Having taken technology and CPG companies through hyper-growth, investments, global expansion, mergers, acquisitions and IPO including successfully selling Beats by Dr. Dre to Apple Inc. for $3B, helping The North Face and Vans brands reach over $1B in sales in North America, taking Ubiquity Software public on the Alternative Investment Market on the London Stock Exchange and selling it to Avaya, Inc., I know that companies built on a fundamental purpose, the company why, are more likely to scale and succeed, creating better jobs and better products. Helping startups and later stage companies identify, capture, and drive the company why into the enterprise is now my why, with services provided through Executive Retreats, Advisory and Board Services, Organizational Developmental, and Projects.
For small businesses and later stage startups, I help management focus on the company why as the fuel for success. People are the most important asset of a company. Strategy can only succeed if culture is aligned with the company why. By leading executive management retreats, I help teams let go of old ideas that will not serve the future, double down on the great ideas that helped the company get to this level, and identify the new elements of culture that will need to be added to be successful. I also bring scaling experience and international operational expertise to the Board room as an Independent Director.
With space and autonomy startups, I help founders, leaders, and investors of these next industrial revolutions tell these complex tech stories to broader non-technical audiences through universal storytelling techniques modified for business pitch and communications formats. Armed with my personal belief that space and autonomy startups will help solve humanity’s hardest problems, I created the First Principles Pitch, a method for teaching the fundamentals of storytelling premised on the company why to ensure audiences always understand the company’s story and can retell it. This is how ideas get out into the world and how experts find and build upon the important ideas.
The First Principles Pitch was developed after having seen thousands of business pitches and rarely leaving a pitch being able to retell the story of that idea. Why can’t the founder clearly pitch their idea? After all, it is their idea. And why doesn’t the founder know they failed, why do they believe they did a great pitch?
Working with science and technology founders, I pulled a page from physics and started looking at first principles, a style of thinking that is attributed to Aristotle and his quest to identify “the first basis from which a thing is known.” Simply put, what is the very first thing you know about the problem you are trying to solve? The first principle of a pitch is to convey a business idea so the audience can retell the story to the next person, passing the idea into the world.
What is the indisputable truth of a business idea? The company why, its purpose, its grand vision of a new norm in which the company product has solved the customer problem.
What is the indisputable truth of storytellers? Storytellers know their why. They know the purpose of the story and they put that moral of the story into the audience.
Finally, what is the indisputable truth of storytelling? Seven easy sentences starting with “Once upon a time” and ending with “And ever since that day,” the Story Spine.
I had my pitch, the First Principles Pitch.
Awarded the Highly Commended acknowledgement for the 2023 Outstanding Woman in Tech from the Women in Tech Employers Award UK, Rafferty is the Non-Executive Director at Opteran Technologies, a University of Sheffield spinout building the software platform for autonomous machines based on biomimicry mapping. Currently, she is an advisor to Xona Space Systems, bringing position, navigation, and timing to support intelligent machines through a low earth orbit satellite constellation, and at New Vista Capital, delivering strategic advice and capital for aerospace and national security startup companies. Annually, she directs the industry-leading Startup Space Competition at the Satellite Show in Washington DC and presents and/or mentors hundreds of early stage space startups at accelerators, incubators, venture studios, and numerous US military startup events.
Rafferty first joined technology startups in 1997 working with Microsoft’s WebTV Networks, a web access set-top box for the television, and then joined Macromedia supporting the launch of revolutionary software products like Dreamweaver and Flash. Next, she took Ubiquity Software, maker of the SIP-application server, public on the London Stock Exchange in 2005, and then sold it to Avaya. She then joined the executive team responsible for the brands The North Face, Vans, JanSport, Reef, and Eagle Creek and made a name for herself on the executive leadership team at Beats by Dr. Dre.