50 Questions: What should I put in my business plan?

Twenty-eighth in a series of weekly posts by myself and Nicholas Lovell of Gamesbrief which answer the fifty questions you should ask before raising venture capital.  We expect the series to run for a year after which we will collate the posts into a book.  You can find the rationale behind the series here, and the list of questions here.  We welcome your comments on any and every aspect of what we are doing.

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The business plan has two purposes, to introduce your company to prospective investors and as a document investors who are in their due diligence process can look to for additional information about the company.

As I wrote in my last 50 Questions post, I wouldn’t advise that your business plan is the first document that you send to a VC, that should be an executive summary and covering email.  However, some people will ask to see a business plan before a meeting and for others the business plan will be the first contact they have with your business (particularly the partners of your sponsor) and so the business plan should work as an introductory document.  That means putting an executive summary at the beginning the contents of which should be as I described here (same post as linked above).  Note that the executive summary should stand on its own, i.e. the reader should be able to get an good high level feel for the whole business without needing to read any other part of the business plan.

Turning to the body of the business plan.  The first thing is to make it well structured.  It should have a good logical flow such that it reads well end to end and it should also be well structured so the reader can quickly dip in and find say the biography of the marketing director or the financial projections.

Content wise, there should be sections on the product, market, team, competition and financial projections.  Additionally, depending on the sector and characteristics of the individual company you might want sections on vision, go to market strategy, barriers to entry, unit economics, exit strategy, history of the company, use of capital, financing history, and anything else that makes your company stand out (in a good way).  Don’t go to overboard on the additional sections though and aim for a document of around fifteen pages.  If prospective investors are interested enough in your business to want more information than that they will ask.

For guidance on the contents of the individual sections please see: