Business Plan Outline for Startups: A Simple, Time-Tested Format For Strategic Planning and Raising Capital

Business plans are not really about the written document. Instead, itis the process of developing your business plan that provides great value to a startup or entrepreneur. By applying a structured approach to developing your plan, you will know the market, your customers, and the competition on a deeper level. In addition, you will have real insight into the key factors that drive profitability in your business.

In this manner, the business plan becomes the foundation of your business. It can help you grow more effectively, with greater focus and reduced risk.
And finally, the actual written document does have a useful role: a really well-crafted business plan is a useful marketing tool for raising capital or recruiting partners, advisors, or key hires.

Here is a basic outline to get you started. Here at VentureArchetypes, we have used this format (or slight variations of it) for more than 100 clients who have collectively raised close to $200 million in early stage funding. In other words, this business plan outline works.

1. Market Opportunity

  • Establishes the case for "why the world needs your solution"
  • Provides market size, growth, trends, and customer information

2. Company and Products

  • Explains what your product does and how it meets market needs
  • Details your business model today and in the future

3. Operations and Development

  • Lays out launch, growth, and expansion strategies and tactics
  • Details what you will do & when, given the limited resources (human & financial capital) of a startup

4. Existing Relationships and Future Alliances and Partnerships

  • Discusses who will help you succeed and why they will do so

5. Marketing, Sales, and Distribution

  • Demonstrates how you will gain awareness, close deals, and get product to market

6. Competition

  • Describes the competitive environment as well as your advantages and differentiation

7. Management & Advisors

  • Background on who is running the show; Demonstrates credibility

8. Financial

  • Shows how you will make money, your funding needs and uses, and how much of a return you will generate for investors.
Keep in mind this is only the framework; it can be tailored for different needs and uses. For example, a business plan tailored toward a bank or lender would contain more detail on how you intend to pay back the loan, while a business plan for raising venture capital will go into more detail on potential exit strategies (such as IPO or acquisition).
In addition, the length can be suited to the circumstance; some plans require greater detail and thus run longer (30 pages or more), while most startup business plans can be succinctly captured in 8 to 10 pages. The format is also flexible; for example, we often create a short written plan (using Microsoft Word or Apple Pages) and then have the bulk of the content above be detailed in a slide deck (using PowerPoint or Keynote). Both pieces are supported by a detailed startup financial model (created in Excel).
Good luck with the process, and let us know if you discover any new tips or best practices.

Author:. Nathan Beckord, MBA/CFA is a startup junkie. He has been helping startups launch, raise capital, and execute on business development deals for over ten years. He has worked on numerous deals, ranging from small seed and venture capital rounds on up to initial public offerings and complex transactions with Fortune 500 companies.

Nathan is Principal of VentureArchetypes, LLC (, a consult...

Go Deeper | Website

Want More?

New Graphic
Subscriber Counter