Financial Planning for Startups

Entrepreneurs often struggle with developing their own templates when going through a financial planning exercise. Without a financial background, it is easy to spend hours for research, piecing together a model that fits your needs.

But there actually are tools out there. A number of free financial planning tools offer solid frameworks. We wanted to introduce five of them to you and talk about their pros and cons.

The criteria for evaluating financial planning templates

We considered the following criteria for evaluating the financial planning templates:

  • Simplicity and Ease of Use (Scale 1-5 with 5 being the best): How easy is it to use the template with only rudimentary financial skills?
  • Notes and Comments (Scale 1-5 with 5 being the best): Is the template well documented and are there instructions for using the financial planning template?
  • Profit and Loss Statement: Does the template include a profit and loss statement?
  • Capital Expenditures: Does the template include capital expenditures?
  • Cash Flow: Does the template allow you to make cash flow forecasts?
  • Balance Sheet: Does the template have a balance sheet section?
  • Graphics and Summaries: Does the template have summary and graphics tabs to visualise data?

As you can see, the criteria are quite straightforward. We only used a simple scale for the first two categories. For features, we scored each template with ‘–’ if a feature in that category did not exist. If the feature did exist, a score between ‘+’ and ‘+++’ shows how advanced its functionality is.

The candidates

We researched five different financial planning templates. For sure, there are more out there and there are certainly more premium models out there. Let us know if you find any other financial planning template that we should check out, too.

  • Businessmodelforecast.com: This excel-based model comes with a lot of thunder and its own website. It is a basic model for any industry. It allows you to quickly set up a forecast for your business in the broadest categories. It also has a neat dashboard around key figures.
  • Christoph Janz’ 2.0: A financial template for Software as a Service (SaaS) startups that started as a one-sheet forecast and now has developed into a more advanced model. The author, Christoph Janz, is an investor himself (e.g. ZenDesk) and Managing Partner at Point Nine Capital in Germany.
  • Christoph Janz’ 1.0: This SaaS financial is Christoph Janz’ first version of a financial planning template. It is a one-page Google Sheet that beautifully combines simplicity with the most relevant categories.
  • Futurpreneur.ca: This model is published as a template for applications to Futurpreneur in Canada. It comes as an excel file with loads of explanations, a great glossary and detailed forecasting abilities.
  • Danielnowack.com: This GoogleSheet also provides all inputs on one single sheet. It was developed in an attempt to create a template that is as simple has Christoph Janz’ templates but includes the feature to plan capital expenditures (=big investments). It also provides basic diagrams and summary views. Disclaimer: It has been developed by the Executive Director of YSB Balkans.
  • Business Model Forecast – financial planning for advanced planners
    The BusinessModelForecast template – A whole website built around a financial planning template. Nicely presented and very clean!

Results Overview

Business Model Forecast Christoph Janz 1.0 Christoph Janz 2.0 Futurpreneur Daniel Nowack
Simplicity Score: 3
Super simple to understand but with protected sheets. Planning only on a quarterly basis.
Score: 5
Everything for Saas and tech startups on one sheet. Beautiful!
Score: 4
Not quite as simple as version 1.0 and doesn’t have everything in one template anymore. But still strikingly simple.
Score: 3
Even though it is pretty complex, it does guide you through each step in a visual and rather straight forward way.
 Score: 4
Not quite as simple as Christoph Janz’ 1.0 masterpiece but still all inputs on one page
Notes & Comments Score: 4
Only very basic notes and explanations but an extensive website
Score: 5
Notes are right next to the cells and the blog answers any remaining questions
Score: 5
Straight forward descriptions and an extensive blog post about the template
Score: 5
Futurpreneur really outdid themselves on that – plenty of notes, instructions and even a glossary. Awesome!
Score: 2
No documentation at the moment but a blog post is promised to come soon.
P&L + ++ ++ ++ ++
CAPEX ++ +
Cash Flow + + ++ +
Balance Sheet +
Graphics + +++ ++

Results details

Simplicity: Christoph Janz’ first version of the SaaS financial planning template is the clear winner in this category. The template has everything on one sheet. Instructions are straightforward. Formulas are easy to understand. It just does not get any simpler.

If you need a bit more complexity, Christoph’s 2.0 version and Daniel Nowack’s template are similarly simple. Both add a few more layers of functionality. Christoph’s 2.0 and Daniel’s template are straight forward to use and don’t really need further explanation. But if you do need more guidance, Christoph has an amazing blog that goes into every single detail.

The Business Model Forecast is also quite simple – almost too simple in some instances. But it has protected sheets that make it harder to change parts of the template. And futurpreneur’s template is the most complex though well documented (see next category).

Notes & Comments: Three out of five financial planning templates do an amazing job in documenting their setup. Probably the best explanation comes from Futurpreneur. Not only do they provide a blog post about their template. They also offer detailed instructions and a glossary in the financial planning template itself. The glossary alone is a gold nugget for any startup.

Similarly, Christoph Janz’ templates provide a lot of context in the sheets themselves. They also come with dedicated blog posts. The BusinessModelForecast template has an entire website dedicated to it – though is not necessarily easy to use. The template itself relies on your ability to make sense of the financial vocabulary.

Similarly, Daniel Nowack’s template has some explanations. But it mostly relies on the user making sense of it. However, there is a blog post coming that further describes the template. So stay tuned.

Features: There is a huge variation of features across the templates. You can get the gist of it through the results overview. It is striking that all templates offer P&L planning (which is obvious). But almost none offer balance sheet or cash flow planning. So if you have significant working capital, high CAPEX or simply a more complex balance sheet, you may want to look elsewhere. In terms of visualisation, Christoph Janz’ 2.0 template is again far ahead of other templates. It provides beautiful diagrams with insightful analysis.

Picking your financial planning template

Different financial planning models may be more helpful to you. It all depends on your business model and industry. If you do have a startup in tech or even SaaS, there is no way around Christoph Janz’ templates. They are just too good to be true.

If you need more detailed CAPEX planning but don’t want to sacrifice simplicity, go for Daniel Nowack’s template. Finance savvy founders who just want a quick scrabble of their finances should go for the BusinessModelForecast. And if you want more sophisticated financial planning but need a step-by-step walkthrough, Futurepreneur definitely is a good choice.

You know other models?

Let us know if you know any other models that we should take a look at! We know, for example, that there are great premium models out there. And we are certain we missed a number of free models. Happy to hear more!

About the author

Ermira Repaj is responsible for new investments and our portfolio at Yunus Social Business Balkans. She leads new investment candidates through our due diligence. She works with our portfolio companies to implement best practices for financial management, operations and planning.

Prior to YSB, Ermira was responsible for managing the Treasury Single Account in the Treasury Department, in the Ministry of Finance of Albania, with strong expertise in accounting and finance. She is an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Economics of University of Tirana. Ermira’s early professional experiences include working as finance specialist in the National Albanian Agency for Homeless People and teaching as an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Economics of University of Shkodra: “Luigj Gurakuqi”. Ermira has a BA in Business Administration from University of Shkodra and a Msc. in Financial Management from University of Tirana and University of Modena & Reggio Emilia.

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