Writing for B5 Media – Come on over to Startup Spark

Hello all, just wanted to let you know that I have been offered an opportunity to write for a great blog on the B5 Media Network.

The blog is called Startup Spark and is similar to Venture Files but is a broader version on all types of entrepreneurship.

I invite you to check it out and subscribe. This blog will continue but in the coming months I will be focusing this blog more on innovation topics and will be unveiling a new design.

So keep reading Venture Files and add Startup Spark to your feed reader and your daily viewing.

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Business Plan Series: Part 4 – Products and Services

Last time we discussed what you should put in the company overview section and the different formats it may take depending on the stage of your company.

In this part, Part 4, we will get at the heart of your company – its products and services.

This section covers what you provide to customers and how you deliver it. It is the reason you are in business. There is something here you decided would revolutionize a market, fill a need that has been desperately looking for a solution or provide something that rides a hot trend.

In most cases you will want to answer in an summary format what your company is providing and why it is so different. This should catch the reader’s attention and make them want to read the detail supporting your intro paragraph.

After you have caught their attention and told them how and why your offerings are so great/revolutionary/needed, you need to include the following things:

Product Offerings – This describes your products in more details and should communicate why you are unique. If you are not providing a physical product (i.e. widget, web site) then go right to the next part.
Service Offerings – This covers the services you offer and really needs to communicate how you are going to stand out because services are not as tangible. If you are providing products this is where you discuss services that support the product and complimentary services that will increase your revenue potential.
Pricing and Revenue Strategy - After you have discussed what you are offering you should discuss how you are pricing everything and how you are going to go about making money with these product and service offerings.
Goals and Objectives
- This is the place for major milestones including your pricing and revenue strategy, customers and other important metrics.
Methods and Differentiation – Here is where you really need to show how you will stand out against competitors and differentiate your company as a whole with its products and services.
Relationships and Partnerships - This section is to build on your offerings and demonstrate your success and reach with important vendor relationships and partnerships/joint ventures you have established to increase your revenue potential. You might also want to include customers and important case example to demonstrate the success your offerings have already achieved.

NEXT TIME: COMPETITION- After you have explained how compelling your products and services are you will need to discuss the who else it out there doing something similar and how you will stand out and beat them.

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Business Plan Series: Part 3 – Corporate Overview

Last time we discussed the importance of analyzing the market and setting up the problem(s) that exist so you can address.

Some cases you will want to answer in a shorter format what your company does and the problems it is fixing. This also the time to discuss vision and overall goals. This is what many call the “Company Overview”. Think of it like a birds-eye view of the company as it currently exists and where you envision it to be in the future. This is almost a quasi executive summary because you are trying to tie a number of elements into a picture that people understand and see where you are coming from.

You need to include the following things:

Company Description – This is a paragraph or two that is the core message and history of the company and if people read only this they should get what you are trying to do.
Mission – What are the guiding vision points for this company? Provide X, Support Y?
Goals and Objectives - This is the place for major milestones including revenue, customers and other important metrics.
Structure – This is for legal and tax structure plus owners/stockholders
Core Competencies - This is to close up the section with powerful value propositions and differentiators that will go into more depth in the the sales and marketing section. Right now it is about showing that you have the resources and wherewithal to build the business.

You might also want to include investor and company highlights to build the story you are trying to tell.

NEXT TIME: PRODUCTS AND SERVICES - After you have explained how compelling the problems and needs are and your vision for the company you will need to discuss the solutions your company provides to answer the problem.

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Business Plan Series: Part 2 – Market Analysis

In my previous post I discussed the basics of framing your plan and how to set it up.

Moving forward, I would like to take more of the startup/entrepreneur/VC type of plan approach and start with the market analysis. This is because if you started with the corporate overview there wouldn’t be a whole lot to talk about at this point and if there was and there were prior rounds of funding I might start with that. If you are doing something really different you need to give it context and tell the story of why you should exist. I will of course cover the Corporate Overview section later.

You will also notice that I skipped the Executive Summary. Since it is a summary of everything I will talk about this last once we have covered all of the sections.

There are some basic things you should try and answer with the market analysis:

  • Do you have a market?
  • Is there a viable niche that makes sense to focus on first?
  • Does your product or service fill a need or solve a problem?
  • Can you appeal to cross-segments within your market by highlighting different aspects of your product?
  • How should you price your product or service?
  • Who are your potential customers? What are the various customer profiles?
  • How will you deliver your product to the customer?

I break down the Market Analysis into four sub-sections:

  1. Market Overview – describe the market you are in or the market you are planning to enter: product coverage area, environment, additional product area if necessary and potential customers.
  2. Market Background – This provides historical data (i.e., market size, demographics, psychographics), needs and trends; buying patterns; preferences and market growth
  3. Market Challenges – Here is where you analyze data and focus on the unique issues that create the challenges and problems you see could be solved.
  4. Market Opportunity – This is where you used data in the previous to explore the problems and expose the opportunities that exist to discuss the opportunities to be solved.

NOTE: Remember to properly cite your sources of information within the body of your Market Analysis as you write it. You and other readers of your business plan will need to know the sources of the statistics or opinions that you’ve gathered from others. This is important that they see that the basis for your analysis comes from well known sources.

NEXT TIME: COMPANY OVERVIEW - After you have explained how compelling the problems and needs are, you will need to pitch who you are and what you do.

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