Sequoia Capital’s business plan advice

Sequoia Capital is the venture capital firm that backed Google, Yahoo, YouTube, eHarmony, LinkedIn, and PayPal, among many other winners. Here’s some of their advice about business plans. As you’ll see, the format and content they recommend is very similar to what I’ve suggested in previous posts. For example, forget the 30+ page word document, and stick to a short slide presentation that’s simple, clear and concise (easy on the text!). The content elements they recommend are also in-line with what I’ve suggested, though in a slightly different order. They don’t put the team up front, for example. One reason for that is the people who land a meeting with Sequoia tend to be well-connected entrepreneurs with proven track records, so they are already “known” to a large extent. I like their section called “Why Now”. I may borrow that one…

We like business plans that present a lot of information in as few words as possible. The following business plan format, within 15-20 slides, is all that’s needed:

Company Purpose

  • Define the company/business in a single declarative sentence.

Problem

  • Describe the pain of the customer (or the customer’s customer).
  • Outline how the customer addresses the issue today.

Solution

  • Demonstrate your company’s value proposition to make the customer’s life better.
  • Show where your product physically sits.
  • Provide use cases.

Why Now

  • Set-up the historical evolution of your category.
  • Define recent trends that make your solution possible.

Market Size

  • Identify/profile the customer you cater to.
  • Calculate the TAM (top down), SAM (bottoms up) and SOM.

Competition

  • List competitors
  • List competitive advantages

Product

  • Product line-up (form factor, functionality, features, architecture, intellectual property).
  • Development roadmap.

Business Model

  • Revenue model
  • Pricing
  • Average account size and/or lifetime value
  • Sales & distribution model
  • Customer/pipeline list

Team

  • Founders & Management
  • Board of Directors/Board of Advisors

Financials

  • P&L
  • Balance sheet
  • Cash flow
  • Cap table
  • The deal
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