The Power of Storytelling & Tech with Katrina German of OneStory
“I’ve always thought that stories are one of the most powerful ways for people to learn from each other.”
Katrina shared. The OneStory Co-Founder and CEO now helps real people share real stories on a storytelling platform that crowdsources interviews.
Starting a tech company is not at all where Katrina imagined her life would go. She studied history in school and planned on being a lawyer. Opting out of the justice system, Katrina served in a non-profit promoting adult literacy and later transitioned into social media strategy, film and broadcast, and finally tech entrepreneurship.
“Everybody has a story that someone can learn from.” Katrina believes. From this idea, the concept of OneStory continued to evolve. “How can we makes this so that organizations and people that already have communities can leverage that power of story and be able to ask questions from their communities and easily gather answers in order to make change in the world.”
OneStory has helped people share incredible stories around the world. Interviews special to Katrina include children in Palestine sharing what they want to by when they grow up, seniors talking about their experience in the war, survivors detailing how they battled cancer, and people reminiscing on how they fell in love. Organizations use OneStory as part of their major initiatives to bring awareness and inform communities on an issue. United Nations Women used OneStory in Albania to capture men standing up for women’s rights.
Authentic Storytelling & Understanding People
Katrina lives and breathes storytelling with her work for OneStory and the co-founder has great advice on the subject. She noted, “I think the important part is that you’re authentic and share your passion. Start with why. Here’s the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. Having a strong founding story and a strong call to action is always really important. Be yourself. You’re the expert in your own life.”
Branding is another form of storytelling and one that Katrina is no stranger to. She advised, “A strong brand just helps people identify you and get a sense of who you are and what you’re about. Being consistent with that is important. It’s a way to communicate the identity of your company and you want to communicate that in all places all over social media and publications, so that whenever anyone sees your company name or personal name they automatically get a sense of who you are. It’s an important step when you’re building a company to build your brand into everything you do.”
At OneStory, Katrina’s time is divided between raising money, working with clients, overseeing development, and all of the other hats that entrepreneurs often wear. Through her experience creating a company, Katrina learned the necessity of support. She related, “Surrounding yourself with really good people is the most important thing you can do. Good advisors, good staff, good mentors, supportive family, people you can go to talk to when things get difficult. And also to help you celebrate when things are great.” With exciting things coming up for OneStory, Katrina has been doing some celebrating of her own.
Transitioning into Tech
With a career starting in the nonprofit sector, Katrina’s past may seem completely unrelated to the tech world, but she’s proved otherwise. “It provides you with an understanding of people,” Katrina explained, “Understanding things from the user’s perspective. The people I was working with before had challenges with literacy and that always caused me to look at signs and the way that things were set up. How could they be set up differently to be more easy for people to use? That’s something that’s been important as we’re going through a redesign to make things more user-friendly. Being able to see things through other people’s eyes is one of the most powerful things you can learn when you’re working with people having difficulties.
The difference between non-profit work and tech entrepreneurship for Katrina has been reach. “There are no barriers,” Katrina pointed out, “You can have people around the world using your service. You can reach a lot of different people with your message. It’s a fast-moving industry so you have to be moving really quickly.”
Because Katrina is based in Canada, not California, she’s run into numerous challenges. “There tends to be a lot of power in San Francisco,” Katrina said, “And there are challenges creating a tech startup outside that ecosystem. Canada has its own advantages and programs that help, but there’s always challenges not having that eco-system set up for your success.”
To combat the missed opportunities of living outside tech hot spots, Katrina advises entrepreneurs to surround themselves with mentors. Mentors will save entrepreneurs time and money as well as help them set up their businesses as efficiently as possible. Katrina added, “Work with people who are better than you at it and keep trying to find people who are better than you at it to continue to learn. On the otherside, help others. If you’re in a small community you can all pool your resources to really make some good things happen.”
Katrina’s core message is about knowledge. She remarked, “Knowledge is power and learning from others is the most powerful thing you can do. Why make those mistakes yourself? That’s what my passion is with OneStory. It’s a forum to learn from others and be share our stories to teach others. There’s a real power there of human experience.”
What has been your experience been with the power of storytelling? Has someone’s story had an impact on you? What’s your story? Let us know in the comments below.