How not to write a businessplan as a startup

How not to write a businessplan as a startup

Should I write a businessplan and why? What should it contain and what shouldn't be part of it? How much resources should I put into the creation of my businessplan? This post outlines some key-take-aways I've made during my last startup.

1. What's your roadmap?

There are many different ways to become successful with founding a company. Some entrepreneurs want to live their vision, others dream of building a huge empire and some want to sell their startup at a later stage. It's important to know where you want to go. What's your short-, mid- and longterm goal? If your goals include applying for funding, finding an investor or you are simply not sure about the actual business model yet (as many founders simply start out with a vision), then this blog post is for you.

2. What would I do different today?

This part just lists & discusses experiences I've made. Every startup is different. Thus, please validate the following on your own and let me know if you think I've wrote something wrong ->

2.1. Start as simple as possible

Our social-tech startup began with a simple vision; "Giving people enough incentives to do something good". One thing I did right was creating a business plan at all which gave us some direction, guided us through several crises and helped a lot when applying to business model competitions, funding, etc. But I focused way too much on writing the business plan instead of actually working on the business itself (at least the first year). This made our business model incredibly complex and so hard to understand that several competitions have been lost because of that. In the end our business plan had more than 50 pages which was very helpful when applying to competitions or funding, but it made it very difficult for us to focus on the important things. We knew we had to change after experiencing one pull-back after another. Therefore, we wrote a simple one-pager which described our business model so that it was easy to understand. Start with an one-pager instead of a complete businessplan. And then create a separate document (to retain your simple business model) where you add every page you had to write for e.g. funding applications, presentations, etc. This approach will help you to focus on your business itself, it helps to keep your business model as simple as possible and you will have a well-elaborated business plan as well over time.

2.2. Think international

Write your business plan in English. I know, writing important documents in your native language can be tempting, but as you progress you'll certainly need some English documents too in future. Almost every professional organization accepts English documents (be it a grant-application, an investor/VC or startup competitions) which gives you a lot of leverage.

2.3. Don't waste time writing the perfect business plan

We've already heard that writing a long business plan is not necessary (at least at an earlier stage). What also takes a lot of time is perfecting a business plan itself; be it grammatically, the spelling or just the layout (images, statistics, readability,..). Don't get me wrong here, you will need to have a professional business plan in the long term otherwise you'll have a hard time approaching investors or requesting larger sponsorship/funding. But you have to consider that you would need to adapt your business plan continuously (which also takes a lot of resources) when you adapt it to new insights especially when your startup is not older than 1 year (which will usually result in a lot of unexpected & unconsidered surprises).

2.4. Know your audience

Not everyone will read your businessplan. Therefore, you should know who you expect to read the actually most important document of your company. You'll include different topics & elaborate differently on them when you either write it for investors, enterprise allowances (e.g. FFG, AWS, ..) or if the whole document is especially for internal guidance. I hope there was at least one new aspect, you haven't thought of. Please let me know if you have questions or feedback.

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