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A Founders Guide to Startup Financial Modeling

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Jacob Loveless has been a member of Founders Community since June 2018. He’s additionally been a outstanding FN member in our Los Angeles Chapter. To obtain peer mentorship from Jacob and over 600 fellow Tech Founders, please request an invitation and be a part of our international community.

Constructing a monetary mannequin is likely one of the first steps you’re taking after you have determined what your organization goes to do as a enterprise. Fairly merely – how will you survive for those who don’t know what your prices and revenues will probably be? If it appears absurd that you need to have the ability to “guess” with any degree of accuracy what a buyer would/ought to/might pay for a product that hasn’t even been born but: take some consolation in what world-famous statistician George Field stated in his 1976 paper within the Journal of the American Statistical Affiliation:

“All fashions are fallacious, however some are helpful” George Field tweet

And that is precisely the purpose. The worth of early monetary fashions is the method of constructing them, not the numbers themselves. It’s this act of coming nose to nose with questions you haven’t / don’t need to face on the monetary viability of your organization that issues. Monetary fashions are the chilly bucket of water you want  – and I can guarantee you that you’ll come out extra energized and stronger for having carried out it.

Previous to a life in startup land, I used to be a Associate at Cantor Fitzgerald, a number one Wall Road agency the place I lived in fashions day-after-day for 15 years. I’ve accomplished issues in excel that shouldn’t be carried out. A 6GB spreadsheet? I’ve been there. A number of spreadsheets that unfold calculations throughout machines? Examine. An choices mannequin that required a full blow backend database in an effort to chew by way of the calculations? Been there and crashed stated database.

However the great thing about startup modeling is that this: the easier they’re the higher they’re.

A Mannequin for Fashions

In my expertise, you’ll generate three courses of fashions over time, every one in growing complexity.

  • Mannequin zero: The Market Mannequin
  • Mannequin 1: The Investor Mannequin
  • Mannequin 2: The Working Mannequin

The Market Mannequin is your preliminary view into what the present market is in your product/service. This can be a ‘prime down’ mannequin and can introduce you to your rivals. You’ll come to grips with roughly how a lot cash flows into you market, and who it flows to.

The Investor Mannequin is subsequent. Right here we’re going to come to grips with our prices and the potential ‘seize’ of our buyer spend. The important thing objectives listed here are:

  • Persuade your self that there’s a actual capability to maneuver buyer dollars from their pockets into your pockets.  
  • Present that you are able to do so at a tempo and price that’s affordable and;
  • Illustrate that the funding required supplies you the required ‘runway’ to match the movement of cash coming into your organization and the movement popping out of your organization.

The ultimate mannequin is the Working mannequin. It will begin with you because the founder however will ultimately be taken over by your CFO. The working mannequin is your actuality information. That is the precise forecasts that may more and more profit from hindsight. You’ll develop to each love and hate this mannequin with growing ardour over time however acknowledge that this mannequin is actuality.

Mannequin zero: The Market Mannequin

How massive is the market your product exists in? Is that this market rising or shrinking? Who’re the gamers on this market immediately?

A standard mistake right here is to imagine that you’re creating a brand new market! No. There isn’t any such factor as a brand new market. There are elementary physics of economics and that is lesson 1. For a buyer to spend cash with you, you’re convincing them to maneuver that spend from one thing else. That one thing else is your market.

One other widespread mistake? Assuming you’ll take X% of an enormous market. A wholesome dose of actuality right here is useful. Let’s work with an instance. Let’s say StartupCo has invented a brand new really ground-breaking database that’s 100x quicker than something the world has ever seen. Dope. What’s the market seem like? A fast go to over to Statista will assist us out:

So, the worldwide marketplace for databases is ~50B. That’s an enormous market, and better of all its rising. It’s value assembly our first acronym right here: CAGR or Compound Annual Progress Fee.  This says what % the market will increase in measurement (on common) yr over yr. To get the CAGR of a market we take the ending worth, divide it by the begging worth (to get the full % change over time) then modify for the variety of years and subtract 1.

Jacob Loveless

Calculate CAGR

So now we now have a tough feeling of the chance measurement in the present day and roughly what which may seem like 5 years out. To ahead challenge the market measurement we will merely add in our CAGR and (whereas waving jazz palms) we now have one thing we will work with. So, our 50B market will develop to just about 80B by 2022.

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Who performs on this market right now? A fast Google seek for “database market share” brings us to right here: https://db-engines.com/en/ranking .

Jacob Loveless

This knowledge additionally appears affordable provided that Oracle (an enormous firm) is #1 (and #2) adopted by Microsoft. A fast copy-paste into excel and we will use these scores to guesstimate market share:

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Our subsequent process right here is to determine how lengthy it’s taken a participant to get to this place. That is very exhausting with conglomerates like Oracle the place database income is never (if ever) damaged out over time. So, a standard trick is to discover a pure play firm (that can also be public).

Fortunate for us such a participant not solely exists, however it substantial in measurement: MongoDB (NASDAQ: MDB). Mongo went public in October of 2017 so we will entry their financials to get their earnings. Our base guess says MongoDB (at 5.5% of the market) would have Q3’18 income of roughly 750 million. How? Nicely our base market share above say’s Mongo owns ~5.5% of the market, a market that ought to have 2018 revenues of 54 billion, and we’re taking a look at a single quarter (1/four of a full yr).  So 54 billion * 5.5% % four ~= 750 million dollars.


Now let’s take a look on the precise income from Mongo (utilizing Yahoo finance)  

Startup Financial Modeling

So, within the third Quarter Mongo booked 57 million in income, not 750 million. Wait what? This primary hit of chilly water is an introduction to new product pricing and income seize. The market may be 54 billion, however the brand new gamers want to cost to win accounts. An extra realization is that our database market share is probably going the share of consumers in deployment not proportion of precise dollars.

Utilizing this new info we will conservatively estimate that our seize of precise dollars as a relationship to seize of market share will probably be off by an element of 10-20x. Ouch. However no worries, it’s nonetheless an enormous market.

Let’s now take a look at what’s a sensible proportion of market share we will anticipate to get. Wanting once more to MongoDB (our pure play comparability) we see it was based in 2007. We might attempt to discover some historic market share knowledge (and it is best to attempt) however it’s unlikely we will get one thing clear. Instead we will apply a common mannequin and see the place issues find yourself. We will assume that our beginning market share is zero%, and we’ll simply plug in Mongo’s ending state at 5.5% ~11 years later.


Now it’s tempting to only join the dots, however not often does adoption work this manner. If we’re capable of “wow” the market, we might assume the exponential progress within the early years! However fashions are for actuality, and the truth is traction is tough. Product market match is tough. Scaling gross sales is tough. So, let’s use the use the other perform – the pure log.

A great way to mannequin logarithmic progress is to easily multiply the yr in enterprise * ln (excels pure log perform).

Jacob Loveless

It will give us a logarithmic curve to base our mannequin in. We then want 2 variables (just one of which actually issues) which is what % of the market can we realistically seize in yr 1? The second variable is our yr over yr progress multiplier. For now, simply plug in 2 (200%) for progress.

Let’s assume we seize zero.01% of the market in yr 1 – or about 1 out of each 550 MongoDB clients. That appears affordable though affordable individuals might disagree.

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We then apply our progress perform through the use of our logarithmic base * our progress price * the earlier yr’s market share. What we find yourself with is nonsense (1500% of the market) however we’re going to repair that in only a second.

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We will now clear up for the expansion fee that has us arrive at MongoDB’s market share in yr 11. To do that we use Excel’s Objective Search perform.

Startup Financial Modeling Excel Picture 2

We plug in our variables. In my working spreadsheet I need to set the worth of the final yr’s market share to five.5% (Mongo’s market share) by adjusting my YoY progress fee.

Startup Financial Modeling Excel Photo 3

Once you hit “OK” excel will run various calculations to seek out an optimum answer. On this case it provides a yr over yr fee of 1.14 (114%) and our chart now appears like what we might not need to see however have to see: a sluggish and regular wrestle to seek out adoption adopted by speedy progress.

Startup Financial Modeling Picture 3.5

Our final wanted estimate is what we anticipate 1% of market share is value when it comes to dollars. Our MongoDB instance earlier exhibits us it’s not fairly what we anticipated, however once more – it’s an enormous market. Let’s assume MongoDB has revenues of 210 million in 2018. This doesn’t appear unreasonable given they’ve 154 million in revenues going into This fall. Let’s additional assume their market share stays at ~5.5%. In order that signifies that 5.5% of the market is value 210 million, so 1% of market share is value ~38 million dollars (1/5.5 = .18 * 210 ~ 38 million). We will plug this in and now get our income mannequin. We multiply 38 million * our calculated market share *100 and

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What we see is a enterprise doing roughly 210 million per yr in income in 11 years.

Startup Financial Modeling Picture 4

From right here we now begin to ask ourselves the arduous questions. Can we cost 2x Mongo? 10x Mongo? In that case, then perhaps the truthful worth of 1% of market is 2x or 10x greater. By means of instance, my pal Arthur Whitney’s firm makes Kdb+ with a market share 83x decrease then Mongo – but KX Methods was a really constant 10mm per yr firm for almost 25 years. Why? Kdb+ is ~100x costlier than MongoDB however value each penny – which is why its run by banks, exchanges and main utility corporations. Can we develop quicker than MongoDB? 2x quicker? The important thing level of the market mannequin is to deliver these inquiries to the forefront.

In our subsequent installment we’ll take a look at the Investor Mannequin and convey prices into the image.

Good luck!


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