Seeking funding for your startup? Of course, you know you’ll need to present your financials to prospective investors. But what does that mean, exactly?
While there’s no one formula for how to lay out your numbers, there are some basic elements that you should include, even if just on a single slide in your pitch deck. But of course if funders are interested in your business, you’ll need to get more detailed.
Here are the basics you’ll need to provide no matter what stage of the funding process you’re in:
Revenue projections. Where is your revenue going to come from? Lay this out in a time-dependent manner — a four-year revenue projection is typical. You don’t have a crystal ball, of course, but you should be able to present a realistic possibility for revenue generation.
Operational expenses. Investors will want a sense of how your expenses will likely expand as your company grows. Elements of this category include costs like staffing, production, marketing, and overhead such as rent and supplies.
Cash flow. Tell your audience how much cash you expect to be going in and out of the business over a given period of time. This can be a tricky part of the picture for seasonal and other up-and-down businesses, but being upfront about those variabilities will serve you well.
To have this type of info at the ready, every month update a financial plan that lays out how money will be allocated for the next 18–24 months. Forecasting your costs — aka, your burn rate — is the most essential piece of maintaining your business’s financial health and conveying your monetary soundness to potential investors, so spend extra time assessing this part of the picture.
If you’re seeking a large amount of capital, you’ll likely need to provide a financial model. These spreadsheets lay out all the elements of your business using formulas that can be manipulated to assess the potential value of the company under various scenarios. The information in the model is based on three years of financial statements, which you pull into Excel and reverse engineer to create assumptions for future years. This allows you and your investors to see how the business value changes if, say, you hire a new sales rep or slow down marketing efforts in the off season.
Other documents funders may want to see in addition to a financial model are a balance sheet, a pro-forma income statement detailing your projected revenue and expenses, current and previous year financial statements (preferably audited ones), tax returns, insurance policies, capitalization tables, and lists of liabilities and accounting methodologies.
While you should be working with financial professionals to ensure you’re ready to provide complex financial documents if needed, your primary objective in the quest to obtain funding is to have a good handle on the three main elements of your business — revenue, expenses, and cash flow.
With this basic info clearly laid out, you should feel confident in approaching investors with your initial ask. Good luck!