Startups create financial models to raise capital, sell to an acquirer or to manage the team’s budget. On this page, you’ll find financial models that you can download and use on your own, tips on how to build a financial model and information on how to work with an outsourced financial modeling firm like Kruze Consulting.
Click here to jump to our free financial model templates that you can use on your own.Free Model Templates
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A financial model is the numerical expression of your startup’s goals - how many customers you’ll have, how many people you’ll hire, how your margins will improve. The creation of a financial model should tease out the key metrics and assumptions that you will test as you execute your business plan. The best startup financial models are usually not “right” - but the differences between the projections and the actual results can drive insight into the company’s potential and the targeted industry’s dynamics. Understanding the difference between your projections and your actual results can also help your executive team make important business decisions.
We have created several financial models that you can use for free. These are excel spreadsheets that will help you create projections for your startup, provide the information you need to your 409A valuation firm, think through your cash burn and more. You’ll find helpful modeling tips, how-to instructions and videos below on this page - click here to jump to the modeling help section below. Simply click on the financial model you want to download to get started - they are free! And if you need help with your modeling project, reach out to us at Kruze Consulting and we’ll see if it makes sense to work with us on a consulting project.
Deferred revenue, also called unearned revenue, matters to startups that get paid up front for service that they will deliver over time. Deferred revenue hits the balance sheet, and slowly converts to revenue, so really matters when creating a startup's financial model. A very important thing to know about deferred revenue is that, since balance sheets balance, the asset that goes on the balance sheet to balance out a new deferred revenue liability is cash. So, why is deferred revenue a liability? If a company gets a payment in advance of delivering a service, you owe the service to the client. So it's a liability because you owe that service to them. Let's do a pretty simple deferred revenue example. Let's say you're a software as a service startup. A SAAS startup Your service is one hundred dollars a month and a client prepays for the full year, all 12 months. The clients pays the startup twelve hundred dollars. In month one, the startup is able to recognize 100 dollars’ worth of revenue. so they deliver one hundred dollars’ worth of their service to that client. Now the deferred revenue balance was that full cash amount that they received the twelve hundred dollars. And then the recognized revenue of $100 is deducted. At the end of that first month, there is an eleven hundred dollar deferred revenue balance for this client. And this will continue over the life of the contract until the last month when the last one hundred dollars is recognized and this startup has a zero-dollar balance in their deferred revenue account. Deferred revenue can cause some confusing impacts to a startup's cash position. This video will help explain deferred revenue, and how to model it into your startup's financial forecast.
Top 3 considerations when building your startup’s first financial model: Know the goal to the model, as in, why are you building a model? Are you doing a back of the envelope financial validation of your idea? Or are you raising venture capital? Or does your team need to know their budget? Each of these requires different levels of detail. What are your business’ KPIs, as in what are the key performance indicators that will show you if your company is on the right track. These don’t just have to be accounting related, they could be about the product release schedule, the number of clients, etc. Don’t start from scratch, use an existing spreadsheet template. The act of connecting the cells and putting in the basic formulas is not going to help your startup grow - don’t spend the time on it. Take an existing, free model - like the one we offer, and use it.
This is a model that we've created and we provide for free on our website. We're giving this away because there are a number of startup executives who want to build a simple financial model for their startup and who are comfortable enough with Excel to do this on their own. And we also know that there are a large number of very early stage startups for whom hiring somebody like a Kruze Consulting to build a model just doesn't make sense. This model is a very simplified version of one of the model templates that we use when we create financial models for our clients. This free financial model has three main tabs. There's a summary tab, there's a graph tab, and there's a model tab. The summary tab is a high-level output that shows the income statement in cash and some of the KPI's of the startup. We've seen that CEOs really like to use this to try to understand the macro level growth and expenses of their startups. And this is also the output that a number of our clients have used in their pitch decks when they go on to raise venture capital. We know this-this output works well because our clients have raised over half a billion dollars in the past twelve months in seed and venture capital. So, this is something that we really do believe resonates well during the fundraising process. The graphs page is a graphical representation of some of the KPI's of the startup like revenue growth headcount growth. Cash burn. It's a really nice way to visually show what's happening and the impact of the financial projections. Finally, the model tab is the tab where all the magic happens. It's in here that you can enter your projections, your headcount, your expenses, for things like marketing. It will output your cash and your cash balance in the cash balance section which is down at the bottom of this tab. Use the instructions tab for the detailed instructions and how to run the model tab. We hope this free resource is helpful. We do offer financial modeling as a service to startup executives who are looking to get help when they're putting together their financial model. So, contact us if that's something you'd like to learn more about and to find out if engagement with Kruze makes sense.
Having a solid budget helps your startup hit its goals without prematurely running out of cash. A number of us here at Kruze Consulting have worked in fast-growing startups and we've compiled our tips on how to make this budgeting process work. The most important thing is you need to understand or have a vision of what your long-term strategy is and what you need to do to achieve those goals. You'll want to bake your budget around what your strategy is, and the budget is actually the financial representation of that strategy. You got to make sure your team knows what the strategy is - what your financial goals are in terms of the revenue that you need to hit and the cash need to burn. Or what features need to be built and then you'll want to start to pay careful attention to the key parts of the budget. So, for most early-stage startups, the biggest part of burn is headcount. So, you want to pay careful attention to your headcount projections over the coming year and because you'll put this together with your team and your team will have their headcount projections. It will really help them manage their team in a particular know when they need to start recruiting so they'll know when they should be able to bring on additional heads. You should have a very strong opinion on what the revenue should be over the next year. So for example, if you're a SAAS company you should know what your next milestone needs to be in terms of recurring revenue so that you can successfully raise your next round. And then you'll want to build your plan and your budget around what it takes to get there. You want to be very careful around your burn rate. So you want to know how much money you're burning so that you don't prematurely run out of money. And then you'll want to know what your monthly burn is at the end of the year like the burn of the exit with at the end of the year so that you can project your cash out date. You want to make sure you're not... You want to make sure that you run out of cash when you expect to run out of cash which hopefully aligns with you being worth more and raising more capital. Once you've got all this put together you can make sure that it's carefully shared with your department leaders so they can come back and build their detailed budgeting plans with you. And also, they can very clearly understand what their goals are.
There are two ways that startups might want to record equity investments that they get, like venture capital rounds, on their balance sheet. 1) The Official GAAP way - probably overkill for most startups 2) The way investors like to see it The GAAP way wants your equity section to have three accounts, Common Stock, Preferred Stock, and Additional Paid-in Capital. The hardest part of this is to calculate the Additional Paid in Capital is like the (Issue Price – Par Value) * Basic Shares Outstanding. Financing Costs are netted against this account. Investors prefer to see each new fundraising round as a new equity account. If you use this method, you’ll have Common Stock, Seed Series Stock, Series A, Series B, etc. You’ll subtract your financing costs against each rounds amount. In this method, if you haven’t really calculated APIC, don’t include it on your Balance Sheet - you don’t want to give the impression that you are doing things on a GAAP basis when you are not. Notice that once fundraising round is closed, new funds aren’t added to it. New funds are placed in a new fundraising Equity account. Why do venture capitalists prefer to see the Equity section in the non-GAAP, simpler method? Because it’s cost effective (from a cash-burn spent on accountants perspective) and it’s easy for them to understand how much the company has raised at each round of financing.
Here are a few tips for you as you're building a budget for your startup. 1- Headcount is going to be your primary expense in most cases, so this is the place to focus the most. Understanding why your different team members get hired, and how they help you get to the next milestone, is very important. 2- You should have a really strong opinion on the amount of revenue and the amount of cash burn that you'll have in the coming years. Don’t ask your department heads what they want to spend - tell them how much is available and ask them to work within the constraints. 3- Match the amount of cash you need with the size opportunity of the company that you're trying to build. If you are building a company with modest potential, don’t burn millions of dollars!
So you’ve got the great idea, and maybe even have the team put together. Heck, maybe you even have a client or two! Now you want to put together a financial model to figure out if you can raise capital, or how long you can last with your existing investment. How do you start that model? There is no single answer to the best way to get going, but here are a few places to think about at first:
SaaS companies have specific financial modeling needs. In particular, a SaaS company wants to have a strong understanding of its user metrics. This includes how many users are acquired, churned, upgraded in a given period (we usually model it monthly.) Secondly, the length of time of contracts, and how your company is paid, matter for SaaS companies. Annual contracts that are paid up front can create deferred revenue, which is great for cash flow but does present some challenges from a modeling perspective. Finally, many SaaS models that we create have different pricing tiers to help the SaaS company understand the influence and impact of different pricing plans on the company’s top line growth and profitability.
What are Customer Acquisition Costs and how do you model them? CAC looks, on a per new unit (i.e. customer basis) how much you pay to get a new customer. So, if you spend $10,000 on sales and marketing and get 100 new customers, your CAC is $10,000 / 100, or $100. The costs that go into CAC usually have two components, fixed costs, and variable costs. Examples of fixed costs would be costs that don’t increase as your company grows. The salary for your demand generation team would be a clear example of a fixed cost - if they are scalable, then you can acquire 1 user or 100 in a period and still have the same salary cost. Some software costs don’t vary much as the company grows, such as the cost of SEO software. Variable costs move up as the company acquires more customers. Clear examples of variable costs include some online marketing costs, such cost per click advertising. The cost of a sales team can also be variable, as you likely need to hire an ever increasingly large sales team to help your company close more and more new clients.
Managing a company’s burn and the runway is a constant challenge for an early-stage, funded company. Having helped hundreds of companies manage their burn, Kruze Consulting’s view is that the companies who have a well-developed budget are the ones who best manage their runway. You need to have a vision of what your long-term strategy is and what you need to do to achieve those goals so that you can build a budget to manage your burn and optimize your runway. Why do you need a budget? Because knowing where you want to spend, and how those choices impact your burn, is critical to managing your runway. Plus, you need something against which to measure your burn - and that’s called your budget!! Your budget may have money coming in - other than venture capital money, that would be from revenue. Revenue may or may not be an important part of your projections. If you are something like a SaaS company, you’ll likely need a particular set of revenue and revenue growth numbers to raise your next round. Build your budget based on the targets you need to hit - and then you can modify your hiring and other burn based on how closely you hit your spending. Money goes out of your company’s expenses. Every very early-stage startup spends >80% of their money on 3 things: Payroll, Rent, and Contractors. You may also have some large legal expenses from your recent fundraise, so ask your attorney if you haven’t already. Controlling these expenses give you levers you need to manage your runway. Payroll: people are expensive. Hire the very best people that you can and pay them well. Always take the quality of people over quantity. As David Barrett highlights in this article, more people does not equal more output, it means more overhead. Rent: Rent is expensive, so consider having some remote people, using a WeWork or headquartering in a city other than San Francisco or New York. Contractors: Contractors are expensive… but less so than employees. You don’t have to manage additional rent/desk space, equipment, or training. You will also feel less likely flexing their hours/spend, although, in turn, they may give you less loyalty.
Working Capital is effectively the delta between a startup is paid by its clients and when it needs to pay its vendors. A more technical definition of working capital is the difference between current assets and current liabilities on a company's balance sheet. Working capital matters for startup financial models because understanding working capital becomes important for being able to project cash flows. Not all clients will pay immediately. Not all vendors need to be paid immediately (although some may be paid ahead of time). Critical factors to think through when modeling the impact of working capital in a startup’s financial model include: how long it takes to get paid (especially if selling into the enterprise); if any revenue will be collected up front (creating deferred revenue and putting cash onto the balance sheet); which vendors are being pre-paid; how long the payment will be on other vendors. If you are modeling a very early stage startup, it’s OK to assume you pay your vendors in the same month and defer your revenue collection 30 to 60 days. Later stage companies will likely need to have a more detailed working capital model built into their balance sheet and cash flow projections.
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