Name of your company
Direct dial number
The executive summary is the most important part of the business plan because if it doesn’t “wow” readers, they will stop—or at least “tune out”—at this point. My suggested format is:
Paragraph 1: Explain what your company does in very simple but seductive terms.
Paragraph 2: Explain the “magic sauce” that your company has that provides a believable competitive advantage.
Paragraph 3: Explain your current status, milestones reached, and milestones soon to be achieved.
Your plan is going to live or die, be read or be tossed, based on this section. It is 80% of what matters in a business plan.
Note: You can read my blog post for more information.
The purpose of this section is to create an awareness that the problem you solve or opportunity you address is financially attractive. Most entrepreneurs rely on consulting studies, but this is ineffective because everyone makes similar statements: “According to Jupiter, the market for avocado farming software will grow to $20 billion by 2015.”
As a rule of thumb, the more citations you use, the less believable the opportunity.
The better method is to catalyze fantasy so readers make their own market estimate. For example, if your product appeals to teenagers, you’d like the reader to be thinking, “My kids and all their friends would love this. The market will be huge.”
This section has to answer the very simple question: “Why you?” In other words, what makes your company so special that you will succeed where others will fail?
Each company can have a different answer to this question:
Leading-edge PhD research
High visibility and powerful connections in the industry *
Exclusive, perpetual intellectual property license
I’ll also tell you what doesn’t work: saying that you’re bright, energetic, hardworking people who really believe in what you’re doing. Entrepreneurship isn’t an elementary-school play where everyone gets positive feedback.
In other words, think “Tiger entrepreneur” in the spirit of Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom.
Frankly, you may not have an unfair advantage then what you should do is delay raising money and bootstrap your company until you can show that the “dogs are eating the food.” If I had to pick the best unfair advantage, it would be that you’re already shipping, and customers are flocking to you.
That cuts through all the bull shiitake.
Sales and Marketing
This section explains how you’re taking your product to market—particularly during the introduction phase. You must show an understanding of direct sales, channels, or freemium marketing to be credible.
Also, you should make it obvious that the cost of acquisition of a customer is far less than the revenue you’ll reap from each customer.
Specificity is everything here. Blowing smoke such as “we’ll use viral marketing” is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. Going viral is an outcome, not a strategy. A sophisticated reader will want to know your tactics at the ground-level—not a 50,000 foot view.
So imagine yourself in the marketplace. You’ve got a knife in your teeth. How are you going to capture the market?
There are two goals for this section. First, to provide an overview of what competition your company faces. Readers truly want to know what you will be up against. Second, to build credibility by showing that you are aware of all the major competitors and understand how to do battle with them.
Many entrepreneurs screw up this section by claiming there is no competition. Anyone whose money you’d want will conclude one of two things if you do this: you don’t know how to use a search engine or you’re going after a market that...
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