What Is The Best
Business Plan Format?

Let’s face it, writing a business plan isn’t as easy as it looks. Sure, you know your business – but putting it in a business plan format that investors can easily digest can be tricky. Developing an investor-ready business plan can be a major undertaking – especially if you’ve never written one – but if you are seeking funding for your business, you will likely need one.  

Sometimes, your business plan will need to do all the speaking for you. In some occasions, potential investors may ask to see your business plan before they agree to listen to your pitch. The unfortunate part is, an investor’s attention span may be extremely limited to businesses they aren’t already familiar with. If your information isn’t structured into the right business plan format, you may lose their attention quickly.

At ThinkLions, we have worked with hundreds of businesses; helping them create winning business plans and raise funding for their app startups. After years of developing our process, we have put together a tried-and-proven simple business plan format that has worked for many of our clients. In this article, we’ll discuss the business planning process, examine what you need to do before writing your business plan, explain how to develop the best business plan model, and introduce our business proposal outline.

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Before You Write Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan isn’t the first step you should take in bringing your idea to life. Every day that you actively advance your business, you will uncover new information that will be important to add to your plan. By nature, basic business plans are full of projections. However, if you haven’t done the necessary work beforehand, you won’t have the data needed to make an honest assessment of your business. Knowing how to format a business plan is part of the formula, but the preparation is key to success. 

Your business plan format is important, but it’s more important to make sure that you have met the milestones required to prove the potential of your idea. Before you write your business plan, put the necessary time and effort into accomplishing the following:

  1. Know Your Market: Having a fantastic idea means very little if it doesn’t solve a real problem for a real market. The majority of your business plan will center around proving that a market and market demand actually exists. Before writing your business plan, identify your initial market of focus. Learn everything there is to know about your customer. Go out and talk to real consumers. Join forums and online communities where your consumers hang out. Find their pain points. Listen to what they say about competitors. Get to know them intimately. The more you know about your audience, the better you will understand their needs and desires.
  2. Validate Your Idea: Once you know who your market is, you should test your idea with them and validate your assumptions. Before you write a business plan and ask an investor to invest in your idea, make sure your idea is worth investing in. Build a minimal viable product (MVP) and launch it to a limited audience. Adapt your product until you’ve truly created something that effectively solves a problem and is in demand by your market.
  3. Gather Data: Google is a great source of information, but if you are going to impress investors, you need real primary data from real customers of your business. As you validate your MVP, monitor important metrics such as cost per acquisition, conversion rate, and etc. This data will be used to show traction, forecast trends, and will act as a foundation for your financial projections.

The ThinkLions Business Plan Format

There’s nothing fancy about the business plan format we use at ThinkLions, but it’s a business plan layout that has worked for us over and over again. Furthermore, we’ll give you a few tips for each section – tips that we’ve gathered over years and years of developing startup business plans. Click below to download our business plan format doc. 

Executive Summary

Although the executive summary should be written last, it appears first in the business plan outline. In the executive summary, you will give a quick overview of the most notable details. This section should touch on all aspects of your business including the problem, solution, competition, marketing strategy, founding team and financial projections – but in a condensed manner. Although the executive summary is a component of the business plan, it should be strong enough to stand alone as its own document.

Here are a few tips to make sure your executive summary is as strong as possible:

  1. Write it last – Think of your executive summary like the back of a novel. The book itself shouldn’t be built off the summary, but the other way around. Write the rest of the business plan first, and then use the executive summary to summarize the most important points. 
  2. Make it persuasive – Your executive summary should display the highlights of your business and build curiosity within the reader. It should make readers want to read the rest of your plan to find out more. Fail to gain their attention with the executive summary and they may not even read the rest of the plan.
  3. Get to the point – The executive summary should be brief – about one to two pages is ideal. Be brief, but powerful. Make sure every word counts. Don’t dive too deep though, you’ll have the rest of the business plan to get into the intimate details.

Company Details

After the executive summary, we officially start our business plans with details about the business itself. This includes a company summary with milestones and history; short-term and long-term objectives; and the mission and vision statement.

Company Summary

Start off this section with a quick description of your company. Provide a great elevator pitch and talk about the milestones that you’ve accomplished to date.

Here are a few tips to make sure you nail this part of the business plan:

  1. Show progress: As mentioned previously, before you write your business plan (and definitely before you start approaching investors); validate your assumptions by launching a minimal viable product. Show your progress to date. Explain how your progress proves that a demand truly exists for your product or service.
  2. Tell the company story: Don’t get too lengthy here, but give readers an idea of how you started your business. Provide context to how the founders realized that a real customer problem existed. This section gives you the opportunity to really connect with readers and to get them excited about your business.
  3. Provide metrics: Even if you have fantastic writing skills, it’s the numbers, stats, and metrics that investors really pay attention to. Show your most outstanding metrics here. If you have 1,000 customers already using your solution, explain it in detail. Or, if you have already started earning revenue, showcase how much revenue you’ve earned so far. Likewise, if you have generated fantastic marketing metrics, tell readers about it and explain why it matters!


Before you start talking about the strategy to meet your goals, you need to make those goals known. Think about your financial goals, your user objectives, the goals you have for the development of your product, your team ambitions and more. In some way or another, every section in our business plan format will be used to describe the steps you will take to meet these goals and objectives.

Mission/Vision Statement

Construct a great mission and vision statement and include it here. Think deeply about what your company really is, who you serve, and what you stand for. The best mission statements are short and to the point, but powerful enough that readers can easily comprehend why the company needs to exist.

Products and Services

You’ve already given a summarized version of what your business is, but now you will get into the real detail of your actual product or service. In this section, describe the product’s features and abilities. Consider the features that set your products apart from competitors. If you’re in the ideation stage, your product may not physically exist yet; but this section should be written so well that readers can easily visualize it. If you have a physical product, add images or 3D product blueprints. If you are an app startup, show screenshots of the app or wireframe images.

Industry and Customer Analysis

Every business plan format will include some type of industry and customer analysis. These are the sections where you will include research to prove that a market and demand actually exists for your product or service.

Industry Analysis

Don’t assume that you will be successful just because you have a cool product. Successful businesses are those that solve a problem for a specific market (or multiple markets). Furthermore, even if you can prove a market exists – you still need to prove that the market is actually in demand for the product or service your offer.

Select the market that is best served by your product or service. Research it deeply. Find the data and statistics that support your case and explain why those stats are important. Look at how the market has grown historically, and identify trends that show where it will grow in the future.

Customer Personas

Once you’ve identified the markets you will serve, it’s important to also explain exactly who your customer is. How old are they? What do they do for a living? Are there specific challenges do they face? Which publications do they read? What podcasts do they listen to? Who are the influencers that they follow online? Where do they live? What are their interests? The more you know about who your customer is, the more effectively you will be able to reach and serve them.

Detail your ideal customer as if they were a real person. Give them a name and write this section in a way where a reader can immediately understand who your customer is. After giving life to your customer persona, answer this question – how does your business solve their specific problem?

Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy will explain specifically how you will reach the market and convert them into buyers of your product or service.

Pricing & Positioning

In this section, you will explain your pricing strategy and showcase how your business will bring in revenue. Will you succeed by being cheaper than competitors? Will you provide a ‘luxury’ service or product and charge more than less-luxurious competitors? Consider how your product will be positioned in comparison to competitors and display the prices you have selected for each product or service you offer.

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT Analysis will allow you to describe your business’ strengths and weaknesses; the opportunities that you will capitalize on; and the threats the business will face. Typically, a SWOT Analysis is presented in a matrix with bulleted points, but we advise adding a section under the matrix that explains each point in more detail.

Marketing & Promotional Techniques

Since you’ve already launched a minimal viable product to the market, you should have an idea of what techniques you need to capitalize on to reach your audience. There are many different marketing strategies you can implement from SEO to influencer marketing to ads and beyond, but you should only focus on the most effective strategies that will allow you to quickly acquire new customers with a low CPA.

Furthermore, explain the expenses involved with implementing each strategy and the return on investment that you expect. If you mention Facebook marketing, explain how much you will put towards marketing each month, how much you will spend per click, and what percentage will convert into paying customers.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis should thoroughly detail how your solution compares to your competitors’ solutions. To make it easily digestible, consider adding a table that shows each feature of your business and product; and show how it compares to the features that your competitors offer.

Also, tell about your competitive advantages. What makes you special? Why should consumers choose your solution over the competition? Even if your business is closely similar to the competition, there should be something that makes it unique. Explain your unique selling points and what makes your business stand out amongst others.

Operational Strategy

There is much more to operating a business than just having a good idea. Bad operations can quickly derail a business, while a strong operational strategy can help catapult a startup to success. In our business plan format, we focus on several main areas of operation – Location, Quality Control, Customer Service, Staffing & Training, and Organizational Structure.

Quality Control

No matter if you are offering a physical product, a service, or a software – quality is key. Maintaining quality though can be harder than it seems.

  • When dealing with physical products, it’s important to figure out how your product will be manufactured and how you will ensure that the manufacturers are maintaining a high-quality standard. Explain how quality will be assessed at each stage from manufacturing to final delivery.
  • Those offering services will often need to depend upon their employees and staff to deliver the best level of service to customers. Employees that deliver underwhelming services can cause customers to perceive the entire brand negatively. In this section, describe the processes you will put in place to help employees deliver the best services, and how these services will be assessed for quality.
  • Software products can be extremely fickle. One line of bad code could potentially crash an entire system. In this section of the business plan format, consider how you will deal with bugs and software updates. Describe your relationship with your developers – will they be in-house or third party? If a third party will be used, how will you ensure that they will be available to quickly address bugs found in the product?

Customer Service

Let’s face it, even the strongest brands are faced with dissatisfied customers every now and then. The way in which you deal with these dissatisfied customers will be critical to your success as a business. A single detractor can potentially turn away dozens of potential customers with one bad online review. In fact, consumer reviews are trusted up to 12 times more than a manufacturer’s description. The way in which you serve your customers, and not just the happy ones, will play heavily on how much consumers trust your brand.

In this section, address exactly how you will deal with customer dissatisfaction. Will you have a no-questions-asked return policy or will you only allow returns after 7 days? If a customer is dissatisfied by the service your employees provided, will you send someone else out to fix it? The steps you take to remedy your customer situations may have immediate implications on your financials – for example, a recall could cost a business millions of dollars. However, the impact of a dissatisfied customer (or several) will cost much more in lost business and diminished brand trust.

Staffing & Training

Unfortunately, your personal capacity is limited – there are only so many hours in the day and so much energy you can exert before you become overwhelmed. For any successful B-quadrant business, having the right staff in place at the right time is critical.

For this section, thoroughly assess what your staffing needs will need to be over the next 3-5 years to meet the goals that you outlined in the “Objectives” section. If your objective is to scale 10x over the next year, you will also need to scale your team so that there is enough capacity to meet that goal. If your goal is to expand internationally within 3 years, you may need to hire international staff to manage things on-the-ground in these regions. Each position should be reflected in your business plan, along with their expected date of hire and salaries.

Unfortunately, employees don’t come already trained. Even if they are highly experienced in their specific area, they will likely need some guidance. How will you train them for success? Will you have a specific training program that each employee must attend? If so, this is the section to talk about it!

Organizational Structure

Now that you know what employees you will need to hire, you can create a simple hierarchy structure that shows who will manage each department and which positions will fall within those departments.

Management Team

Great businesses don’t build themselves. Instead, they are built by fantastic teams who have the right skills and backgrounds. An amazing business idea without a great founding team is like a racehorse without a jockey – it may have potential, but it’s the rider that pushes it to success. In this section of the business plan format, show that you have the right team and right advisors to launch, grow, and scale a profitable business.

Management Bios

The most effective teams have several motivated members who each have skill sets that complement one another and contribute to the overall progress of the business. When writing the bio for each member, consider the following:

  • Background: Take a look at the background of each team member. Do they have past experiences that will help move the business forward?
  • Skills: What skills are necessary to successfully implement the steps described in the business plan? Are all of these skills present in your current team?
  • Contribution & Responsibility: What tasks are each individual responsible for? What have they contributed to the business thus far?

Advisor Bios

Great founding teams also have extensive networks with advisors that they can turn to for advice and insight. Businesses often face challenges, but by relying on the experiences of others, teams can often avoid certain obstacles or solve them quickly.

In this section of the business plan format, provide a short bio for the advisors that have committed to working with you. Detail who they are, what achievements they have made, and the highlights of their backgrounds.

Financial Projections

When writing your own business plan, the financial model is likely where you will find the most difficulty. If you are a startup, your financial model will include future projections with a 3-5 year window. If you are writing a plan for an existing business, the model will include financials from the previous several years, along with future projections. In most cases, a proper financial model will include:

  • Profit and Loss Statement: Summarizes projected revenue, costs and expenses.
  • Balance Sheet: Displays the company’s assets, liabilities and equity at a specific point in time, showing a balance between outgoing and income funds.  
  • Cash Flow Statement: Shows how the cash balance is affected by changes in balance sheet accounts. Also shows the impact of investing and financing activities.

Here’s the major tip for developing the financial model for your business plan – minimize assumptions. While there will be certain things that you will need to assume it’s best when your model uses real numbers.

  • The best financial model uses past financial history to forecast future revenues, expenses, and profits. For startups, this may mean launching a minimal viable product, getting it in the hands of real users, and generating real stats.
  • An average financial model uses secondary data from highly reliable sources, studies, and surveys. However, secondary research only relates to the overall industry – while using real numbers from your business relates directly to how your business performs within the overall industry. Secondary research is good, but statistics may vary from one study to another. Make sure you only use data from high-quality and reputable sources.
  • The least effective financial models are full of assumptions. In these plans, entrepreneurs guess what their expenses will be, what portion of the market they can reach, and how much revenue they can generate; instead of backing it up with real data and research.

Funding Requirement

Finally, reveal your financial ask and explain exactly why you need that amount. Itemize where each dollar will be spent to give readers a clear understanding of your financial requirements. Lastly, state the amount of equity will be given in exchange for the investment – based upon the current value of your startup.

Exit Strategy

Some business plan writers choose to include an exit strategy, while some do not. Some investors will require it so that they can get an idea of when they will receive their investment back along with a major payoff. Others, however, know that the future of a startup is totally uncertain, and therefore, they don’t really pay much attention to this section.

Whether you decide to include the exit strategy in your business plan format is up to you – but if you do, here are a few tips:

  • Research similar businesses that had a successful and profitable exit. Were they acquired? Did they merge with another business? Did they go public? Explain how other similar businesses were able to exit and why you believe your business will be able to exit in a similar fashion.
  • Tie your exit into your financial projections and show a projected valuation. Furthermore, show how an XX% ownership in the company (whatever percentage an investor would receive for matching your financial ask) will multiply in returns at exit based upon that valuation.

Using Our Business Plan Format

Unfortunately, just having a great business plan format isn’t enough – now you have to actually write your plan. When creating your business plan, stick to the facts. Investors have short attention spans when it comes to even a simple business plan, and too much fluff will quickly diminish their interest.

Furthermore, some investors (and banks) may have specific business plan formats that they prefer. Make sure to do your research on their specific requirements before writing and submitting your business plan.

Need help getting your business plan together? Contact us today and schedule a consultation with one of our business plan experts!

The Best Ways
To Raise Seed Funding
For Your App Startup

Anybody can launch an app, but if your goal is to build an app startup that has the potential for large scale success – well, at some point you’re likely going to need to know how to raise seed funding. Building an app is an expensive undertaking; it can cost tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring a full-scale app to the market. Once you launch it, you’ll need additional capital to fund your marketing efforts and actually get users to the app. Knowing how to raise seed funding is critical to a startup’s business plans, as many major app startups must go through several funding rounds to maintain progress until profitability is reached.

Everyone with an app idea and a pitch deck believes that they are ready to pitch VCs and secure a large investment to bring their idea to life. Unfortunately, of the millions of app startups (or pre-startups) out there, very few of them are actually in a position to secure even a minimum amount of initial funding. In this guide, we will answer everything you want to know about how to raise seed funding and convince investors to invest in your app startup.

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Is Your App Startup Fundable?

Is Your App Startup Fundable?

Often, entrepreneurs who have not been through the process of obtaining funding mistakenly assume that just having a great app idea is enough. It isn’t. These entrepreneurs are quickly humbled when they pitch their idea for the first time only to be hammered with questions that they weren’t prepared to answer. The truth is, an idea on it’s own has zero value to app investors. Everyone has the next idea that will “completely disrupt the industry!”; or the next “Uber for ____” idea; or the next idea for an app that will “really change our lives!” Mark Hurd (CEO of Oracle) once said, “Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination.” Unfortunately, very few app ideas ever become apps, and very few apps ever become fundable startups.

There are several steps between the app idea stage and the seed capital raising stage – and even if you know how to raise seed funding, you probably won’t if you haven’t at least progressed your startup to a certain position. At minimum, a fundable startup will have reached these three milestones before raising seed capital:

  1. Established Startup Team: A single-member team isn’t a startup team at all. Building a business takes more work than most first-time entrepreneurs can ever imagine, and doing it alone is usually too much work for one individual. Your team should be complete with several professionals that have an extensive breadth of knowledges, experiences and backgrounds. Each member should have a specific job that relates to their skill set, and particular talents that add major value to the overall organization. When you’re raising seed capital, potential investors will lean heavily on the strength of your startup team when making a funding decision.
  2. Validated Idea: It is not always necessary to have a full-fledged and already launched app to get seed funding for a startup business. However, it is necessary that you have tested the idea with real users and that you have validated every assumption. It’s not enough to assume that a demand exists for your app or to assume that your idea is the one that will effectively meet this demand. Ideally, you should have a functional minimal viable product with real customers using it, and should already be producing some type of revenue.
  3. Developed Strong Pitch: Even if you have a great startup, if you can’t communicate why it’s great, you’ll have no chance of convincing investors to trust you with their money. Make sure your business plan is strong, have an effective startup pitch deck in place and practice your pitch until it is ready to be delivered confidently, at a moment’s notice.

If you haven’t accomplished these three requirements, all of your efforts should be going into doing so – especially before seeking initial funding from seed investors.

You Already Know Your First Investor

There is one person out there that is in the perfect position to invest in your app idea – and you already know them. You guessed it…. It’s you! There is a bootstrapping stage to every successful startup. Some startups do so well in this phase that they bootstrap their way to success without giving away any equity for initial funding. Taking just the first steps towards building an app takes time, energy and money; and before you can ask someone else to invest their resources, you’ll need to invest in yourself.

By definition, an entrepreneur is an individual who takes risks to reap a large reward. It is quite the irony that many app entrepreneurs want seed funding firms to risk their funds, but aren’t willing to risk their own. Even those who have very little savings can access funds if they are committed to putting in the effort and taking a risk to pursue their idea. Ready to invest in yourself? Here are a few ways you can access funds to get your app idea into the minimal viable product stages:

  1. Business Plan Contests: Although many business plan contests also require businesses to be at a certain level before entering, some lower-prized contests and events also allow entrepreneurs to pitch in the idea stage. Some of these events may offer several thousands of dollars in prize money which can be used as seed capital funding to build a prototype or launch a first version minimal app.
  2. Crowdfunding: One of the best validation tests for your app idea is crowdfunding. If you believe that consumers in your market would really find value in your app, this method allows you to bring it to them pre-development and allow them to support it with their donation. However, succeeding with a campaign is not as easy as it may seem. It takes much work to successfully promote a contest, and the rewards must be worthwhile. App startups that have been effective with this approach however, have been able to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in initial revenue while forming a strong consumer base.
  3. Loans: We take out loans in our everyday personal lives, but for many entrepreneurs, personal loans have also been used to fund the launch of their startups. To secure a loan, you will need to have decent personal credit – likely you will not have established enough business credit at this point to secure a business loan. Before taking out a loan of any kind, make sure you understand the terms of your agreement and that you can afford to pay back the required monthly payments.
  4. Credit Cards: While only recommended as a last resort, many entrepreneurs have financed portions of their businesses on credit cards. Unfortunately, credit cards often have high interest rates, so you will pay much more to access these funds; but they are also quite easily accessible by anyone with a decent credit score. Again, it is important to only borrow money that you can comfortably pay back. Financing should only be used to better your position, but it can severely worsen your position if not careful.  

How To Find Seed Money For Your App Startup

How To Find Seed Money For Your App Startup

There is no shortage of seed money investors out there – some of them are obvious, some are hidden in plain sight, and some don’t even know that they are investors yet (maybe they need some convincing first). You may not know anyone who meets the requirements of an ‘angel investor’, but without a doubt, you can access investors if you try hard enough. If you want to know how to raise seed funding for your app startup, here’s a few places to start:

  • Explore Your Network: There is no better way to begin a positive relationship with an investor than through a direct referral. A great referral can move the startup/investor relationship several steps ahead before the two even have a chance to officially meet one another. Take inventory of everyone you know, and who they know. Tell people about your business and let them know that you are looking for app investors. Six degrees of separation is a real thing, and you probably don’t have to go six whole degrees to find potential seed money investors to pitch.
  • Join An Incubator: App incubators are made to take apps from their initial phases and to bring them to a fundable level. Many incubators have connections with app angel investors, seed funding firms and VC partners; and some are launched by VC firms themselves. Furthermore, many app incubators provide some type of initial seed money, in exchange for a small equity percentage, to help businesses bring their ideas to life.
  • Promote On Investor Platforms: With software startup financing being at an all time high, app funding sites have sprung up like spring weeds; acting as a bridge between fundable startups and angel investors. Sites such as Gust, AngelList and Dealroom allow businesses to set up profiles and promote their startups directly to investors. Even without knowing exactly how to raise seed fundings, investor platforms give startups direct access to investors that looking for amazing deals. These platforms are extremely competitive however, and to succeed in raising funds startups must meet several requirements to help them stand out against other startups.

How To Prepare for Seed Funding

How To Prepare for Seed Funding

Once you know how to raise seed funding and how to find investors, you will also need to learn how to attract them and convince them to invest in your business. These seven tips will position you for the most success when seeking a seed investment:

  1. Make your elevator pitch count – Sometimes, you only have a few seconds to make a good impression with an app investor. An entrepreneur should be able to effectively explain their business within just a sentence or two. Make sure that your elevator pitch is simple in content but offers enough information to draw curiosity. Your elevator pitch should be refined, reworked and optimized frequently until the most effective version has been established.
  2. Be the expertEntrepreneurs can become so fixated on all the features and functions of their app idea that they miss important things happening within their industry. Investors put their capital in people that they believe have the knowledge and expertise to truly deliver a successful product; and if you want them to invest in you, you must have an above-average knowledge of your market, industry and competitive landscape. Moves that your competitors make will have a direct impact on your startup, as will trends in the industry, government policy, and other important factors that may relate to the potential success of your idea.
  3. Know the numbersThere is one thing every investor cares about, and that is, whether their capital investment will produce a positive return. During your pitch, it is likely that you will be asked about sales, the number of users on your app, revenue, profits, projected revenue, funding requirements and more. Don’t pitch a seed money investor without knowing the numbers that represent your business. If they ask you about these numbers, and they will, you will lose major points if you fumble over their questions and will lose all credibility if you accidentally misrepresent them.
  4. Have a pitch deck readyDon’t wait until you’ve got an investor meeting scheduled to start working on your pitch deck; get it ready ahead of time so that you can focus on perfecting your pitch on the days leading up to your meeting, instead of building slides. Create a pitch deck that is captivating, compelling and that tells a story that investors can easily follow. Design is important, but use it minimally to enhance your pitch so it doesn’t draw attention away from the slide’s content.
  5. Show a demoTalking about how your pre-developed app will operate can possibly help app investors visualize it in real use, but showing a demo leaves a lasting impression. A demo or prototype may not be a totally functional app, but it allows potential investors to interact with your software and “experience” it for themselves.
  6. Pitch it wellThe key to pitching seed money firms or investors confidently is practice, practice and more practice. Practice your pitch in front of a mirror; record yourself and play it back for critique; pitch it in front of friends and family, and get their feedback; pitch it EVERY CHANCE YOU GET! Eventually, pitching your app idea will become second nature – the more you practice it, the quicker your confidence will build.
  7. Evaluate and optimizeUnfortunately, you won’t convince every investor to invest; but you will receive valuable feedback each and every time you pitch your app concept. Don’t lose sleep over an investor’s critique of your startup, but use their feedback to optimize your pitch. Each time you get rejected, you learn more and more about how to raise seed funding. Identify the weaknesses in your pitch and in your business, and strengthen them until they are no longer seen as weaknesses.

How To Raise Seed Funding – The Process

Knowing how to raise seed funding for an app is about as beneficial as having just an app idea – it means nothing without execution. In your startup journey, it is vital to be honest with yourself about whether your startup is truly fundable, or if you need to put in more legwork to validate your idea first. Once you know how to raise seed funding, that’s where the real work begins – because now you have to do it! 

How To Raise Seed Funding - The Process

Can’t decide what the next step is in your seed funding journey? Contact us today and schedule a free consultation with one of our app startup experts!

How To Win A Business Plan Contest

A well developed business plan creates the foundation on which a successful startup will be able to establish itself, and is especially necessary when considering participation in a business plan contest or pitch event. When every factor is considered – market and industry, finance, marketing, operations, and etc. – success becomes a long-term plan as opposed to a hope for a stroke of startup luck. Along with a solid pitch and pitch deck, a business plan is a critical element in your journey to landing a successful seed funding round. Writing an investor-ready business plan can be difficult, but securing funding without a solid plan in place is pretty much impossible.

Once you finally get the perfect business plan written, what’s next? For those who are far enough along in their business, submitting the plan directly to investors might be a wise step. For those who aren’t quite ready to approach VCs yet, but could use a financial boost to get thing going, participating in business plan contests can be a tremendous help. Not only do these competitions often provide significant rewards for the winners, they also often draw the attention of angels, VCs and even corporations looking to invest in or partner with the next billion dollar startup. Unfortunately, where there is honey there are bees – business plan contests often attract some of the brightest minds, and the higher the reward, the more competition you can expect. In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know to find a great business plan contest, enter it with confidence, and win against other participating startups!

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Download Our FREE eBook now!

Learn the expert secrets behind building
successful apps that attract invertors and get funded!

The Benefits of Winning A Business Plan Contest

Business plan competitions are beneficial platforms that allow entrepreneurs to showcase their idea, product or startup to a group of judges. Often, these competitions involve pitching the idea or startup to judges over one or more rounds. Once each competing startup has presented, judges vote on which business (or businesses) will receive the offered reward.

While business plan competitions highly benefit winning startups, they offer immense benefits to investors who attend them also – access to early stage businesses that they can invest in before others have the opportunity. Furthermore, these competitions work to even out the playing field for entrepreneurs who otherwise may not have access to investors – winning a business plan contest could be the difference between funding your business’ launch or failing before you even get the chance to begin.

The most obvious benefit of winning a business plan contest is winning the offered reward. The reward value of these contests can vary from small amounts to extremely large amounts.  For example, the Panasci Business Plan Competition by Syracuse University offers around $35,000 in total rewards, while the Rice Business Plan Competition offers over $1.2 million in seed funding to it’s winners and runner-ups. Winning the right competition can impact your business greatly; providing you with the app funding required to progress your business from the app idea phase to launch and beyond. There is something that should be considered however – some business plan competitions may come with specific conditions that must be met to receive the funding; such as headquartering the business in a certain location, offering up an equity percentage, or being involved in a startup incubator for some length of time.

High-profile angels and VCs often attend larger business plan competitions, and even participants that don’t win the contest may attract the attention of an investor. In some cases, teams that don’t win may end up with larger investments than those who the judges selected for first place. Investors aren’t always looking for the same things in a startup; your idea might not be of much interest to the judges, but may be exactly what an attending investor was looking for! These investors aren’t only good for the funds they bring – some of them may provide a critical mentorship component to your startup; helping to advise your team for greater success down the line.

Lastly, one of the least recognized but most effective benefits of participating in a business plan competition is having your business plan and startup critically reviewed by experienced judges, entrepreneurs and investors. Even if you don’t win, the insight provided by the panel of judges will offer different perspectives regarding your startup. Ultimately, by applying this insight, you can further position your startup for success when participating in future events.

Finding The Right Business Plan Contest

The unique beauty of business plan contests is that they are relatively ubiquitous – and today, more competitions are popping up than ever before. A variety of organizations, educational institutions, and even individuals organize business plan competitions to seek out investable and fundable business ideas. In general, most business plan contests can be grouped into two categories:

  1. University Competitions: Many major universities organize some type of business plan contest through their business school. Eligibility may vary from contest to contest, but these contests are typically only available to those connected to the business program – students, alumni, and in some cases, even on-staff professionals. Due to these eligibility requirements, competition is generally limited – which means that participants have a much larger chance of winning when compared to contests with less regulation. Furthermore, universities know that any successful startups launched through these contests will give their business program a major boost in visibility and credibility. As a result, universities often go a step above to support winners of these programs – providing additional on-campus resources or even access to alumni professionals that can help them advance their businesses.
  2. Sponsored Contests: Sponsored business plans are those that are planned and hosted by an organization, corporation, individual or other entity. Specifically, these organizers ‘sponsor’ the competition – organizing the event, involving investors and judges, and securing rewards to incentivize winners and participants. Sometimes, these competitions may be sponsored by companies within a specific sector such as biotech, healthcare, urban transit, architecture, and etc.; while other times they may be part of a larger startup incubator or accelerator program.  

Business plan and pitch deck competitions take place several times each year in most major cities – and even in many less popular upcoming startup regions. If you are a student or an alumni, check with your university to see if they have a business plan competition in place – if not, maybe you can help them organize one! For those who are not eligible to join a university-sponsored competition, a simple Google search will provide you with several options. Search for “industry name + business plan contest” or “city + business plan contest” to see what upcoming business plan contest events you may be eligible to participate in.

Winning Big At Your First Business Plan Contest

Participating in a business plan contest can be extremely valuable, but the real goal is to win – and to win big! The key to winning a business plan competition of any type is to know what the judges are looking for and to position your startup, business plan and pitch to exceed their expectations.

Judging The Judges

In general, whether you win a business plan contest or not will hinge upon how your business idea is perceived by the panel of judges, and how they perceive you as an entrepreneur and presenter. It is worth noting that judges often come from various backgrounds with varied experiences; what may be a top consideration for one judge may make little difference to another. However, most judges compare businesses on at least the following three factors:

  1. Originality: Successful business ideas need to be original in nature and able to improve upon an existing solution, solve a wide-scale problem, or effectively meet the current market demand. Businesses that simply spin-off from other successful ideas are not looked upon favorably by judges or investors – since they usually have little advantage to compete against already established players. To win a business plan contest, it is essential that your idea is fresh, scalable, sustainable and eventually, profitable.
  2. Ability To Generate Profit: Even the most creative ideas need to be able to turn a profit at some point. Understandably, most investors aren’t interested in funding businesses that won’t provide them with a return in the long-run. In order to gain interest in your business during a contest, your business plan should show exactly how your business will provide a return for investors in the long-term. While some investors may be interested in other aspects of a business, such as their social consciousness or involvement, the majority of investors are looking for opportunities to grow their portfolio by investing in businesses that are capable of generating strong profits.
  3. Effective Presentation: It’s not always the best idea that wins a business plan competition. A perfect business plan and an exciting idea means very little if an entrepreneur can not properly convey their message during their presentation. In most contests, participants are given a set time limit (such as 10 minutes) to present – and expressing all the necessary information within this time period can be rather difficult. Judges look for confident entrepreneurs who can articulate their business enough to convey the efficacy and scalability of their idea properly. The knowledge an entrepreneur needs to possess doesn’t end with just the text presented in their business plan or pitch deck. Most often, there is a Q&A portion during these events in which the entrepreneur will be required to answer specific questions by judges and investors. The inability to answer these questions properly and confidently can quickly dissuade an investor from investing, or can cause a judge to give a lower score than they would have otherwise.

Preparing For Business Plan Contest Success

Success at these events are often linked to how well an entrepreneur has prepared themselves beforehand. One thing is certain – your competitors will be prepared; and if you aren’t, it will be embarrassingly noticeable. Unfortunately, in a business plan contest, there is no way to mask unpreparedness, especially among an audience of experienced entrepreneurs and investors. To best prepare for an upcoming business plan competition, consider the following tips:

  • Sell A Strong Team: There is one thing that’s more important than having a great business plan – having a strong and experienced team that can actually execute it. Management teams are what bind all the elements of a business plan together; combining the skills necessary to put the plan into action successfully. It is vital that your team encompasses a broad range of skills and that each team member has a specific job that will lead to the startup’s success.
  • Present The Problem First: Startups that win (in contests and in general) are those that truly solve an existing problem – whether the problem is shared by a mass group of people, or by a niche audience. There’s a lot of “cool tech” out there, but even simple ideas can solve major problems. Taxis have existed for decades, but a simple idea like ride-sharing changed the way the world views personal transportation. Prepare a pitch that is challenge/solution heavy by focusing on what the problem is, why individuals experience the issue, why current solutions don’t solve the challenges effectively, and why your product/service is the right solution for the problem.
  • Know Your Funding Requirements: Investors don’t want their funds to just sit in an account; they want to know that there is a plan in place to use these funds and effectively scale a startup from its current position. Have a funding plan in place – know how much funding is required, what actions need to be completed to successfully progress the business, and how each dollar will be spent to meet your launch or growth objectives.
  • Be The Expert: If there is any gap in your business plan, it will be uncovered during the Q&A stage. Investors and judges are highly experienced in asking the right questions to get a full picture of your startup and to gauge whether you are well-informed about your business, market and the issue that you are attempting to solve. It’s not a good sign when an investor or judge knows more about your business than you do. Ensure that your business plan is all-encompassing with vital information, and that you can answer any necessary questions without needing to reference your business plan. During the Q&A session, you should be able to answer questions proficiently, confidently, and with enough expertise to prove that you know exactly what you are talking about.
  • Listen, Learn and Apply: You can’t win every business plan or pitch contest, but you can definitely take the insights given during one competition and use it to propel your potential for success in future contests. It’s not everyday that you’re able to receive critical feedback from a group of investors, and when you can, you should take advantage of it as much as possible. Even if you don’t win anything in a business plan competition, the insights gained can be used to catapult your business to the next level.

Writing A Business Plan That Wins

Even if everything else is perfect – if you want to win, you must begin with a well-thought out, perfectly articulated and investor-ready business plan that tells your startup’s story in an effective manner. There are many factors to consider when writing a business plan from proper market analysis to financial projections – and any weak point in your plan will decrease your chances of winning. If you need more advice on writing a business plan, see our business plan guide or contact one of our experts today for a free business plan consultation!

10 of The Most Useful Secrets
For Bringing An App Idea to Reality

For a new app startup entrepreneur, bringing an app idea to reality can seem like a monstrous undertaking. Let’s be fair, it is. Transforming an app idea into a great piece of mobile software is difficult; it’s three times as expensive as you thought it would be and takes twice as long to launch. It takes time, energy and effort; blood, sweat and tears.

The light at the end of the tunnel is, as difficult as it may seem, it’s doable. In fact, it’s so doable that hundreds of thousands of regular people (just like you) have launched their app ideas to the public. If they can do it, so can you. To give you some inspiration as you take the first step into building your app, we asked 10 app entrepreneurs how they brought their app ideas to reality. Here’s what they had to say.

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Chris Kane
Chris Kane Founder of, MunchMoney

Finding The App Idea

I’ve always been an entrepreneurial person in many ways. Growing up that was always clear to me. After I graduated from college, I began my career in the hedge fund industry without any clear direction of where I wanted to go long-term. Over time, I increasingly became unhappy and began looking for alternatives. It was at this point that my entrepreneurial spirit took hold.

I came up with several business ideas. One day, as I was getting money out of my wallet to go to Chipotle for lunch, I thought, “Man, I really miss my college meal plan.” With some inspiration from the Virginia Tech meal plan system, the initial idea for MunchMoney was born.

Funding a Minimal Viable Product

MunchMoney is currently bootstrapped by its founders; mainly using savings from full-time jobs while the idea was still in development.

Advice for Bringing an App Idea to Reality

Simply, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are so many intricacies around startups/apps that it can be overwhelming. Start by becoming familiar with launching apps by reading books such as How to Build a Billion Dollar App by George Berkowski), taking online courses, and attending industry/networking events. Furthermore:

  1. Just Ask. People are always willing to help if you are a kind and genuine person who is sincerely willing to ask for help.
  2. Self-awareness. Know what you are good at and what you are not, and then, surround yourself with people who can fill in the gaps.

Estee Goldschmidt
Estee Goldschmidt Co-founder of, ShopDrop App

Finding the App Idea

ShopDrop is an app that aggregates information about every sample sale in one single location. The concept was simple: there are over 50 weekly events where designers put up their excess inventory for 60%-90% off, and yet finding out about those events is laborious and requires knowing people in the industry; following 20 different blogs and specific brands. The idea of the app was to simplify the process and democratize access to these fashion events.

Building the Team and Product

I had a marketing background, and Bill – my co-founder had a tech background. He had built 26 apps. Together, we joined forces to get the app idea off the ground. We only recently started generating revenue, but haven’t paid ourselves yet. We ran events and pilots to self-fund the project. We also won an entrepreneurial grant to keep us going.

Advice for Bringing an App Idea to Reality

My advice to someone starting out is three-pronged:

  1. Figure out whether your idea has potential. Ask people if they would use the product. Mock up images of what it would look like and show to friends and strangers.
  2. Assess the competition. Check to see if a similar product already exists or existed in the market. Did it fail? If yes, what does that mean to you?
  3. Build an MVP. Figure out the quickest way to get a basic product onto the market (whether it means using tools, outsourcing or partnering with a tech-genius). Work on it, get feedback, implement and repeat!

The secret to success is not giving up. As long as there is interest, your business has potential. Keep on pushing until you can’t anymore.

Steven Benson Founder of, Badger Maps

Finding the App Idea

I didn’t start out with the goal of building an app. My career has been spent in field sales with companies like IBM and Google, and so I understood the challenges faced by field sales people first hand. When I was working on the Google Maps team, I got to know how powerful mobile mapping could be, and had experience with the types of solutions and apps that mobile was capable of enabling. I knew I could improve my performance at my job as a field sales rep if I could combine my customer data with a mobile mapping system, and I could envision a solution that could schedule and plan my time selling in the field more efficiently. Looking back at it, it was a combination of my role in sales and the industry background with software and mapping that made me well positioned to launch a company to solve the problems of field sales. I was in the right place at the right time, with the right background, and was able to completely bootstrap the business.

Monetizing the App

When coming up with the idea for an app, it’s crucial to have a clear monetization strategy and make sure you build something that people are willing to pay for. There are a lot of businesses that don’t make it, although they were great ideas that seemed to have major potential. What they often lack is a clear way to make money.

One key thing is to find the balance between how much your customers are willing to pay for your app and how much you need to scale your company. However you plan to monetize, make sure it’s enough to keep the lights on as you grow. If your expenses require that each user pays $10 for your app, but they’re only willing to pay $1, you’ll need to focus on getting 10x more users. Pricing is a hard thing to get right the first time, so don’t be afraid to experiment and talk to your customers to find the sweet spot.

Key to Success

I think the key to my success is focus. The major players in tech today do so many things at once and solve so many problems at the same time – as a startup, you win by having a laser focus on a solution to a single problem that people would pay for

Really though, the true secret to a successful startup is creating an environment where your team can thrive, grow and be happy. Managing and motivating people is so much harder when you don’t have anything than when you are a large and well funded company.

Kyle Morris
Kyle Morris of, Sifdata

Launch and Iteration

I came up with our app idea while running business ops at a tech company in Silicon Valley. I came home one day wanting to learn to code and played around for a couple of months. On a trip to New Zealand I got the inspiration for what would become SifData. I immediately got to work on the project as soon as I got home. In passing, I mentioned to a friend what I was working on. A few days later, a well known tech company’s CEO reached out, mentioning that he was looking for this very product. He got me in touch with their head of operations and they decided to buy.

From there I kept iterating on the product and came out of beta in April. We’ve had some great wins along the way and, as you can imagine, a lot of challenges being a self-taught, solo entrepreneur.

Thomas-Ryan Lawrence
Thomas-Ryan Lawrence COO of, Gayborhood

Finding the App Idea

For nearly 18 years, my business partner had been producing The Gay Community Yellow Pages across the country.  GCYP was a niche market yellow pages focusing on businesses that promised to treat the LGBTQ community with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. The year was 2009 and the print industry, along with the rest of the economy, was struggling. At the same time, Apple had recently launched the iPhone, thereby kicking off the smartphone revolution and creating an entirely new industry.  Our idea: take the concept of The Gay Community Yellow Pages and make it available on smartphones. Bring the safety and comfort of The Gay Community Yellow Pages, that has served our community for nearly twenty years, to the fingertips of every smartphone user. Thus, Gayborhood was born! Today, Gayborhood serves LGBTQ communities in over twenty cities across the country and continues to grow.

Funding the App Idea

Did I mention this was 2009 and the print industry was struggling?  Okay, I did.  So, funding was interesting.  We had no money!  We went to friends and borrowed $30,000 at a higher than usual interest rate (flat rate of 50% regardless of how long it took us to pay them back.  Side note, it took 3 years) to get Gayborhood off the ground. We were lucky to find a developer that built an “out of the box” solution and allowed us to customize it with our own look and feel.  This saved us tons in the beginning, but also led to some functionality and reliability issues down the road. Regardless of the issues we faced with our legacy developer, it was enough to get us up and running and launched on both iOS and Android.

Advice for Bringing an App Idea to Reality

Simply, just do it!  Once you’ve completed some modest level of market research to ensure consumers want your product, find a developer, get a bid, and make it happen. You can’t be successful with a product that doesn’t exist. It may not be “the perfect version” on the first launch…Lord knows Gayborhood wasn’t!  But you’ve gotta start somewhere and then work on improvements.  If you’re strapped for cash, this may mean going after some non traditional financing – but if you really believe in your product and you stand behind it, then you just have to do it!  You may pay a little more in the beginning, but once you are successful, it will all be worth it.

Marketing the App

It’s not enough to simply develop an app and plop it on the app store hoping people will download it. Believe me, that will not happen! You have to know how to market it. Gayborhood employed a mixed marketing strategy in the beginning and continues to do so today. We started with a combination of CPI (cost per install), PR (get your name out there any way you can), event-based and guerilla marketing efforts and continue to incorporate each of those and more into our strategies today. We’ve done bar posters, cocktail napkins, promotional fliers, palm cards, koozies, chapstick…you name it and Gayborhood has probably done it!  Our goal is to have omnipresence; wherever our target market is, we want to be in their faces!

Kevin Murray
Kevin Murray Founder of, SpyWarn 2.0

Finding the App Idea

I created an app for detecting spyware on Android smartphones. The idea for it evolved from my clients, and the general public, asking me, “Is my cell phone bugged?” My original protocol for determining the answer became the basis for my book, “Is My Cell Phone Bugged?” The directions in the book transformed into the basis for my app, SpyWarn 2.0. It was an enjoyable project, and the app is still available today on Google Play.

Advice for Bringing an App Idea to Reality

  1. Be persistent. The concept for the app was very unique. It took a lot of time and explaining to get the concept and technical details across to to the people who worked on it.
  2. Shop around for an app design company. Explain your idea. Pick the company based on their enthusiasm, experience and ease of communications. Their quote will likely not be the cheapest. Pay attention to their human interface design recommendations.
  3. Even after the first version of the app was launched, I kept trying to make it better. Also, I learned early on that very detailed instructions were necessary. Early feedback and ratings revealed many users were either using the app incorrectly, or didn’t understand that SpyWarn worked very differently from other security apps.

Brendan Corrigan
Brendan Corrigan Founder of, Commit

Finding the App Idea

Commit is an iOS app that helps motivate people to achieve their goals through social and financial accountability. The idea for Commit came about over a year ago, when I was struggling (once again) to follow through on some goals I had set for myself.

One goal in particular that I was particularly feeling bad about was volunteering at my local soup kitchen. I had been going on a weekly basis for years, but that had recently become monthly, and more recently even less than that. I had never been in a position to give much in terms of money, so it was always important to give what I could of my time, and I wasn’t doing either! This is when the idea for Commit came about, and what I think was the key to progressing my idea – time and testing.

I thought if I could use money as a motivator, maybe it would be easier to get myself into the soup kitchen, or to feel less guilty when I couldn’t. I decided every time I didn’t go I would donate $10, an amount that would certainly motivate me on my laziest of Saturday mornings, but not dramatically affect my financial situation if I didn’t make it. At first it worked, except when I didn’t make it and realized no one was really holding me accountable to donating the money! I realized accountability was the important factor to this, and tested it by giving money up front to a family member who also volunteered there with me. He had no hesitation in giving the money to the soup kitchen if I couldn’t make it, and we decided he would eventually give me the balance back after 2 months, to see if it really worked. The result: it did! I made it 7 out of 8 weekends, and on that one missed weekend nothing would have made me get out of bed!

Launching the App

Once the concept was finalized, I did a lot of market researching and testing to see if others thought it would work for them, and then I decided to pursue it. I was in a fortunate position to self-fund the venture and considered it my best option at this stage, to build a minimum viable product.

Advice for Bringing an App Idea to Reality

My advice to someone else interested in pursuing their own ideas would be research, research and more research! It has helped me make the right decisions plenty of times and has gotten me this far – and a lack of research in certain cases has hurt me just as much! I have succeeded in many ways, such as successfully launching after 10 months of actual work, and being able to see the promise in the initial response, but I have a ways to go to achieve what I want. I’d say the secret that got me this far and will push me to my vision of success is persistence and never doubting my vision.

app idea to reality - Ron Spreeuwenberg of HiMama
Ron Spreeuwenberg CEO of, HiMama Child Care App

Finding the App Idea

Our advice to forming an app idea is to confirm you are solving a real problem. Establishing product market fit means speaking directly to many potential customers. Sometimes, entrepreneurs assume that an interest in a product is equal to a commitment to pay for a product. It’s not. Ron met directly with hundreds of child care professionals with nothing more than a powerpoint presentation before he formally launched HiMama.

Funding the App Idea

HiMama has grown with no traditional VC funding. Funding and launching an app means you need to get out from behind your computer. Sometimes app marketers believe there are quick wins through digital marketing and social media. Real “growth hacking” requires hustle and grit. Phone calls, site visits and quiet soft launches are tried-and-true pathways to building a committed user base with sustainable growth. Important advice – monetize from the first sale.

Advice to Bringing an App Idea to Reality

Don’t overspend in your early days. Conserving cash through discovery and validation is key. Startups can waste a ton of money too quickly – do not spend a million dollars on advertising a product no one wants. Mr. Spreeuwenberg used two approaches for scaling HiMama – don’t overspend on marketing and avoid venture capital investment in the early days.

By operating on a shoestring budget, HiMama has been able to scale effectively and maintain consistent staff growth (doubling staff in the last year). Often startups feel they have to fail fast to scale, but consistent slow growth with affordable testing pays off substantially long-term.

Lori Cheek
Lori Cheek Founder of, Cheekd

Finding the App Idea

In February of 2008, I was out to dinner with an architectural colleague. He’d spotted an attractive woman at a nearby table and scribbled, “Want to have dinner?” on the back of his business card and slipped it to her as we were leaving the restaurant. He left with a date. I left with an idea. After over two years of brainstorming how to remove the “business” out of the business card, I launched Cheekd– a deck of ice-breaking dating cards with a unique code that lead the recipient to the privacy protected online dating profile of the mysterious stranger who slipped them the card where the two could start communicating online. It was like online dating but backwards. We’ve since pivoted Cheekd into a hyper-speed mobile dating app that gives users the ability to never miss a real-life potential “love connection” thanks to a cross-platform low energy Bluetooth technology, which sends users an immediate notification when someone (within their criteria) comes within a 30-foot radius of them. It’s real-time and works on a subway or a plane without any cellular connection.

Funding the Idea

After finishing off my savings from my 15 year career in architecture, I had to get extremely creative to continue funding my business and this is where the financial sacrifices began. I made nearly $75,000 by selling my designer clothes at consignment shops and on eBay, doing focus groups, secret shopping, app testing, dog walking, house sitting, watering plants and by selling my electronics and other odds and ends around my apartment on Craigslist that all went straight back into my business. The biggest chunk of cash came from renting out my West Village Studio in NYC on AirBnB, while I couch surfed for 14 months, nearly got evicted and ultimately lost my lease of 5 years in my gorgeous apartment.

And finally, after four tumultuous years of building my startup with the wrong partners, lots of bad decisions and some major rookie mistakes, I was determined to find a way to take my business to the next level … and what better way than to apply to ABC’s Shark Tank.

In September of 2013, I found myself walking down that scary shark infested hallway into a stare off with 5 of the harshest millionaire investors in the world. I’d never been more nervous in my entire life. When I proclaimed I was going to change the population with my reverse engineered online dating business, serial entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, rolled his eyes, called me delusional and immediately snapped, “I’m out.” Billionaire investor, Kevin O’Leary, demanded that I quit my “hobby” and shoot my business—my passion– like a rabid dog. After getting shot down by all five Sharks, I looked them in the eye and said, “Trust that you’ll all see me again.” Although those final bold words of mine ended up on the cutting room floor (adding insult to injury), in the 48 hours after the broadcast, Cheekd.com received a record breaking 100K unique visitors and our inbox filled up with thousands of emails insisting that the Sharks were “out of their minds” for not investing. A little under 50 of those emails were from interested investors.

Since the Shark Tank aired in February of 2014, I found the missing links from years before. We’ve raised 5 times the amount I’d sought on the show and I’ve gotten a CTO on board who’s helped facilitate and finance the new face and technology behind the new Cheekd. The newly launched dating app allows users to solve missed connections with a new technology that was not available when the patented Cheekd idea was launched in 2010. It was only a matter of time and I’m thankful I didn’t take the Sharks advice to quit and move on.

Advice to Bringing an App Idea to Reality

Entrepreneurship is being on a mission where nothing can stop you. It will take twice as long as you’d hoped, cost exceedingly more than you’d ever budgeted and will be more challenging than anything you’ll ever try but if you give it your all and refuse to give up, you can trust it will be the ride of a lifetime. My strongest advice for others considering taking the leap is if you truly believe in your idea, give up excuses and doubt, surround yourself by a trusted and talented team, bulldoze forward and DON’T LOOK BACK.

Be focused. I’ve got a laser-focused vision to succeed and will do almost anything to keep this business flourishing.  I’m actually not surprised by my determination because as long as I can remember, I’ve been extremely stubborn. When most people would have quit, I only pushed harder. I think my personal approach, passion and dedication mixed, with my relentless conviction that failure is not an option, has been the recipe that has lead to my current success. I could be the poster child for the statement “what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.” No matter what… in the end, I’m going to have a magical and cheeky story to tell.

Darren Guccione
Darren Guccione and Craig Lurey Co-founders of, Keeper Security

Finding the App Idea

On a 40 hour flight to China and back to the United States Craig showed Darren a password manager application he was working on for his personal use. He called it his “Keeper” because the digital, encrypted vault kept all of his passwords organized and generated high strength, military-grade passwords for each of his logins. This was back in 2008 when the iPhone was about to launch; and when Darren did some research on apps that were launching in iTunes, he realized that none of them addressed this security and productivity solution on smartphones. He knew that it would be a success. By the time the two returned to the states from their plane trip the app was created and ready to launch. Keeper was bootstrapped by Darren and became profitable within 5 months.  

Advice for Bringing an App Idea to Reality

Don’t be afraid.. Most businesses fail or never even get off the ground because of fear. Develop discipline and focus. These are two habits – but they are interconnected as one in my mind. It takes discipline to stay focused and the premise of being focused is absolutely the most critical thing. I see people fail because they lack focus or give up too quickly on something.

Darren says, “Trends are concerning to me because they trap companies into thinking that production is more important than innovation. The truth is that one cannot exist without the other. I never want to be in a business that is mostly dependent on making it faster and cheaper than the others in a market. Commoditized markets are for well-established companies with massive balance sheets and money to burn if they wind up being wrong. The thing that excites me are problems or voids inside large markets.”

App Idea to Reality – Taking The First Step

If there is one piece of advice that is consistent across every app entrepreneur, it is that taking the first step is the most important. May app dreams die before they ever even start. Launching an app startup, or any business for that matter, is a learning experience. While you can learn many things by reading books and watching YouTube videos, the real information you need to grow your business comes from getting your product to your market as soon as possible – by any means necessary. Need more information before you take that first step? Contact us or set up a consultation with one of our app startup experts, and get started on bringing your awesome app idea to reality!

How To Find App Funding
For Your Awesome App Idea

It’s not easy to secure app funding to bring your app idea to reality. Most people believe that as long as you have a good idea and a business plan, investors will be kicking down your door to invest. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case and those who find funding from any source, usually have to work extremely hard to do so. Finding someone to believe in your app as much as you do takes a tremendous level of convincing, and usually, there are many steps an entrepreneur must take before approaching investors with their ideas.

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Download Our FREE eBook now!

Learn the expert secrets behind building
successful apps that attract invertors and get funded!

Is Your App Positioned for Funding?

The word “investor” gets thrown around so much in the app development world that it almost seems to describe one specific individual — a rich person who thinks a certain way, dresses a certain way, and invests a certain way. In reality, every app investor is different, has their own style of investing, and has their own formula for analyzing whether an investment is right for their portfolio.

Wise investors will typically consider several aspects before deciding to invest into your app startup. Typically, they want to know:   

  1. Is your app idea unique enough to succeed? Having a great idea is one thing, but having an industry-changing idea with the potential to absolutely crush competitors — well, that’s something totally different! A fundable idea is one that has an obvious unique advantage over every other competing solution; faster, cheaper, better, or so uniquely different that it supersedes any current option. Certainly, there are businesses that have succeeded by copying the exact model of another business but in today’s age, where innovation is evident amongst almost every industry, investors are more keen to invest in new ideas that are profitable, validated and scalable.
  2. Who’s on your team? Investors know that the success of any startup will be largely dependent upon the dedication and knowledge of its founding team. By nature, startup ventures are difficult to grow and require the expertise of individuals across a wide spectrum of fields: product development, finance, marketing, operations, etc. While some investors do fund sole-founders, most investors seek startups that have a team (two members at least) with a varied range of skills and expertise; members who have been successful in their fields previously, have a vast knowledge of their particular specialty, and have already established relationships that can help progress the business quickly.Is Your App Positioned for Funding
  3. Is it a business or just an idea? There is a VERY long road between “startup idea” and “launched startup”. Entrepreneurs who have not yet launched, will find themselves parked at one of a million points along this road – either closer to “idea” or closer to “launch”. Investors will want to know what you have done up to date to progress your business from point A (idea) to point B (launch). App entrepreneurs who have tested the market, researched the market, created a business plan, or successfully launched a prototype, will gain the upper hand on investors. Not only does each step help to prove their concept, but their dedication is often noticed and appreciated. Even without funding, there are many things that can be done to push the development of your app startup forward, and investors will expect to see that you have made all efforts to do so even while bootstrapping the business yourself.
  4. What’s the plan? Investors also want to know your plans — where your business goes from here, and how you will reach your objectives and goals. Typically, this is displayed through an all-inclusive business plan and pitch deck, which will show investors each step that you will take to bring your idea into fruition successfully. Having a solid plan is essential to attracting seed funding, as it shows the potential of your business and provides a strategic schematic for how you will get there.

App Funding – Angels & VCs

In many cases, when app entrepreneurs mention that they are “seeking funding”, they are referring to financing through angel investors and venture capitalists (VCs). These two terms are not interchangeable, and have completely different definitions.

Angels & VCs

  • Angel Investors are usually wealthy entrepreneurs who are less experienced in investing (when compared to VCs), and invest their own money on their own terms. Angels are usually able to fund app investments quickly, as they are the final financial decision makers. As entrepreneurs themselves, angels often have a slew of knowledge that they can share, and are valuable in helping advise the businesses in their portfolio as they progress.
  • Venture Capitalists on the other hand, invest other people’s money and are often much more experienced in investing. Usually, VCs are much slower to invest, require much more time and information, and must go through several avenues before receiving final approval. In general, venture capitalists have access to much more cash than angel investors and mostly make larger investments.

Traditionally, VCs would fund early-stage apps, as opposed to startups in the seed funding stages. However, today’s scene is much different and there are VCs that also invest in app startups — and some firms that now specifically focus on funding new promising companies.

App Funding: How it Really Happens

Although angel investors and VCs are the most “talked about” funding options, the truth is, most app ideas don’t get developed this way.

App Funding

There is something to realize about funding app startups. The first investor you’re going to have to convince to make an investment, is yourself. Determined app entrepreneurs believe in their idea and their team so much that they are willing to put their finances on the line early on. Most people won’t invest in someone who isn’t willing to invest in themselves.

If three founders invest $5,000 a piece into an app idea, they will likely be able to either build several prototypes or a first version minimal viable product app. Launch your prototype to a limited number of beta customers to see whether they behave the way you believe that they would. If you don’t have a team, take the same $5,000 and invest it in effective market testing strategies such as surveys, customer interviews, smoke tests, and landing pages.

Don’t know how to come up with money to invest into your own business? Many entrepreneurs consider the following:

  • Savings: It can be scary emptying your next-egg to invest in your app idea. Entrepreneurship however, is about taking calculated risks with the expectation of a high return. Don’t expect someone else to take their savings and invest in your venture if you aren’t.  
  • Retirement Accounts: Any asset that can be liquidated can be used to fund your business, including your home equity and your retirement accounts. If you have the belief that you will one day be a multi-millionaire app entrepreneur, then you really don’t need a 401k anyway right? It takes real dedication to risk your future retirement comfort for a dream, but essentially, that’s what you’re asking others to do.
  • Loans: If you don’t have any savings or assets, you can borrow the money from someone who does, such as a bank or lending institution. Likely, your startup will not be in a position to take out a business loan, so your personal credit history will used to determine your worthiness. As a last ditch effort, you can also finance your app with credit cards — sometime an entrepreneur has to make tough decisions to move forward.

Once you have completed initial testing and have collected a significant quantity of data that supports your concept, you can start seeking outside funding. However, at this point, you still aren’t ready to approach angel investors and VCs. Instead, identify what it would take to move your app into the next stage and look for initial seed funding through:

  • Family and Friends – I already know what just went through your mind. You just said to yourself, “There’s no way I would go begging my family and friends for money to start my app.” That’s a very emotional reaction, but not the thought process of a committed app entrepreneur. You’re not ‘begging’ your friends, you are offering an opportunity to be a part of something great. Many people advise against doing business with family and friends, as it can cause issues in the relationship if any disagreements arise. In reality though, there are thousands and thousands of family-owned businesses throughout the country who have issues like every other family, but otherwise work together for their own financial gain. It can be difficult to get a stranger to believe in you and your app idea. Sometimes the only people who will believe in you are the people who know you personally and know how passionate you are about your business.
  • Crowdfunding – This option is often overlooked by startups, and in many cases, I’m not sure if its because they don’t believe that others have literally raised millions of dollars this way; or if deep down they just fear facing whether their app idea will succeed or not. Crowdfunding will tell you a lot about your app idea. Your ability to identify and reach your target market will be put to the test; whether they care for your solution enough to pre-order it will be identified; and the viability of your concept may be questioned. However, if you have built an amazing MVP and a strong following, crowdfunding can be one of the quickest routes to startup funding.
  • Incubators – This option has been increasing in popularity, resulting in more incubators popping up all over the country. The great thing about many incubators is that some fund app startups in their idea/conceptual stages. In addition to providing funding for low equity amounts (i.e. $20,000 seed funding in exchange for 8% of the brand), these incubators often provide access to experienced advisors who can assist in propelling the app in its operation, and also provide further assistance with seeking venture capital.

Making The First Step Towards App Funding

Making The First Step Towards App Funding

Funding is the single reason that 95% of app ideas never get built. Many people think it is extremely difficult to find the money to build an app, but if it is worth the risk to you, there are many options available. The first step towards funding your app solution to is make a decision. Make it clear to yourself just how serious you are about starting your app.

Need to speak to an app startup expert about how to fund your app startup? Contact us and see what options are best for you.