1. it is relevant, If i understand correctly what you mean by 'brand' story. Marketing is not our top priority so we did not spend a great deal of energy on our brand story up front. I suppose the more commoditized your product the greater the importance of marketing and branding. I can't imagine marketing toothpaste or toilet paper! That being said, I strongly believe that given limited resources, the minimally viable company needs to have 2 skills: you must have a product and you must be able to sell it. At the earliest stages nothing else matters. The 'brand story' is an important part of selling so, while not central, it is a necessary component and we do spend time early on to develop at least the skeleton of the story. Our (speaking for my company) priorities tend to be: 1: Business model: market research, competitive analysis, financial modeling (make a bunch of assumptions on pricing, sales, adoption, expenses, etc. and model to see if/how we can make the numbers work. 2: If the numbers make sense then focus on product/market fit. Build a mockup in PowerPoint that functions as a focal point for conversations around what we think we should build. Our "story" starts to come into play here so we spend some time to put a little flesh on the skeleton. Sales is as much or more about the "why" than the "what". Go out and talk to prospects. Our conversations with prospective customers starts with the 'what' but is wrapped in or tightly coupled with the "why" - our 'story'. These initial conversations with prospects are critical. We don't expect or try to have all the answers at this point as we expect the market to influence the 'what' and to validate the 'why'. We iterate a bit to be sure we clearly understand the 'what' and that customers resonate with the 'why'. For my current startup we built a 2 min. video to help with the 'what' early on, but we didn't feel like we had the need or budget to spend more on our story at this stage - we relied more on in-person conversations to convey the 'why'. 3: then we went and built (are building) a MVP/rev 1.0 product. We are building a SaaS product so developing our website is closely coupled, but still a secondary priority. obviously it needs to be 'good enough' by beta launch. we just this week got around to rev 2.0 of the "about us" page which forced us to sit down and put more thought into "our story" which in turn forced us to put more thought into the 'voice' behind our story - voice, tone, color, etc... all those warm fuzzy things that marketing people get paid to think about :) . It's good enough for now.
2. do we think about it? yes. see above.
3. how do we develop it: seat of the pants. Collaborate with a writer/marketing friend to come up with the basics - enough to be able to develop some efficient pitches (used for market validation meetings, partner discussions, website development, etc.). Is this the 'right' way? probably not, but it's good enough for now.
4. Challenges: we are focused on product dev and sales so we don't have marketing skills on the team yet. This presents some challenges - the 'voice' (and colors, and fonts and... ) across our website and presentation and materials tend to be inconsistent, but on the other hand we don't feel 'locked in' yet by having spent a lot of time and money on 'brand' development that might get changed as we approach launch.
5. where do we go for input?: the nearest person we know who speaks 'marketing'.
6. at what stage did we start to think about it?: pretty early - see above.
7. Priority: product/market validation is the earliest priority. if that looks good Then the top 2 priorities quickly become: building the product and selling it. Having at least the basics of our story is an important part of selling so while we started to put energy into developing our story early, we did just enough to get by. I can't over emphasize the importance of product/market validation prior to building a product so we made some sales early on before we started building. This forced us to spend some time on 'brand story' development early on, but we are not pros at it. We did just enough to get by. Just prior to beta launch we are now putting more thought/effort into our story and i suspect just prior to GA we will put in more effort.