To attract investors a business plan should include the following:
1. Cover page: Include the company’s name, contact information and company logo.
2. Table of contents
3. Company background and opportunity summary: Provide a quick history of the company and describe the basic market need and your company’s solution. Answer the question,“What is your company’s value proposition?”
4. The market opportunity: Address the following areas and answer the questions,“Who are your customers? How are you going to make money?”
- Market and industry: Include relevant research on your market and industry, such as market size, market segments, your product’s niche, the market’s growth prospects, new trends and technologies, and any barriers to entry.
- Competition: Demonstrate that you fully understand the challenges from outside competitors, both large and small. Include a description of competitors’ products, distribution channels, pricing and partnership. Consider developing a competitive matrix that lists the key attributes of your product and your competitive advantage and positioning.
- Customers and end users: Provide an outline for the target customers for your product or service. Refer to any customer testimonials in this section and include the document in the appendix or the due diligence package.
- Sales and marketing strategy: Explain how you will get the product into the customers’ hands. Provide a revenue model and describe the sales cycle and process. Include a description of the channels to market and your marketing communications strategy.
5. Products and services: Describe your product or service; include photos or screen shots if it is a software product. Detail how your product is scalable and when you plan to launch if you have not already done so. Outline the next R&D steps to further build on or improve your offering. Include a discussion of intellectual property (for example, patents, copyrights, trademarks) and any technology partnerships. You may also highlight your competitive advantages.
6. People: Investors are putting their money behind you, so be sure to highlight how you’ve recruited the best team available to build the company. Include the list of advisors or board members as well as service providers. Get the approval of any directors and advisors before including their information in the document. If you are planning any key hires in the near future, and you will be using the funding to build out the team, include the roles in this part of the discussion.
7. Financials: Include your key assumptions and provide two scenarios.
8. Sources of funding and use of proceeds:
- Sources of funding: Describe investment by principals, prior equity investments, debt (if any), cash from operations and total funds raised to date.
- Use of proceeds: Describe how you will use the funding. Examples may include sales and marketing, research and development, recruiting costs and salaries of new hires, equipment, capital expenses, legal and accounting, which will total to the amount you are targeting to raise in outside financing.
9. Milestones: Based on the appropriate timelines for the individual milestones, detail the actions your team will focus on to further build the organization’s value. Actions include key hires, new financing, sales milestones, new product launches and strategic partnerships.
10. Appendices: Include anything relevant, such as biographies of founders and key management, patent information and customer testimonials.
For further details and support on developing a business plan, download the MaRS workbook, The Business Plan and Executive Summary. The information and exercises in this workbook guide will provide a framework to help you organize and articulate your thoughts.
Cardis, J., et al. (2001). Venture Capital: The Definitive Guide for Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Practitioners. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons.
Kawasaki, G. (2008). Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. Toronto: Penguin Canada.