Is a business plan necessary?

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      To get straight to the point, No, we don’t think it is; at least not for fundraising. For a young business at it’s early stages it is constantly changing and evolving and still working to secure resources. A full business model is an unnecessary document for the purpose of a fundraiser as many investors do not tend to look at them straight away.

      What is the purpose of a business plan?

      A business plan is not solely a document used externally to secure funds. It is also an important internal document to reference for your business as it develops and grows.

      Writing your business plan makes you step back and look at everything at once: your value proposition, the marketing assumptions that follow, your operations plan, financial plan and staffing plan. It helps draw links and connections that you would have otherwise missed. A well written plan is also very useful at attracting and onboarding new talent. You want to be able to provide a concentrated business overview to a potential hire to show the excitement and promise in your business.

      Despite its usefulness for early stage businesses and investors, things change in the business rapidly  which makes most of the content assumptions ‘nice to haves’ which becomes quickly outdated; so writing a detailed business plan may not always be the best use of your time or energy.

      What should I do instead?

      For pitching to investors

      The key thing you need is a Pitch Deck and a concise financial model with projections between 3 to 5 years. Although this may seem like making the same assumptions as a business plan, a pitch deck paints a vision of the key elements of any investment; what the return will look like upon exit.

      This document is the most important plan to have to get your foot in the door with investors for early stage startups.

      More about pitch decks

      For your internal roadmapping

      Instead of writing down every piece of info across multiple pages, you might want to think about using a business model canvas instead. This is a lean startup and management tool for constructing business models, with a focus on developing and describing

      • Value propositions
      • Resources
      • Partners
      • Customer relations
      • Channels
      • Customer segments
      • Cost structure
      • Revenue streams

      This allows you to get right under the hood of your marketing business model in a more streamline structure. You don’t need long paragraphs but rather concise fragments brought together on one page and easy to receive. If you think this may be useful for you there are various tools out there you can get started with:

      Investor Pitch Deck: What you need to know

      Why a pitch deck?

      Your pitch deck is probably the most vital document you will create when trying to secure funding for your startup. But it won’t get a big angel or investor to invest in your company on its own, they need to meet you and your team face to face to get a true feel of who they’re working with However, it’s the first and best opportunity to create the right impression and the key to getting through the first round of filtering and being taken seriously to get in the door.

      What should be in my pitch?

      We can help with that! We’ve gathered a range of template sources based on our experience of what is a effective pitch deck. With these templates, be creative and don’t feel to follow them as exactly as written but rather use them to guide your structure and keeping it clear and simple whilst informative. Here are some of our favourite templates:

      • Capital Pilot // pitch deck template
      • Guy Kawasaki // The only ten slides you need in your pitch
      • Boris Golden // What I look for in a startup pitch

      Common Mistakes

      We look at hundreds of pitch decks at Swoop, and there are trends in the mistakes that founders make, this template will help avoid these mistakes, when starting your pitch deck also bare in mind the following:

      Its too long, dense and wordy

      Investors have a short attention span and a lot of other work to be doing, your pitch deck is never going to start out as high on their agenda. If it has multiple pages in a small font with big paragraphs, it won’t engage the reader. It needs diagrams and images to give it life; not every detail needs to be included as you need to remember this pitch deck is what will make the person reading the deck want to meet you, so they need to be enticed and wanting more! In person is when you will face challenging questions from the investor that will create their true understanding and perception of the business.

      It’s a product pitch, not an investor pitch

      We often see investor pitches which were initially designed as customer pitches with an extra slide added at the end of the presentation for fundraising. You certainly have to demonstrate why your product or service is or will be a success, but your key goal is to make it clear that the product/service is a winner for the investment. In other words, will they make a big return on their investment. The great product/service isn’t the only component that is going to make you the money. You also need to show that you have a great team working behind it with a winning revenue model and clear market strategy, there also needs to be a large enough addressable market to generate a healthy return for the investor.

      Its Too technical/jargony

      You may be pitching to some investors with a lot of sector experience, however generally its likely you will be much better versed on the technical elements than they are. If you fill your pitch with technical terms relevant only to the niche market alongside abbreviations and acronyms you will lose the interest of the reader. Write and speak in a manner everyone can take in, be conscious of your audience.

      You’re selling too hard

      Do not try to over sell your business model, you are looking for funding which shows it is incomplete so be sure to stay realistic. Don’t try pretend you can do it all on your own, be clear on where you would appreciate their input and value while showcasing your strengths.

      Inconsistency and Accuracy

      It matters to you whether or not you secure this funding, right? So be sure to get that across. Rid your pitch deck of typos, 50% of pitch decks reviewed have typos and 25% of financial models typically have errors. This is sloppy and instantly contributes to a bad impression.

      Just as importantly, make sure your assumptions & outputs of your business model match with the words and numbers you use, have the language you use about your projections be reflected by that in the numbers, don’t downplay or exaggerate and ask the key question: Does your presentation and model describe that your business will be worth multiples of its current value during the lifetime of the investment (i.e. before the money being raised runs out) if not, you cant get very far.

      person holding marker Photo by Christina Morillo on

      They’re different things and you must show you are aware of this. If asked ‘How are you going to build a customer base?’ the answer is not ‘Digital marketing and social media’ Be educated on each element. What is your target customer base(s) and how are you going to prioritize them? How will you raise awareness in that demographic? And what process will create the bridge to selling the product to customers in that demographic?

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