Aspiring entrepreneurs often think about launching their own startups, but few realize the importance of financial modeling. Running scenarios with a startup financial model enables founders to accurately evaluate the financial performance of their venture prior to launching. Preparing a financial model is crucial for any startup founder to identify the potential pitfalls of the business, plan for their long term goals and ensure their venture is commercially viable. In this blog post, we’ll cover what a financial model is, discuss its importance when it comes to a startup and define the key metrics used to evaluate a startup financial model.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand what financial modeling is and why it is important for a startup
  • Discover the key metrics of a financial model used to assess the performance of a startup
  • Learn how to prepare a financial model to evaluate the commercial viability of a venture

Defining Financial Modeling

Financial modeling is a skill that involves building an abstract representation of a real-world financial situation. This representation is typically a mathematical model that uses comprehensive data sources and structured methods to map the financial components of a business. A financial model can be used to present and explain complex financial data to investors and better inform their decision-making.

Scope of activities encompassed

Financial models are used to understand financial impacts of various business activities. They are used to predict the performance of a business or its various components, assess various scenarios and evaluate risk. Financial models help in creating financially educated and informed decisions and managing investment portfolios more accurately. The scope of activities encompassed by financial modeling includes:

  • Cash flow forecasting.
  • Analyzing debt payments.
  • Developing pricing strategies.
  • Projecting investments.
  • Cost-benefit analysis of various initiatives.
  • Evaluating capital requirements.
  • Financial stress-testing.
  • Preparing financial statements.
  • Portfolio diversification.

What Are Scenarios?

In financial modeling, scenarios are a powerful tool used to understand the potential outcomes of an investment or decision. A scenario is a set of assumptions used as input data that attempts to predict future revenue, costs, and profits under specific conditions. It's important to understand that scenarios are “forecasts” that don’t necessarily reflect what will happen, but rather, give an idea on the potential outcomes under certain conditions.


A financial scenario assumes underlying values and outcomes based on a variety of factors, such as interest rates, policies, population increases, and inflation rates. By measuring the risk and reward of a potential decision, scenarios can be used to identify opportunities and inform decision-making.

How Scenarios Can Be Used to Inform Decision-Making

Scenarios can be especially useful for startups who are trying to gain an understanding of their investment strategy. By using scenarios to map out the possible outcomes, startups can make better decisions around their strategy. Some of the ways startups can use scenarios to inform their decision-making include:

  • Assessing the potential risks and rewards of different strategies
  • Understanding the impact of changes in key variables that may affect the business
  • Making educated decisions on what investments to make
  • Allocating funds to maximize returns based on the expected scenario
  • Conducting scenario analysis to better understand the effects of market volatility

Setting Up a Financial Model

Financial models are essential for startups looking to forecast, plan and develop their business. Setting up a financial model requires effective data collection and a structured approach to creating projections. This guide will provide advice and the step-by-step process to get the best out of data collection and projections.

Data Collection

Data collection is the first step in creating a financial model. Data needs to be collected for variables such as sales, costs, expenses, taxes and capital costs and invested capital to assess the performance, profitability and risks of the business. As a startup, it is important to accurately capture the current status of the business and anticipate any changes in the near future.

By collecting and entering relevant data, the financial model can be used to project expectations for the business. Different sources of data such as public information, market research, customer surveys and industry reports provide an abundance of data. Accurate data collection leads to more realistic projections.

Creating Projections

Once all relevant data is collected, startup founders can start creating projections in the financial model. Executing all the assumptions and variables creates projected results that offer insights into the future performance and profitability of the business.

It is helpful to review the data on a rolling basis and to tweak assumptions that can change to provide more reliable outcomes. Additionally, startups can compare their data to their peers to gain more insight into their financial position. Tracking the impact of any changes to the business model is essential in understanding the financial position of the startup.

  • Track the impact of any changes to the business model.
  • Review data on a rolling basis.
  • Compare data to peers to gain insight.
  • Develop a structure for assumptions.

Running Scenarios with a Startup Financial Model

Running scenarios with a startup financial model is an effective way of understanding the financial potential of a business venture, as well as the potential obstacles that may come into play when starting a new business venture. When a startup financial model is used to simulate likely outcomes, an entrepreneur can make more educated decisions that could help to improve their chances of success.

Advantages of Running Scenarios

Running scenarios with a startup financial model helps entrepreneurs gain a better understanding of the implications of the various variables that operate on the financial landscape of a company. Scenarios are useful as they can identify how changes in costs, pricing, marketing campaigns, and other variables can influence the level of profitability a venture is likely to experience. By simulating various scenarios, an entrepreneur can get insights into the ‘what if’ questions that need to be answered when making decisions.

In addition, running scenarios can also help entrepreneurs to factor in uncertainties or risks that may arise from external factors. With a startup financial model, entrepreneurs can simulate multiple different scenarios that could involve changes in the wider economic environment. This enables them to plan for such possibilities and be prepared for such events when they do occur.

Considerations to Ensure Accuracy When Creating Models

When creating a startup financial model, there are several considerations to ensure the results are accurate. Firstly, the input variables should be regularly checked and updated to ensure the model accurately accounts for inflation, taxes, and other economic factors. In addition, break-even points, return on investment, and other factors should be analysed to ensure the model is accurate.

Furthermore, it is important to use reliable data sources when creating models. Using reliable and up-to-date data sets helps to ensure the model results are as realistic as possible.

  • Regularly check and update input variables to account for inflation and taxes
  • Analyse break-even points, return on investment and other factors
  • Use reliable and up-to-date data sources

Running Scenarios with a Startup Financial Model

Examples of Scenarios to Run

To understand the potential risks and opportunities associated with a startup business, it is important to run different scenarios that simulate different market conditions. Below are some examples of scenarios that can be run with a financial model.

'What If' Scenarios

The first category of scenario to consider is a ‘what if’ scenario. These scenarios test for a specific hypothesis or assumption. By running different what if scenarios, you can understand the business imperative or risk associated with a particular variable. For example, you could experiment with different sales growth rates, different pricing structures, or different cost assumptions in order to calculate the potential financial impact of these variables.

Sensitivity Analysis

The second type of scenario to consider is a sensitivity analysis. This type of analysis looks at the effect of changing one variable, while holding all other variables constant. For example, this could include looking at the impact on profitability if the cost of an input material increases or the impact on cash flow if the customer payment terms become longer. This type of analysis provides an understanding of the sensitivity of the business to changes in key business variables.


To effectively manage and understand the financials of a startup, running scenarios with a financial model can be a valuable tool. Running scenarios means making changes within the model and seeing how it affects the rest of the financials and the overall business. Depending upon the budget, the model could have a simple spreadsheet format or a more advanced financial modeling software such as Tableau, Apache Zeppelin, or CPLEX Optimization Studio.

Summary of key points

  • Running different scenarios is a valuable tool to understand a startup's financial position and make more accurate predictions.
  • Different budget levels support different types of financial models ranging from simple spreadsheets to more sophisticated financial modeling software.
  • The quality of the financial model depends on having accurate and up-to-date assumptions.
  • Running scenarios with a financial model can highlight potential issues and help develop strategies to improve the finances of a startup.

Closing remarks

Running scenarios with a financial model is an important exercise to managing the finances of a startup. It is a great way to better understand and strategize the financials to improve the long-term success of the business.

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