Some Real-World Hard Truths About Startups, Plans, and Investors 2

A couple of hours ago I posted Reflections on Reviewing 30 Plans on in a Day on the Gust Blog at I’m in the process of reviewing 30 submitted businesses for our angel investment group between yesterday and today — yes, I’m a procrastinator — and wanted to share some input that might help you the entrepreneur, if you’re on the other side of the table, talking to me the angel investor.

What I’d like to put here is what I said there about the role of the business plan as part of the process:

I always want there to be a business plan available even if I’m not going to necessarily read it yet.

I’m definitely not going to start at the beginning of the plan and read to the end. But I want to have the plan available because I want to go from the general statements to specifics, so I’m likely to look for specific things in a plan.

What I look for depends on the plan itself, but to give you examples, I want to make sure a business-to-business startup understands the sales cycle and what receivables do to cash flow. And with a lot of plans I want to see the percentages in expenses. And with most I want to see founders’ salaries.

I’ll go into a plan quickly and I want to find what I’m looking for quickly and leave. Think of it like guerrilla plan reading. I’m going to be rating a startup lower if the information I want isn’t there or if I can’t find it.

I say “yet” in [the first paragraph above] because although I’m comfortable eliminating a startup without reading its business plan, I will never invest in a startup without reading its plan. In our group we divide due diligence into teams and the team looking at a company will always read its plan well. Usually more than once.

By the way, is the platform thousands of angel investors, hundreds of angel investment groups, and thousands of entrepreneurs use to manage information, business plan submissions, and so forth. It’s also a great source for information about both sides of angel investment. Aside from the blog, it offers a great inventory of short videos by experts.



About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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  • Lee Strong

    Tim, would you kindly share with us what type of Business Plan format you prefer? Thank you and greetings from Whistler, British Columbia in Canada!

    • Tim Berry

      Lee, I don’t care much about the format of a business plan, I think they exist to serve the company, as management tools, not as documents. I worry about the content, not the format.

      If you’re asking me what format I prefer for the plans I have to read, I like them in PDF, with 12 pt text and headers and white space so it’s easy to read, and numbers illustrated with business charts and detailed tables to back them up. I want it to be just big enough to cover the info it has to.

      I answered a similar question on Quora, in more detail: What is the best format when submitting a business plan to angel investors?