Is your story better than your product?

“We need you to remove your product right away. It is hurting our business.”

A year before those words were uttered to me, I had been blown away by the co-founders of Gymtrack talking about their automated exercise tracking platform.

I fell in love the first time I heard the story.

The crazy thing was that it worked. I saw it in action in the gym they had set up in their office. Lift the weight (plate-loaded, selectorizer or dumbbell) and there it was, a rep and the weight recorded.

So how did I end up in Minnesota, face-to-face with their lead customer, asking me to remove the Gymtrack product from their gym a year after meeting them?

I was so in love with the Gymtrack story that I found myself the CEO of the company. That day in Minnesota I had realized very quickly that the story outshone the offering.

It was a time before the smartwatch and the Internet of Things was in its true infancy and this company had the greatest story to be told in the gym industry.

The problem, as the co-founders later revealed, was that the business had been conceived with the sentence “wouldn’t it be cool” and then the story was built from there.

Their story was incredible. The product, while functional, didn’t match it but they still managed to secure a hefty seed round of funding and a marquee lead customer.

Then the wheels fell off.

In the end, the product could never live up to the story.

There is an incredible balance that needs to be considered when crafting a startup story. If it’s too fantastical, no one will believe or invest in it. If it is too underwhelming, no one will believe or invest in it.

That fine line where a little imagination and a spark of potential is the aim. It has to sound plausible and unique not insane and unneeded.

For Gymtrack, the possibilities were there but the story was just way too good and way too big to ever achieve.