Sketching Business Models

At the start of a project, we like to make sketches to help us understand the business we are trying to create. Who is the user? What is the product or service? And what is the business model? This helps us quickly identify the big risks on a project and then start targeting those risks in our work.

Spreadsheets + The Business Model Canvas

Until recently, the business model sketches have not been very satisfying. We’ve used a variety of tools, including spreadsheets and the business model canvas.

The problem with spreadsheets is that they’re typically too detailed. For the same reason that designers like to start with pencil and paper–not PhotoShop–modelers should avoid Excel. In the early stages of a project, a detailed spreadsheet presents a false precision about what you know.

Over the last 10 years or so, Alex Osterwalder has been doing some great work with the Business Model Canvas–and that’s a tool that a lot of teams use to articulate their business model. But I’ve always found it hard to use–my brain just doesn’t like the grid. And I’ve found that it takes a long time to explain the BMC to clients.

How To Sketch A Business Model

Recently, we hit upon a nice technique to sketch out a business model and I’m super excited about it. I don’t see this as a replacement for the Canvas or Excel. Instead, it’s a quick way that to get started, and a great way for teams to get on the same page.

So here’s a quick screencast that explains a method. Take a look (it’s only 8 minutes long) and let me know what you think.



Learning More

I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a response here or hit me on twitter: I’m @jseiden.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out my upcoming workshop on November 24 in London.

4 Ways Innovative Company Culture Pays for Itself

  Some of the most effective ways I motivate employees may surprise a controller or CFO. They may be surprised to learn that I gladly foot the bill for employees to see their coworkers’ art shows. But naysayers only need to be reminded that a happy employee is a more creative employee, a more motivated … Read More 4 Ways Innovative Company Culture Pays for Itself

Innovation Inc: The Future of Health and Technology

On Wednesday, September 2, Neo Innovation hosted Innovation Inc: The Future of Health and Technology, at the gorgeous Herman Miller showroom in downtown SF. A small salon-style event, Innovation inc is Neo’s recurrent speaking series with the goal of bringing together entrepreneurs, practitioners, and leadership for thought-provoking discussion around an industry or domain. On the … Read More Innovation Inc: The Future of Health and Technology

Neo’s Startup Residence Program

This fall, Neo is kicking off our Startup Residence Program. We’re thrilled to launch this initiative in both our NYC and SF offices. Neo’s mission is to help our clients imagine, innovate and validate new business opportunities, to create new kinds of businesses in fundamentally different ways. Neo’s Residence Program helps startups with a tough, … Read More Neo’s Startup Residence Program

Where Innovation Labs Fail: The Handoff

Innovation Labs are all the rage. Everyone, it seems, has read Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma and, in the face of mounting VC-fueled startup momentum and press headlines, taken its recommendations to heart for managing innovation. Build a separate innovation team. Isolate them both physically and financially from the organization. Remove any direct reporting structure to the … Read More Where Innovation Labs Fail: The Handoff

Prototyping Tools for Product Designers

There is a fantastic array of online prototyping tools available today. Tools like Marvel, Invision, Pop and Atomic, let us work faster and kill communication overhead. In this post, I’d like to share my favorites and give some guidance on which tools are best for which stage of product design. Matching the right tool to … Read More Prototyping Tools for Product Designers