Business Model

What the greatest technology investors say about the Business Model


The following is a list of the post titles by author under this topic.  Scroll further down this page to find the actual blog post by your selected author.   Author’s posts appear in  alphabetical order except for the "Business Model: What It Means" post which appears towards the beginning of the blog page. For the others for example, following this list, Kent Goldman’s post appear towards the beginning of the blog page, and Fred Wilson’s posts appears towards the end of the blog page.   

KENT GOLDMAN  (1 post)

Kent Goldman:  Pivoting is One of the Most Critical Challenges

ROB HAYES (1 post ) 

Rob Hayes:  Going for Growth vs. Revenue


Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha:  Focus on Learning over Profitability


Howard Morgan:  Only 2 Numbers to Know for Internet Businesses


Basil Peters:  When Can You Sell?

MARK SUSTER  (2 posts)

Mark Suster:  Successful Entrepreneurs have these Qualities

Mark Suster:  Angels vs. Series A vs. Series B Characteristics

FRED WILSON (2 posts)

Fred Wilson:  Sustainability by Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson:  Sustainability:  Short Term Profits vs. Long Term Health


Business Model: What It Means

Business Model

Business Model  refers to the strategy of how a company will create and deliver value, typically defined as generating revenue and eventually profitability.  Business model examples include advertising, freemium (i.e., offering basic Web products or services for free while charging a premium for advanced features) and subscription (i.e., charging users a subscription price for access to a product or service).

Pivoting is One of the Most Critical Challenges

Kent Goldman Partner First Round Capital

“Pivoting is one of the most critical challenges a business can face. [] [Pivoting is] what you do when you’ve built everything according to plan and yet, the business and users aren’t materializing according to plan.[]

Pivoting is a good thing. It is the outcome of learning about your business and adjusting. The best run start-ups do this every day but they do it a little bit at a time. [] [They see smaller pivots] so often, they rarely realize that they are pivoting. Instead, they are simply operating.  It’s the more dramatic pivots which are more challenging, require greater commitment and longer runway.

[] Knowing when to pivot starts with knowing the milestones []. [We] believe the purpose of a seed stage investment is to prove / disprove / refine a thesis so we always work with [] founders to outline the milestones they want to achieve with their financing. This is a living document [not to be considered as] absolutes and deadlines, but [] provides markers against the original assumptions. As the progress against the milestones occurs, we look to understand both what is / what is not working and why[, revisit original] assumptions and ask what [was] learned. Together with the founders we ask, “Knowing what we know now, what would we do differently?” and “What can we do with the cash we have left?”

[] It’s critical to make a pivot when you still have runway [].  [] Plan your pivot with enough time to show genuine progress against [] new milestones.” Kent Goldman  This Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out, March 1, 2010

Going for Growth vs. Revenue

Rob Hayes Partner First Round Capital

When determining their business model Hayes advises entrepreneurs to consider whether it’s better to initially go for growth or revenue.  There’s conflicting advice on this issue.

Examples of business model strategies and how they played out when acquired:   Hayes believes Google’s $1.6 billion acquisition of UTube was visionary. “[] [Hayes] look[s] at what Google did with UTube [] and everybody thought [Google] was crazy [to pay $1.6 billion for it] and it was absolutely the right thing to do.”  Today UTube is certainly worth several times $1.6 billion. “[] [UTube was a] great buy. [Hayes] think[s] [the] Instagram [acquisition] may be along those same lines.”

Hayes believes the Instagram acquisition was also visionary.  When acquired by Facebook for $1 billion April 2012, the photo-sharing site was experiencing substantial growth but hadn’t generated any real revenue nor tried to make money.  Hayes believes that Instagram’s focus on growth was the right strategy because it was obvious it could eventually generate revenue by nominally charging for filters. 

“[] [If] how you can [eventually] make revenue is obvious, [] then focus on growth [] [and] user acquisition.  [] Distribution is the absolute hardest thing to do with an Internet company. [] [Focusing initially on generating revenue] slows growth and growth is what sells.  Growth is where you get the highest valuations.”   Rob Hayes  This Week in Startups, TWiST #249 Published Apr 18, 2012  @ 15- 20  min;

Focus on Learning over Profitability

Reid Hoffman angel investor, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman LinkedIn and Partner Greylock & Ben Casnocha entrepreneur

Start-ups believe that “[] technology companies focus on learning over profitability in the early years to maximize revenue in the later years.”  Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha, The Start-up of You (book) pg 60   

Only 2 Numbers to Know for Internet Businesses

Howard Morgan Partner First Round Capital

“[] If you have a business that's based around the internet, basically only two numbers we need to know: What's the cost to acquire a customer? What's the lifetime customer value? If the lifetime customer value is higher the than cost to acquire: you've got a business. If it isn't: you don't.”   Howard Morgan,  Only two numbers matter;;recently_viewed

When Can You Sell?

Basil Peters angel investor and Principal Strategic Exits Corporation

“When can [one] sell? [] [With] M&A [merger & acquisition] exits [] the real threshold is to ‘prove the business model’. [To prove the model] [] a recurring revenue business [] [should show] actual results for: revenue per customer, gross margin per customer, customer lifetime (or churn [i.e., how long one enjoys that customer]) [and] cost of customer acquisition.  In other words, how much is a customer worth and what do[es] [a customer] cost to acquire?

[With that proven model], [] credible projection[s] [can be built] that [show] if: new owners added $X millions of capital, the business would have Y customers and be worth $Z millions.

That’s when [one] can sell [although] there are often additional factors like competitors and market changes. [] As soon as [one] prove[s] the model is often the best time to sell.  [It’s] always best to sell on an upward trend. Sell[ing] on the promise, not the reality [is] often when [one] [gets] the best price.”   Basil Peters, Maximizing Exit Value Angel Capital Assn Annual Summit Workshop Apr. 15, 2009; , pg 5-10

Successful Entrepreneurs have these Qualities

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

 Suster believes successful entrepreneurs have these qualities:  “1. tenacity, the most important [].  2. street smarts []” including “[] know[ing] [] how customers buy and how to excite them [], [an ability to] spot opportunities that aren’t being met and [] design products to meet these needs. []”. “3. ability to pivot []” which “[] might just be a totally different business model.[]”  “4. resiliency  []. 5. inspiration [].  6. perspiration [].  7. willingness to accept risk []. 8. attention to detail [].  9.  competitiveness []. 10. decisiveness []. 11. domain experience []. 12. integrity  []”.    Mark Suster, Entrepreneur DNA, December 15, 2009; What Makes an Entrepreneur (2/11) – Street Smarts December 16, 2009

What Makes an Entrepreneur (3/11) – Ability to Pivot December 17, 2009


Angels vs. Series A vs. Series B Characteristics

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

“[] Angel investors [] [invest] at the highest risk because much less is proven in the business.  They expect and need to earn a much higher return for the risk they’re taking. 

[] When a [Series] A investor gets involved, usually product has shipped, usually [there are] the first clients and some proof points, management team is better and solutions are more thought-out.   

[] [In] Series B [investors] are looking at metrics [] like how many clients have [been] signed up, [] costs of acquisition, [] conversion rates, [] LTV (lifetime value of customer), [] churn, and they want to see data, facts and figures.

[] Check sizes grow as the risk is decreased and usually coincides with the founders themselves needing more capital.”   Mark Suster-This Week in Venture Capital #14 with Rick Smith, founder of CrossCut Ventures, Jul 15, 2010  @ 50-52 min into interview;

Sustainability by Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson venture capitalist and Co-Founder Union Square Ventures

Wilson believes the concept of sustainability needs greater consideration today in business as “[] the focus on performance and efficiency often comes at the cost of sustainability.   

[] sustainability is all about figuring out how to be in business forever.  It is about [:] [win/win] business models that [] lead to happy long term customer and supplier relationships [;] [] avoiding the temptation to overreach [] [and] maximize near term profits at the expense of long term health [;] [] adapting [] to changing market dynamics [;] [] building a team and a culture that can survive the loss of the leader and keep going[;] [and] [] many more things like this.”  Fred Wilson, Sustainability, Nov. 21, 2011

Sustainability: Short Term Profits vs. Long Term Health

Fred Wilson venture capitalist and Co-Founder Union Square Ventures

Wilson discusses sustainability within the context of “[] short term profit maximization vs. long term business health []. If you want to stay in business forever, you have to focus on the long term [] [with] a business model that [ensures customer trust to keep them returning].

[][Wilson believe[s] business is about making a profit that sustains the business and enriches the owners but is not maximized in any period (month, quarter, year). [] [The] goal of a business is sustainability so that all the stakeholders (customers, employees, owners, suppliers, etc.) can rely on [it][] long term.”

When considering investments, entrepreneurs should employ survival instincts to ensure future survival.  “[][When considering whether] to disrupt their own business [] the [] choice is [not short term profit maximization but] [] survivability” even if it likely results in lower future profits. 

“[] When you construct your business model and create the [business culture], emphasize sustainability over profit maximization in everything  you create and do. [] Profits are the essence of survivability. [] But just because you need to make a profit doesn't mean you need to maximize it.  Balancing the need for a profit with [] sustain[ing] the business is the art of what [the business leader must do to win.]”  Fred Wilson, How To Be In Business Forever: A Lesson In Sustainability, Oct. 1, 2012;