wade
Owner, KC Crew and MediaAlly - Kansas City, MO

Luke, an energetic and adventurous individual who’s always on the lookout for exciting new experiences in his city, started his business when he was frustrated by the lack of engaging activities and quality events. What began as a small initiative has blossomed into an incredible success story, with over 51,000 participants engaged in diverse activities like Sand Volleyball, Basketball, Pickleball, Cornhole, kickball, softball, and more, spanning the entire city. He also orchestrated one-of-a-kind events such as a Grilled Cheese Festival, an Underachiever’s Run, and a Zombie Crawl, attracting a staggering 16,000 attendees. These endeavors not only allowed Luke to leave his conventional job five years ago but also enabled him to foster a thriving, interconnected community. His once-small initiative now boasts four full-time employees, 40 part-time officials, and an office that has transformed into a bustling arena. Driven by his desire to make a positive impact, Luke is committed to helping others cultivate vibrant in-person and virtual communities. His dedication has earned him numerous accolades, including the 2018 25 under 25 Award from Thinking Bigger Business Media, the 2017 Innovation Partnership Program award, the 2017 Social Sports Industry Association Product Innovation Award, the 2016 Social Media Club Trailblazer of the Year Award, the 2014 Mayor Sly James’ Challenge Cabinet recognition, the 2014 Rising Star Award from NonProfit Connect, and the 2013 Urban Hero Award from the Downtown Council.

Peter Busch
Peter Busch
Chief Strategic Officer, Flawless - Austin, TX

Peter Busch brings over 20 years of industry experience in film production, technology growth stage and go-to-market. He started his career in traditional 2D and 3D animation with Warner Bros. and Paramount respectively. He previously worked with computer vision company Image Metrics in 2007, where he was instrumental in the initial adoption of its facial animation technology, used in the Academy Award winner The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Nominated in 2015, for a Scientific and Technical Academy award, Busch’s other notable accolades include Kong vs Godzilla, Horizon, Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA, Halo, and Destiny. Peter helped co-found facial animation B2B Faceware Technologies in 2012, helping expand its reach to nearly 4,000 studios in 90 countries around the world. The company’s technology was used on numerous projects in Film, TV, AAA Games, VR, AR, and MR before its acquisition by Facebank, Inc. in 2021. Known for his adeptness in crafting brand strategies, shaping corporate vision, orchestrating product releases, and implementing effective growth plans, Peter has also mastered press and marketing strategies. With a history of managing teams ranging from 5 to 45, he has achieved remarkable results, boasting over 170% revenue growth since 2019. Armed with a unique blend of artistic appreciation and technical prowess, he successfully marketed tech products, tools, and services to the realms of AAA Gaming, CG Animation, VFX, and Academia, fostering relationships with over 250 key industry accounts. Renowned as a speaker, Peter has delivered keynote presentations at international conferences and earned two SciTech Academy Award nominations, along with securing adoption by major entertainment franchises. Peter’s influence has extended globally, orchestrating B2B growth across 3,500 studios and academic institutions in 85 countries, culminating in an 8-figure exit collaboration with Facebank, Inc. in April 2021.

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