A cash model template for startups

If you’re leading a startup, on the short list of things you’ve got to make sure of is don’t run out of cash. For that reason it makes good sense to forecast how much cash you will bring in, how much you will spend, and ultimately, when you expect to run out.

I made a model that does just that for Ticketleap, the Philly startup I joined as CFO in 2009 and where I currently serve as CEO. After six years of gradual improvements it serves us pretty well. I figured I’d clean it up and put it on the internet in case it’s helpful to anyone else as a starting point:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/startup-finance-stuff/model_model_1.0.xlsx

Tips for using this model

  • The key value it provides is to tie together revenue and expense forecasts into a balance sheet, P&L, and cash flow statements. The inputs are meant to be a starting point and are fully customizable via Excel.
  • Specifically, you’re probably going to have to re-do the revenue forecast method from scratch to fit your business. I like to have new business from each traction channel on its own tab then an overall retention tab for non-new business. This helps answer the question “why are we exceeding plan?” and otherwise evaluate the business.
  • For Ticketleap, I happen to forecast GM then use an assumption to get from there to revenue (the other way around is probably more typical, and you can easily change it to that).
  • Assumptions are blue. Actuals are orange. Calculated values are black. In this template, 2014 is “actual” and 2015 is forecast.
  • I like to include historic actuals by cohort on each of the revenue forecast tabs. It comes in handy to help validate the assumptions to both yourself and anyone else you’re trying to convince.
  • The costs tabs (“people costs” and “other costs”) send values to the P&L and balance sheet through columns C & D, respectively. The P&L “codes” like “GA” are pretty explanatory once you see the P&L tab.
  • The balance sheet is a little more complicated. AP (accounts payable) will delay the cash outlay associated with the expense for one month and PP (prepaid expenses) will fast forward it one month. Lines without any codes are simply assumed to be paid in the same month of the expense. More complicated payment timeframes are handled on the “Cash Timing” tab. To indicate that something was calculated on that tab, I use the “>” symbol, but that’s just a reminder and serves no other function (unlike the two-letter codes).
  • If you have a question or feedback, either leave a note here on Medium or find me at @timraybould on Twitter. If I get enough feedback, maybe I’ll iterate on it a bit and release updated versions.

If your startup has events and wants to sell tickets or register people online, Ticketleap is really good at that ☺