How to Create Early Startup Financial Projections for VCs

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Creating understandable, feasible, and believable financial projections for a startup involves careful analysis, research, and realistic assumptions. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create such projections, along with examples:

  1. Understand the Basics: Familiarize yourself with key financial statements such as the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. These will form the foundation of your projections.
  2. Define the Timeframe: Determine the timeframe for your financial projections. It’s common to project the first three to five years, but this can vary based on your industry and business model.
  3. Sales Forecast: Start by estimating your sales revenue. Consider your target market, competition, pricing strategy, and marketing efforts. For example, if you plan to launch a subscription-based software product, project the number of subscribers and the monthly subscription fee.
  4. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): Calculate the direct costs associated with producing or delivering your product or service. This includes materials, labor, and other related expenses. For instance, if you’re manufacturing a physical product, factor in raw material costs and production expenses.
  5. Operating Expenses: Determine your ongoing operational costs, including rent, utilities, salaries, marketing expenses, and administrative overhead. Be realistic and consider industry benchmarks. For example, if you’re running an e-commerce business, account for website maintenance costs, customer acquisition expenses, and warehousing fees.
  6. Gross Profit: Subtract the COGS from your projected sales to calculate your gross profit. This figure represents the profitability of your core business operations.
  7. Income Statement: Build an income statement by detailing your sales revenue, COGS, and operating expenses. Calculate your net income by subtracting operating expenses from the gross profit. Include additional income or expenses, such as interest income or taxes, if applicable.
  8. Balance Sheet: Create a balance sheet to outline your assets, liabilities, and equity. Include items like cash, accounts receivable, inventory, accounts payable, and long-term debts. Balance your assets with your liabilities and equity to ensure the equation remains balanced.
  9. Cash Flow Statement: Prepare a cash flow statement to track the inflow and outflow of cash over time. Include cash from operating activities (e.g., revenue, expenses), investing activities (e.g., equipment purchases), and financing activities (e.g., loans, investments).
  10. Sensitivity Analysis: Conduct a sensitivity analysis to assess the impact of different variables on your projections. For example, analyze how changes in pricing, market share, or production costs affect your financials. This demonstrates your understanding of potential risks and uncertainties.
  11. Documentation and Presentation: Compile your financial projections into a professional-looking document or presentation. Make it easy to understand by using clear language, charts, and graphs. Explain your assumptions and methodologies to enhance credibility.

Remember, financial projections are estimates and not guarantees. It’s essential to update them regularly based on actual performance, market conditions, and new information.

Example: Let’s consider a hypothetical startup that sells organic skincare products. Here’s a simplified example of their financial projections:

  • Sales Forecast: Projected sales for Year 1: $500,000, Year 2: $800,000, Year 3: $1,200,000
  • COGS: Estimated COGS for Year 1: $200,000, Year 2: $320,000, Year 3: $480,000
  • Operating Expenses: Estimated operating expenses for Year 1: $250,000, Year 2: $350,000, Year 3: $400,000
  • Gross Profit: Year 1: $300,000, Year 2: $480,000, Year 3: $720,000
  • Income Statement: Net income for Year 1: $100,000, Year 2: $180,000, Year 3: $320,000
  • Balance Sheet: Assets: Year 1: $200,000, Year 2: $400,000, Year 3: $600,000; Liabilities: Year 1: $50,000, Year 2: $150,000, Year 3: $250,000; Equity: Year 1: $150,000, Year 2: $250,000, Year 3: $350,000
  • Cash Flow Statement: Positive cash flow from operating activities in all years due to increasing sales and effective cost management.

Remember, this is a simplified example for demonstration purposes. In reality, financial projections would include more details and variables specific to your startup.

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Trace Cohen Angel Investor / Family Office/ VC

Angel in 60+ pre-seed/seed startups via New York Venture Partners (NYVP.com). Comms/PR/Strategy