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What Is a Business Model?

Understanding business models, evaluating successful business models, how to create a business model.

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The Bottom Line

Learn to understand a company's profit-making plan

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Yarilet Perez is an experienced multimedia journalist and fact-checker with a Master of Science in Journalism. She has worked in multiple cities covering breaking news, politics, education, and more. Her expertise is in personal finance and investing, and real estate.

business model for business

Investopedia / Laura Porter

The term business model refers to a company's plan for making a profit . It identifies the products or services the business plans to sell, its identified target market , and any anticipated expenses . Business models are important for both new and established businesses. They help new, developing companies attract investment, recruit talent, and motivate management and staff.

Established businesses should regularly update their business model or they'll fail to anticipate trends and challenges ahead. Business models also help investors evaluate companies that interest them and employees understand the future of a company they may aspire to join.

Key Takeaways

  • A business model is a company's core strategy for profitably doing business.
  • Models generally include information like products or services the business plans to sell, target markets, and any anticipated expenses.
  • There are dozens of types of business models including retailers, manufacturers, fee-for-service, or freemium providers.
  • The two levers of a business model are pricing and costs.
  • When evaluating a business model as an investor, consider whether the product being offered matches a true need in the market.

A business model is a high-level plan for profitably operating a business in a specific marketplace. A primary component of the business model is the value proposition . This is a description of the goods or services that a company offers and why they are desirable to customers or clients, ideally stated in a way that differentiates the product or service from its competitors.

A new enterprise's business model should also cover projected startup costs and financing sources, the target customer base for the business, marketing strategy , a review of the competition, and projections of revenues and expenses. The plan may also define opportunities in which the business can partner with other established companies. For example, the business model for an advertising business may identify benefits from an arrangement for referrals to and from a printing company.

Successful businesses have business models that allow them to fulfill client needs at a competitive price and a sustainable cost. Over time, many businesses revise their business models from time to time to reflect changing business environments and market demands .

When evaluating a company as a possible investment, the investor should find out exactly how it makes its money. This means looking through the company's business model. Admittedly, the business model may not tell you everything about a company's prospects. But the investor who understands the business model can make better sense of the financial data.

A common mistake many companies make when they create their business models is to underestimate the costs of funding the business until it becomes profitable. Counting costs to the introduction of a product is not enough. A company has to keep the business running until its revenues exceed its expenses.

One way analysts and investors evaluate the success of a business model is by looking at the company's gross profit . Gross profit is a company's total revenue minus the cost of goods sold (COGS). Comparing a company's gross profit to that of its main competitor or its industry sheds light on the efficiency and effectiveness of its business model. Gross profit alone can be misleading, however. Analysts also want to see cash flow or net income . That is gross profit minus operating expenses and is an indication of just how much real profit the business is generating.

The two primary levers of a company's business model are pricing and costs. A company can raise prices, and it can find inventory at reduced costs. Both actions increase gross profit. Many analysts consider gross profit to be more important in evaluating a business plan. A good gross profit suggests a sound business plan. If expenses are out of control, the management team could be at fault, and the problems are correctable. As this suggests, many analysts believe that companies that run on the best business models can run themselves.

When evaluating a company as a possible investment, find out exactly how it makes its money (not just what it sells but how it sells it). That's the company's business model.

Types of Business Models

There are as many types of business models as there are types of business. For instance, direct sales, franchising , advertising-based, and brick-and-mortar stores are all examples of traditional business models. There are hybrid models as well, such as businesses that combine internet retail with brick-and-mortar stores or with sporting organizations like the NBA .

Below are some common types of business models; note that the examples given may fall into multiple categories.

One of the more common business models most people interact with regularly is the retailer model. A retailer is the last entity along a supply chain. They often buy finished goods from manufacturers or distributors and interface directly with customers.

Example: Costco Wholesale

Manufacturer

A manufacturer is responsible for sourcing raw materials and producing finished products by leveraging internal labor, machinery, and equipment. A manufacturer may make custom goods or highly replicated, mass produced products. A manufacturer can also sell goods to distributors, retailers, or directly to customers.

Example: Ford Motor Company

Fee-for-Service

Instead of selling products, fee-for-service business models are centered around labor and providing services. A fee-for-service business model may charge by an hourly rate or a fixed cost for a specific agreement. Fee-for-service companies are often specialized, offering insight that may not be common knowledge or may require specific training.

Example: DLA Piper LLP

Subscription

Subscription-based business models strive to attract clients in the hopes of luring them into long-time, loyal patrons. This is done by offering a product that requires ongoing payment, usually in return for a fixed duration of benefit. Though largely offered by digital companies for access to software, subscription business models are also popular for physical goods such as monthly reoccurring agriculture/produce subscription box deliveries.

Example: Spotify

Freemium business models attract customers by introducing them to basic, limited-scope products. Then, with the client using their service, the company attempts to convert them to a more premium, advance product that requires payment. Although a customer may theoretically stay on freemium forever, a company tries to show the benefit of what becoming an upgraded member can hold.

Example: LinkedIn/LinkedIn Premium

Some companies can reside within multiple business model types at the same time for the same product. For example, Spotify (a subscription-based model) also offers a free version and a premium version.

If a company is concerned about the cost of attracting a single customer, it may attempt to bundle products to sell multiple goods to a single client. Bundling capitalizes on existing customers by attempting to sell them different products. This can be incentivized by offering pricing discounts for buying multiple products.

Example: AT&T

Marketplace

Marketplaces are somewhat straight-forward: in exchange for hosting a platform for business to be conducted, the marketplace receives compensation. Although transactions could occur without a marketplace, this business model attempts to make transacting easier, safer, and faster.

Example: eBay

Affiliate business models are based on marketing and the broad reach of a specific entity or person's platform. Companies pay an entity to promote a good, and that entity often receives compensation in exchange for their promotion. That compensation may be a fixed payment, a percentage of sales derived from their promotion, or both.

Example: social media influencers such as Lele Pons, Zach King, or Chiara Ferragni.

Razor Blade

Aptly named after the product that invented the model, this business model aims to sell a durable product below cost to then generate high-margin sales of a disposable component of that product. Also referred to as the "razor and blade model", razor blade companies may give away expensive blade handles with the premise that consumers need to continually buy razor blades in the long run.

Example: HP (printers and ink)

"Tying" is an illegal razor blade model strategy that requires the purchase of an unrelated good prior to being able to buy a different (and often required) good. For example, imagine Gillette released a line of lotion and required all customers to buy three bottles before they were allowed to purchase disposable razor blades.

Reverse Razor Blade

Instead of relying on high-margin companion products, a reverse razor blade business model tries to sell a high-margin product upfront. Then, to use the product, low or free companion products are provided. This model aims to promote that upfront sale, as further use of the product is not highly profitable.

Example: Apple (iPhones + applications)

The franchise business model leverages existing business plans to expand and reproduce a company at a different location. Often food, hardware, or fitness companies, franchisers work with incoming franchisees to finance the business, promote the new location, and oversee operations. In return, the franchisor receives a percentage of earnings from the franchisee.

Example: Domino's Pizza

Pay-As-You-Go

Instead of charging a fixed fee, some companies may implement a pay-as-you-go business model where the amount charged depends on how much of the product or service was used. The company may charge a fixed fee for offering the service in addition to an amount that changes each month based on what was consumed.

Example: Utility companies

A brokerage business model connects buyers and sellers without directly selling a good themselves. Brokerage companies often receive a percentage of the amount paid when a deal is finalized. Most common in real estate, brokers are also prominent in construction/development or freight.

Example: ReMax

There is no "one size fits all" when making a business model. Different professionals may suggest taking different steps when creating a business and planning your business model. Here are some broad steps one can take to create their plan:

  • Identify your audience. Most business model plans will start with either defining the problem or identifying your audience and target market . A strong business model will understand who you are trying to target so you can craft your product, messaging, and approach to connecting with that audience.
  • Define the problem. In addition to understanding your audience, you must know what problem you are trying to solve. A hardware company sells products for home repairs. A restaurant feeds the community. Without a problem or a need, your business may struggle to find its footing if there isn't a demand for your services or products.
  • Understand your offerings. With your audience and problem in mind, consider what you are able to offer. What products are you interested in selling, and how does your expertise match that product? In this stage of the business model, the product is tweaked to adapt to what the market needs and what you're able to provide.
  • Document your needs. With your product selected, consider the hurdles your company will face. This includes product-specific challenges as well as operational difficulties. Make sure to document each of these needs to assess whether you are ready to launch in the future.
  • Find key partners. Most businesses will leverage other partners in driving company success. For example, a wedding planner may forge relationships with venues, caterers, florists, and tailors to enhance their offering. For manufacturers, consider who will provide your materials and how critical your relationship with that provider will be.
  • Set monetization solutions. Until now, we haven't talked about how your company will make money. A business model isn't complete until it identifies how it will make money. This includes selecting the strategy or strategies above in determining your business model type. This might have been a type you had in mind but after reviewing your clients needs, a different type might now make more sense.
  • Test your model. When your full plan is in place, perform test surveys or soft launches. Ask how people would feel paying your prices for your services. Offer discounts to new customers in exchange for reviews and feedback. You can always adjust your business model, but you should always consider leveraging direct feedback from the market when doing so.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, consider what competing companies are doing and how you can position yourself in the market. You may be able to easily spot gaps in the business model of others.

Criticism of Business Models

Joan Magretta, the former editor of the Harvard Business Review, suggests there are two critical factors in sizing up business models. When business models don't work, she states, it's because the story doesn't make sense and/or the numbers just don't add up to profits. The airline industry is a good place to look to find a business model that stopped making sense. It includes companies that have suffered heavy losses and even bankruptcy .

For years, major carriers such as American Airlines, Delta, and Continental built their businesses around a hub-and-spoke structure , in which all flights were routed through a handful of major airports. By ensuring that most seats were filled most of the time, the business model produced big profits.

However, a competing business model arose that made the strength of the major carriers a burden. Carriers like Southwest and JetBlue shuttled planes between smaller airports at a lower cost. They avoided some of the operational inefficiencies of the hub-and-spoke model while forcing labor costs down. That allowed them to cut prices, increasing demand for short flights between cities.

As these newer competitors drew more customers away, the old carriers were left to support their large, extended networks with fewer passengers. The problem became even worse when traffic fell sharply following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 . To fill seats, these airlines had to offer more discounts at even deeper levels. The hub-and-spoke business model no longer made sense.

Example of Business Models

Consider the vast portfolio of Microsoft. Over the past several decades, the company has expanded its product line across digital services, software, gaming, and more. Various business models, all within Microsoft, include but are not limited to:

  • Productivity and Business Processes: Microsoft offers subscriptions to Office products and LinkedIn. These subscriptions may be based off product usage (i.e. the amount of data being uploaded to SharePoint).
  • Intelligent Cloud: Microsoft offers server products and cloud services for a subscription. This also provide services and consulting.
  • More Personal Computing: Microsoft sells physically manufactured products such as Surface, PC components, and Xbox hardware. Residual Xbox sales include content, services, subscriptions, royalties, and advertising revenue.

A business model is a strategic plan of how a company will make money. The model describes the way a business will take its product, offer it to the market, and drive sales. A business model determines what products make sense for a company to sell, how it wants to promote its products, what type of people it should try to cater to, and what revenue streams it may expect.

What Is an Example of a Business Model?

Best Buy, Target, and Walmart are some of the largest examples of retail companies. These companies acquire goods from manufacturers or distributors to sell directly to the public. Retailers interface with their clients and sell goods, though retails may or may not make the actual goods they sell.

What Are the Main Types of Business Models?

Retailers and manufacturers are among the primary types of business models. Manufacturers product their own goods and may or may not sell them directly to the public. Meanwhile, retails buy goods to later resell to the public.

How Do I Build a Business Model?

There are many steps to building a business model, and there is no single consistent process among business experts. In general, a business model should identify your customers, understand the problem you are trying to solve, select a business model type to determine how your clients will buy your product, and determine the ways your company will make money. It is also important to periodically review your business model; once you've launched, feel free to evaluate your plan and adjust your target audience, product line, or pricing as needed.

A company isn't just an entity that sells goods. It's an ecosystem that must have a plan in plan on who to sell to, what to sell, what to charge, and what value it is creating. A business model describes what an organization does to systematically create long-term value for its customers. After building a business model, a company should have stronger direction on how it wants to operate and what its financial future appears to be.

Harvard Business Review. " Why Business Models Matter ."

Bureau of Transportation Statistics. " Airline Travel Since 9/11 ."

Microsoft. " Annual Report 2023 ."

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8 Types of Business Models & the Value They Deliver

Stacks of coins in a garden

  • 26 May 2016

You want to start a company but aren’t sure about a viable business model. How might you create something that people are willing to pay for and could earn you a profit?

Before diving into potential strategies, it’s important to understand what a business is and does. At its heart, a business generates value for its customers. A business model is a specific method used to create and deliver this value.

What Is Value in Business?

A successful business creates something of value . The world is filled with opportunities to fulfill people’s wants and needs, and your job as an entrepreneur is to find a way to capitalize on these opportunities.

A viable business model is one that allows a business to charge a price for the value it’s creating, such that the business brings in enough money to make it worthwhile and continue operating over time. Whatever the business is offering must also satisfy the customer’s needs and quality expectations.

It’s important to note that value is subjective. What’s valuable to one person may not be to another. Moreover, the concept of value excludes any moral judgments about the intrinsic worth of an offering. For example, while most would agree that human life is more valuable than sports, some professional athletes make far more money than the average brain surgeon.

Nonetheless, the concept of value provides a useful bedrock on which to begin building your business model. In particular, consider what forms of value people are willing to pay for. Here are eight potential business models and the forms of value they deliver—as well as the pros and cons of each—to help you get started.

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8 Types of Business Models to Explore

A product is a tangible item of value. To run a successful product-focused business, try to produce the item for as low a cost as possible while maintaining a reasonable level of quality. Once the item is produced, your objective should be to sell as many units as you can for as high a price as people are willing to pay to maximize profit.

Products are all around us. From laptops to books to HBS Online courses (products don’t have to be physical), products are a classic form of value with high upside if you can get them right.

  • Pros: Many products can be easily duplicated. Thus, firms can achieve economies of scale after bearing some upfront costs of production.
  • Cons: Physical products need to be stored as inventory, which can increase costs. They can also be damaged or lost more easily than, say, a service.

Related: How to Create an Effective Value Proposition

A service involves offering assistance to someone else for a fee. To make money from your service, provide a skill to others that they either can’t or don’t want to do themselves. If possible, repeatedly provide this benefit to them at a high quality.

Like products, services are in abundance, especially in the knowledge economy. From hairdressers to construction workers to consultants to teachers, people with lucrative skills can earn good money for their time.

  • Pros: If you have a skill in high demand or a skill that very few others have, you can charge a fair price for your time and stand out in your field.
  • Cons: If you don’t charge enough for your services, or many people have your skill, your business may not be as lucrative.

3. Shared Assets

A shared asset is a resource that many people can use. Such resources allow the owner to create or purchase the item once and then charge customers for its use. To run a profitable business around shared assets, you need to balance the tradeoff of serving as many customers as you can without affecting the overall quality of the experience.

For instance, think of a fitness center. A gym typically buys treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, bikes, and other equipment and charges customers monthly membership fees for access to these shared assets. The key is to charge customers enough to maintain and, if needed, replace their assets over time. Finding the right range of customers is the key to making a shared asset model work.

  • Pros: This model provides people access to a lot of assets they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. In addition, many people are willing to pay a lot for access to trendy social spaces.
  • Cons: Because they don’t own the assets, customers have little incentive to treat your resources well. Make sure you have enough in your budget for quick fixes, if necessary.

4. Subscription

A subscription is a type of program in which a user pays a recurring fee for access to certain specified benefits. These benefits often include the recurring provision of products or services. Unlike a shared asset, however, your experience with the product or service isn’t affected by others.

To have a successful subscription-based offering, build a subscriber base by providing reliable value over time while attracting new customers.

The number of subscription services has exploded in recent years. From magazines to streaming services to grocery and wine delivery subscriptions, businesses are turning to the subscription-based model, often with great success.

  • Pros: This model provides certainty in the form of predictable revenue streams, making financial forecasting a bit easier. It also benefits from a loyal customer base and customer inertia (for instance, customers may forget to cancel their subscription).
  • Cons: To run this model, your business operations must be strong. If you can’t deliver value consistently over time, you may want to consider a different business model.

5. Lease/Rental

A lease involves obtaining an asset and renting it out for an agreed-upon amount of time in exchange for a fee. You can lease virtually anything, but it’s in your best interest to rent assets that are durable enough to be returned in good condition. This ensures you can lease the good multiple times and, perhaps, eventually sell it.

To profit from leases, the key is to ensure that the revenue you get from leasing the asset before it loses value is greater than the purchase price. This requires you to price the rental of the item strategically and potentially not lease to those who may not return it in good condition. This is why many rentals of high-value items require references, credit checks, or other background information that can predict how someone may return the leased item.

  • Pros: You don’t have to have a novel idea to make money using a lease business model. You can purchase assets and rent them to others who wouldn’t buy them for full value and earn a premium.
  • Cons: You need to protect yourself from unexpected damage to your assets. One way to do so is through insurance.

6. Insurance

Insurance entails the transfer of risk from a customer to a seller of an insurance policy. In exchange for the insurance company (the seller of the policy) taking on the risk of a specified event occurring, they receive periodic payments ("premiums" in insurance lingo) from the policyholder. If the specified event doesn’t happen, the insurance company keeps the money, but if it does, the company has to pay the policyholder.

In a sense, insurance is the sale of safety—it provides value by protecting people from unlikely, but catastrophic, risks. Policyholders can take insurance out on almost anything: life, health, house, car, boat, and more. To run a successful insurance company, you have to accurately estimate the likelihood of bad events occurring and charge higher premiums than the claims you pay out to your customers.

  • Pros: If you calculate risk accurately, you’re guaranteed to make money using the insurance business model.
  • Cons: It can be difficult to accurately calculate the likelihood of specific events occurring. Insurance only works because it spreads risk over large numbers of policyholders. Insurance companies can fail if a large portion of policyholders is impacted by a widespread, negative event they didn’t see coming (for example, the Global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008).

Related: 5 Steps to Validate Your Business Idea

7. Reselling

Reselling is the purchasing of an asset from one seller and the subsequent sale of that asset to an end buyer at a premium price. Reselling is the process through which most major retailers purchase the products they then sell to buyers. For example, think of farmers supplying fruits and vegetables to a grocery store or manufacturers selling goods to a hardware store.

Companies make money through resale by purchasing large quantities of items (usually at a bulk discount) from wholesalers and selling single items for a higher price to individuals. This price raise is called a markup.

  • Pros: Markups can often be high for retail sales, enabling you to earn a profit on the items you resell. For example, a bottle of water might cost 10 cents to produce, whereas a customer may be willing to pay $1.50 or more for the same bottle.
  • Cons: You need to be able to gain access to quality products at low costs for the reselling business model to work. You’ll also need the physical space to store inventory to manage sales cycles.

8. Agency/Promotion

Agents create value by marketing an asset, which they don’t own, to an interested buyer. They then earn a fee or a commission for bringing the buyer and seller together. Thus, instead of using their own assets to create value, they team up with others to help promote them to the world.

Running a successful agency requires good connections, excellent negotiation skills , and a willingness to work with a diverse set of individuals. One example is a sports agent who promotes players to teams and negotiates on their behalf to get the best deal. In return, they typically receive compensation equal to a certain percentage of the contract.

  • Pros: You can highly profit from expertise and connections in your industry, be it publishing, acting, advertising, or something else.
  • Cons: You only get paid if you seal the deal, so you have to be able to live with some uncertainty.

So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur: How to Get Started | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Setting Your Business Up for Success

These eight types of business models each have pros and cons and deliver value in their own ways. If you’re looking to start a business and need a place to start, one of these could be the best fit for your venture and entrepreneurial skill set .

Interested in honing your entrepreneurial skills? Explore our four-week online course Entrepreneurship Essentials and our other entrepreneurship and innovation courses to learn the language of the business world.

This post was updated on February 19, 2021, and is a compilation of two posts, previously published on May 26, 2016, and June 2, 2016.

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The 9-Step Business Model Canvas Explained (2023 Update)

business model for business

Written by Raquel Alberdi

Business | entrepreneurship, 16 comments(s).

Business Model Canvas

Blog » The 9-Step Business Model Canvas Explained (2023 Update)

business model for business

“A major mistake made by many start-ups around the world is focusing on the technology, the software, the product, and the design, but neglecting to ever figure out the business . And by “business” we simply mean how the company makes money by acquiring and serving its customers”.

-Reid Hoffman

After meeting with hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners over the years I believe the LinkedIn co-founder and Blitzscaling author Reid Hoffman’s got it spot on.

People tend to focus on specific parts of their business, such as which software packages are being used, which is the cheapest supplier, how to optimize internal processes…?

They get so bogged down in the details of the day-to-day running that they lose the overall vision of their business.

Without this vision they are unable to scale, they make marginal profits, miss opportunities, struggle to innovate, and end up running “just another” business.

Another handy metaphor in understanding this common mistake is the soldier in the trenches .

Every meter of ground gained comes at a heavy cost, mistakes are made, and progress is hard-fought and slow…a day-to-day experience for 99% of entrepreneurs and businessmen.

But when you do have that 360 vision you see the entire battlefield. Decisions are much clearer, fewer mistakes are made, and progress is fast and methodical.

Fortunately, a business model framework exists that gives you both vision and clarity .

The Business Model Canvas provides entrepreneurs, business owners, and strategists with a tool to analyze, structure, and evolve a business while always keeping the bigger picture front of mind.

So let’s take a closer look at how it works.

Table of Content

What is the Business Model Canvas?

Created by Swiss entrepreneur and Strategyzer co-founder, Alexander Osterwalder, the Business Model Canvas is a visual representation of the 9 key building blocks that form the foundations of every successful business. It’s a blueprint to help entrepreneurs invent, design, and build models with a more systematic approach.

Why is it so popular within the business community?

Its simplicity. The business model canvas allows us to carry out a high-level analysis without drilling down and getting lost in the details. You just draw out the 9 building blocks on a blank canvas, fill them in as each concept relates to your business, and hang it somewhere everybody can see.

It’s a visual overview of your entire business on a single canvas.

While the Business Model Canvas is an extremely fluid concept and hyper-specific to individual companies, each canvas is still broken down into these 9 key building blocks:

Customer Segments

Value propositions, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners.

When laid out on the canvas the model will look something like this:

 Scheme of business model in which 9 important fields are developed for its execution.

While you’ve probably come across each of the 9 building blocks before, the attractiveness of the Business Model Canvas is that it confines them to a single page , not a traditional 42-page document.

This makes it a lot easier to digest, as well as assess existing business models or map out new ideas.

How do I fill out the Business Model Canvas?

To start your Business Model Canvas you will need to breakdown and analyze each of the 9 building blocks.

A good way to approach this is to gather the heads from marketing, sales, operations, finance, and manufacturing (if product-based) and pencil-in a morning where you can all meet together.

Then, after drawing a mock canvas onto a whiteboard, proceed to dissect and discuss each of the 9 building blocks as they relate to your business. You can use sticky notes to better organize your thoughts around the canvas.

If you are an entrepreneur or new business owner working alone and don’t have a team to bounce your ideas off, not to worry. You can still carry out your analysis before sharing it with a like-minded entrepreneurial community or forum, like those found on ThePowerMBA , to get useful, insightful feedback.

Whichever way you decide to approach it, I recommend you complete each block in the following order:

  • Cost structure

For continuity, I’m going to use the fashion retail giant Zara when analyzing each of the 9 key building blocks.

If you’d like to skip to another case study similar to your own business, navigate to the table of contents at the top of the page and select one of the other business model canvas examples.

Customer segment business model canvas for Zara company

The first block of the Business Canvas Model is about understanding who is the most important customer(s) you’re delivering value to. Or, in other words, who are they? What do they do? And why would they buy your product or service?

Not a single company exists without its clients, making customer segments the best block to start with while drawing out your business model canvas.

A great exercise to define your customer segments is to brainstorm and create your company’s buyer persona (s) .

Buyer personas are fictional depictions of an ideal or hypothetical client. Typically when brainstorming a buyer persona you’d want to define certain characteristics (age, demographic, gender, income, industry, pain points, goals, etc.)

However, remember at this stage we want a snapshot of our customer segment. There’s no need to jump into great detail just yet.

In the case of Zara, there are three distinct customer segments to whom they offer different products.

The products created for each of these customer segments (clothing, shoes, and accessories) are not trans-consumable. That is to say, a woman’s dress is highly unlikely to be worn by a 7-year-old child.

Once we know exactly who it is we are targeting, it’s time to look at what we as a company have to offer.

Zara Customer Segments business model canvas template showing the development of the 9 fields

The second phase is about figuring out your company’s value propositions , and importantly, your UVP (unique value proposition). The “what” that makes customers turn to you, over your competitors? Which of their problems are you best at solving?

Each value proposition consists of a bundle of products or services that fulfill the needs of a buyer persona from your customer segment. It’s the intersection between what your company offers, and the reason or impulse customers have for purchasing.

Some popular questions to ask while determining your UVP are:

  • Which specific customer pain point are you trying to solve?
  • What job are you helping customers get done?
  • How does your UVP eliminate customer pain points?
  • What products or services do you provide that answer this specific pain point?

So let’s try and apply this to Zara. Why do people choose to purchase from them, over their competitors?

Zara’s principal value propositions are fairly clear. They offer various ranges of stylish men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and accessories at an affordable price.

But there’s more to it than that.

If we dive a little deeper we see Zara’s value propositions are more complex, which are behind the success of the brand:

Fast fashion

Zara adds new clothes and designs to its collections every 2-3 weeks, both in its stores and online. It keeps the brand updated, fresh, and modern while maintaining its all-important medium price point

Great eCommerce experience

Once you enter Zara’s online store you’re presented with a clean, easy-to-navigate, and high-end feel. The customer segments are visible on the left navigation bar with a search tab to further aid customers with their online experience.

Zara's Canvas business model where you can see the innovative presentation of its image

Localized stores

You can find a store in nearly all major retail locations (shopping malls, retail outlets, airports, etc.) meaning accessibility is not an issue for the majority of consumers.

Flagship stores

Zara demonstrates its aesthetic evolution to customers through its flagship stores. The recent opening of their Hudson Yards , New York City flagship is a great example of this. Customers shop around its vivid, minimalist layout offering them an experience aligned with the brand’s deeper, eco-friendly values.

Zara's Canvas business model where you can see the innovative presentation of the image of its stores

Zara Hudson Yards, New York

Business Model Canvas Template Zara - Value Propositions

The next step is to ask yourself how you are reaching your customers, and through which channels ?

This includes both the channels that customers want to communicate with you as well as how they’ll receive your products or services.

Is it going to be a physical channel? (store, field sales representatives, etc.) Or is it a digital channel? (mobile, web, cloud, etc.).

Zara has 3 primary channels in which they communicate and deliver products to its customers:

  • Direct sales through their stores
  • Online (both app and website)
  • Social media

Customers can go to a traditional “bricks and mortar” store to browse, model, and purchase different items of clothing at one of their retail stores.

Alternatively, they can shop online or through their mobile application and have the product delivered straight to their door or nearest store. The choice is completely up to them!

So that covers Zara’s commercial channels, but what about how they communicate with customers?

While they do communicate through their mobile app, their predominant channel is social media.

What’s more, they’re really, really good at it.

For example, did you know that Zara invests less than 0.3% of its sales revenue into advertising?

This is only possible due to an A-rated social media presence . Customer queries are not only dealt with quickly, but recommended re-works are sent back to HQ, forwarded onto in-house designers who then apply the feedback to future collections.

This customer-first approach through fluid communication channels has saved them thousands of dollars in marketing, strengthened their brand, and created a loyal customer base.

You should only step away from this building block once you’ve decided how each of your customer segments want to be reached.

Zara Channels business model canvas template where its components are developed

Once you have acquired customers, you will need to think about how you can build , nurture, and grow those relationships.

Now, this can be automated and transactional like large eCommerce brands Amazon or Alibaba. Or, it could be at the complete opposite end of the scale and require a more personal relationship you’d typically have with a bank or your local bike shop.

Zara’s relationship with its customers is threefold, and lies somewhere in the middle of transactional and personal:

  • Salesperson at store
  • Brand through social media
  • Sentimental attachment to a product

Yes, you have the initial transactional touchpoint at the store or online, something relatively impersonal and for many the only interaction they’ll have with the brand.

However, customers (especially in the fashion industry) are encouraged to continue to interact with a brand through social media platforms.

As we mentioned before when discussing channels, Zara has a very effective communication system in place. Not only can people instantly get in touch with the brand, but also engage with new posts, images, and collections uploaded to social media.

This personal approach to customer relationship building can, in some cases, lead to the natural growth of brand ambassadors and communities .

An attachment can also develop between customers and particular garments or accessories from one of their collections. The sentimental attachment to these products also creates another potential form of brand loyalty.

The relations with Zara's clients to give a Business Model Canvas where the 9 points to be developed are seen

Now that you’ve described how you are going to create real value for your customers, it’s time to look at how you plan to capture that value.

What are your revenue streams? Is it going to be a transactional, direct sales strategy ? Are you going to consider a freemium mode l, where you give a portion of your product or service away for free with the idea of converting later on down the line?

If you’re a SaaS company such as SalesForce or Strava , then it’s likely that a licensing or subscription revenue model will be more appropriate.

At Zara, it’s extremely simple. They make their money by selling clothes and accessories either at a store or online.

Zara business model canvas template for the development of Revenue streams within the 9 points to work

As you can see, we’ve filled in the entire right-hand side of our business model canvas. We touched upon:

Customer segments

  • Value propositions
  • Revenue streams
  • Distribution channels

Now it’s time to move over to the left side of the business canvas model and look at what we need, internally , to deliver our value propositions.

Key resources of the Zara Business Model Canvas

To start with, let’s take a look at key resources.

The key resources are all things you need to have, or the assets required to create that value for customers.

This could be anything from intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc.) to physical holdings (factories, offices, delivery vans, etc.) right down to finances (the initial cash flow perhaps needed to start your brand).

Another key resource every company needs to consider is its human capital . Are you going to need highly specialized software engineers? Or field-based sales teams?

They are relatively capital-heavy resources that need to be factored into your business model.

In the case of Zara, they are going to need a number of key resources if they hope to deliver their propositions:

  • Stock management
  • A large, interconnected network of physical stores
  • A strong brand
  • Logistics and supply chain infrastructure

Stock is vital for both online and offline customers.

If they are unable to supply their range of products and meet customer demands, satisfaction levels fall and they have a serious problem on their hands.

A large distribution network of brick and mortar stores combined with a strong brand name help mitigate these factors, as well as reinforce any ongoing marketing activities and communication efforts.

Finally, an efficient logistics process within Zara is critical, especially when you consider the complexities involved with such a large-scale operation.

They will require the necessary technology to analyze data on inventory, storage, materials, production, and packaging, with the staff to execute each of these stages and manage the delivery of the final products.

Zara business model canvas template where the Key Resources are developed

The next step is to define the key activities – the areas you need to be good at to create value for your customers.

To mix it up a little let’s take a look at a slightly different business in Uber .

Their key activities can be broken down into:

  • Web and mobile app development
  • Driver recruitment
  • Marketing: customer acquisition
  • Customer service activities : drivers’ ratings, incidents, etc.

They need a fast, clean UX for their customers using the app, drivers to carry out their service, and the ability to both market the product and deal with any customer queries.

Zara’s key activities will differ to those of Uber. Some of the things they need to consider would be:

  • Manufacturing
  • Retail process (point of sale and 3rd party management)
  • Distribution channel / logistics

Design is a key activity as Zara’s value proposition is to provide stylish garments at an affordable price. Their collections need to be constantly updated to follow the latest fashion trends at the time.

To produce their collections Zara will also require manufacturing capabilities. Now Zara doesn’t own their own factories (we will get to that in the Key Partners section) but they still need to be involved in the garment manufacturing process.

Everything from fabric selection to pattern making, to detailing and dyeing affects the outcome of the final product which of course they have to then go on and sell.

The effective management of the retail and distribution channels (online, offline, shipping, and communication with providers) is also key. A breakdown in either of these activities, such as a poor relationship with an important provider will have serious consequences for the business.

Zara business model canvas template showing the key activities for its development

Most modern business models now require brands to build out and work with various key partners to fully leverage their business model.

This includes partnerships such as joint ventures and non-equity strategic alliances as well as typical relationships with buyers, suppliers, and producers.

A great example of a strategic partnership would be between ThePowerMBA and Forbes . In exchange for exposure of our brand to the magazine’s global audience, we provide expertise and content on high-level business education programs.

As we touched upon when discussing key activities , Zara requires strategic partnerships with many different providers if they are to design and produce their collections.

Another key partner is their major holding company, Inditex .

Inditex has several subsidiaries including Massimo Dutti , Pull & Bear , and Oysho . Being a subsidiary of Inditex means they share a consolidated balance sheet, stakeholders, management and control, and various legal responsibilities.

While as a subsidiary Zara is afforded certain freedoms when it comes to design, delivery, and the general running of the company, the overall strategy will need to be aligned with Inditex and its other subsidiaries.

Zara Key Partners business model canvas template where the eighth point is developed

The final step of the Business Model Canvas is to ask yourself, how much is it going to cost to run this model?

This includes some of the more obvious needs such as manufacturing costs, physical space, rent, payroll, but also areas such as marketing activities.

If you are unsure of exactly what to include in your cost structure take a look at a Profit and Loss statement ( P&L ) from a competitor or company in a similar industry to yours. You’ll find many items overlap such as research and development ( R&D ), cost of goods sold, admin expenses, operating costs, etc.

Once that’s done you should prioritize your key activities and resources and find out if they are fixed or variable costs .

As Zara is such a large, corporate business they are going to have both fixed costs (rent, payroll, point of sales personnel) and variables, such as costs associated with the fluctuating sale of goods, purchase of materials and, manufacturing costs.

Once you’ve completed these 9 steps, your Business Canvas Model should look something like this:

Business Model Canvas Examples

Hopefully, you were able to get a good feel for the effectiveness of the business model canvas with our run-through of Zara.

However, if you found it difficult to follow due to the stark difference between your industries, I’m going to quickly go through 3 more companies to demonstrate the tool’s flexibility:

  • Netflix (Media service/production)
  • Vintae (Vineyard)

Even if these business model canvas examples don’t align exactly with your industry, I honestly believe that studying different models gives you a competitive advantage in your professional career regardless.

If you’re currently employed by a company, you’ll better understand how your specific role helps the company achieve some of its “long-term” goals.

Alternatively, if you are a business owner yourself (or perhaps thinking of starting your own business) you’ll have a better understanding of your business and where potential opportunities lay.

I’m sure you’re familiar with our next business model canvas example candidate, Netflix .

The global media company offers an online streaming service of various movies, documentaries, and TV programs produced in-house or licensed 3rd-party content. Their success sparked a revolution in the online media world with the likes of Amazon, Apple, Disney, HBO, and Hulu all rushing to launch their own online video streaming platforms.

Netflix started life as an online DVD rental company, basically a web version of the more popular (at least at that time) “bricks and mortar” Blockbuster.

Co-founder Reed Hastings predicted as far back as 1999 that the future of media was in online streaming, saying “postage rates were going to keep going up and the internet was going to get twice as fast at half the price every 18 months.”

It wouldn’t be until 2007 that Hasting’s prediction would become true when Netflix, as we now know it, was born.

So let’s take a current look at their business model canvas:

Netflix business model in which the 9 topics are taken into consideration

As you probably know, there are very few people out there who haven’t subscribed, watched, or at least heard of Netflix. There is content for everybody: wildlife documentaries, sci-fi movies, rom coms, action-thrillers, you name it – it’s there.

That’s why their customer segment can be classified as a “ mass market ” as the base is just so diverse.

All people require is a computer, TV, internet, and/or smartphone and they’re good to go. For most developed markets, that covers just about everybody.

Value Proposition

Whether on the train to work, sitting in the car (if you’re not driving!), or relaxing at home in front of the TV, you can consume their online, on-demand video streaming service.

They also have a huge library of content for consumers to choose from, ensuring that people keep coming back, as well as increasing their mass-market appeal.

They also produce high-quality, original content to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Most people access Netflix either through their website or mobile/TV App . Another popular channel that you may have picked up on is their affiliate partners .

You’ve perhaps signed up for a mobile, TV, and internet package where the provider offers Netflix as an extra to sweeten the deal, so to speak.

That would be an example of an affiliate partnership between Netflix and mobile service providers.

I doubt many consumers have had direct contact with Netflix unless it’s to resolve a subscription issue or general query. It’s very much a self-automated service – you download the app, select the program you wish to watch, and hit play.

Very simple, very effective.

Again, this doesn’t need much embellishment. Netflix generates money from the different tiers and packages put together in their subscription services.

This varies depending on the region to account for local markets, but on the whole, it’s sold at a low price point.

Originally, Netflix’s Key Resources would have been their unrivaled DVD collection combined with a cost-effective mail-order system.

Nowadays it’s undoubtedly the rights to stream online video content. Netflix has brokered deals with some of the biggest production studios worldwide.

Combined with their huge library of in-house productions , it’s more than enough to encourage customers to renew their subscriptions.

To help sustain interest in their product, Netflix understands they need to serve-up relevant content for each sub-sector of their mass audience. Therefore their machine learning algorithm selects content for consumers based on streaming habits (what they watched, at what time, etc,.) to personalize the customer experience.

This explains why over 80% of all content streamed on Netflix was cherry-picked by this algorithm, making it a Key Resource for their business model.

Also, Netflix accounts for a whopping 12.6% of global bandwidth usage . The literal capacity to stream their services must be met meaning bandwidth must also be included here.

Content procurement is arguably their biggest Key Activity. They need to find people to produce and deliver their original content, including actors, studios, writers, etc. as well as secure the licensing and streaming rights from 3rd party producers such as Sony, Warner Bros, and Disney.

Finally, they need a fast, easy-to-use application to host their online streaming service. This needs to be available for both TV and mobile devices if they are to deliver their “on-demand” value proposition.

K ey Partners

Seeing as Netflix’s entire business model is largely based around streaming 3rd party content, key partnerships need to be built with production studios . No content, no Netflix!

Also, as we touched upon earlier Netflix is one of the largest consumers of bandwidth worldwide. If the speed and delivery of their streaming service are to be continued then deals will also need to be made with internet service providers (ISPs).

Netflix’s biggest expenditures come from both their in-house content procurement and 3rd party licensing agreements . The high-quality standard of video streamed on Netflix is only possible due to the speed and performance of its online platform and application , which has additional costs of staff, software, etc.

To show you just how flexible the business model canvas can be, I wanted to throw in a slightly leftfield example. Vintae is a Spanish wine producer who, after a detailed analysis of the business model canvas, was able to innovate and disrupt one of the world’s most competitive industries.

As some of you may know, the wine industry is extremely competitive. It’s also steeped in history and tradition , making it very challenging for newcomers to grab market share, let alone think about year-on-year growth and revenue.

However, CEO “Richi” Arambarri looked at the traditional “ bodega ” business model and saw a chink in its armor.

A “small” innovation in the business canvas model helped them to become one of the region’s most important winery groups, with over 10 installations and a presence across all regional denominations (Rioja, Priorat, Rias Baixas, etc.) with year on year growth of 30% – practically unheard of in such a competitive industry.

So how did Vintae analyze the business model canvas to find a niche in their market?

To answer that question, we must first look at the traditional winery business model .

Traditional Winery Business Model with its 9 developed points

As you can see, the wine industry has historically been patrimonial. Vineyards and estates are passed down through generations with the winery responsible for all phases of production, clarification, and distribution.

The traditional winery business canvas model suggests you must be the owner of the winery/vineyard where the wine is “manufactured”, meaning physical assets are a key resource of the business model.

So, if you wanted to start producing a Rioja, for example, you’d have to set up your vineyard in the region.

This is monumentally expensive as you need to:

  • Purchase the land
  • Plant a vineyard
  • Absorb set-up and installation costs
  • Deal with maintenance costs

It’s here where Vintae saw their opportunity.

What if we move vineyard ownership across the business model canvas from key resources to key partners ?

By leasing the equipment and space of large wineries (of which there was plenty), they could still produce their wine but reduce the cost and exposure associated with land purchase, crushing equipment, huge storage tanks, vineyard maintenance, and their bottling line.

This enabled them to focus on their sales, marketing, and distribution channels to create a better brand experience for their customers.

Also, it afforded them more flexibility when creating new wines as they were no longer confined to the limitations of grapes grown on their vineyard.

The lightness of this new business model eliminates maintenance overheads, channels energy into personalizing the customer experience, and allows for unprecedented levels of growth in one of the world’s most competitive industries.

Vinate business model

Business Model Canvas Software

Although I did mention starting with a large whiteboard, sticky notes, and a pack of colorful sharpies there are several options in which you can digitize the business canvas model production process.

While I still believe the aforementioned process is extremely valuable (it gets your entire team’s input in a single hour-long session) you may decide it more viable for each member of management to pool their ideas digitally before sharing with the rest of the group.

If that’s the case, then take a look at some of the following software tools for creating your business model canvas.

Strategyzer

Created by the founders of the business model canvas Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur , Strategyzer offers a range of business model canvas templates for you to get started with.

If you opt for the paid model (there is a 30-day free trial period) they offer a series of various classes that teach you how to build and test different value propositions and business models.

A real-time built-in cost estimator analyzes the financial viability of some of your business ideas, identifying alternative areas you may wish to explore with your model.

All-in-all, it’s a great resource to play around with and test some of your business ideas, with the option to dive into further detail if you see fit.

Canvanizer is a free, easy-to-use web tool that allows you to share links between team members who are brainstorming ideas for a business model canvas, but working remotely.

Like Strategyzer, there are several business model canvas templates provided to help you get started with your analysis. The strength of this platform is its accessibility. Much like a Google Doc., several people can brainstorm on the same canvas simultaneously with changes being synchronized automatically.

Business Model Canvas Tool

A ThePowerMBA alumni, impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of the tool, went ahead and created the free application Business Model Canvas Tool .

It’s an incredibly intuitive, and easy-to-use tool that allows you to create templates simply by clicking the + button in each building block.

Each business model canvas created can be downloaded and shared as a pdf. with the rest of the team.

Would You Like to Learn More about Business Models?

If, after going through our 9-step guide on how to use the Business Model Canvas you’d like to learn more about different business model analysis tools , take a look at our alternative MBA business program .

As you’ll see, the course gives students a 360-degree view of business and management practices – such as engines of growth, segmentation and targeting, and value propositions.

I highly recommend you go check it out.

Regardless, I’d love to hear what you thought about this guide. Was it helpful? Would you like to see additional business cases analyzed from your industry?

Let us know in the comments below.

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16 Comments

Ayeah Goodlove

Perfect thought

kourosh abdollahzadeh

I am a DBA student. I have used your site a lot. Thank you for the information

KJ Hwang

Well defined steps, Thanks for good contents.

Reza Ebadi

Dear Sir many thanks for you guideline. it was very effective for me. Thanks a Million

Debashis Rout

Well explained with practical business case

Allen

Wow, this article was incredibly helpful! I’ve heard about the Business Model Canvas before, but I wasn’t sure exactly how it worked or how to use it for my own business.

NIMAKO JAMES

I need a sample of business model canvas for a beauty palour

Opoku Samuel

you’ve done a great job. keep it up

Claudia Roca

This is a very insightful content with a step-by-step practical approach of how to write a BMC and what exactly it should contain.

My team and I literally used your guide to write a BMC for a project we were working on, and in just about an hour we were done.

Thank you so much for this content, it was really helpful.

Franco

Thank you very much Collins and we are glad you are using this tool.

Jude

Insightful! Gave me the clarity I needed for my upcoming business. Thank you so much.

Praveen

Thank you very much for the business model example of ZARA. It was very very informative

Efi

This is a great explanation, the best i’ve seen. Thanks

Thank you very much for reading and sharing your comments

Tatyasaheb Phadtare

Really great tool for business and whom want to enter,. Thanks

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Business Model Canvas: Explained with Examples

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Got a new business idea, but don’t know how to put it to work? Want to improve your existing business model? Overwhelmed by writing your business plan? There is a one-page technique that can provide you the solution you are looking for, and that’s the business model canvas.

In this guide, you’ll have the Business Model Canvas explained, along with steps on how to create one. All business model canvas examples in the post can be edited online.

What is a Business Model Canvas

A business model is simply a plan describing how a business intends to make money. It explains who your customer base is and how you deliver value to them and the related details of financing. And the business model canvas lets you define these different components on a single page.   

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management tool that lets you visualize and assess your business idea or concept. It’s a one-page document containing nine boxes that represent different fundamental elements of a business.  

The business model canvas beats the traditional business plan that spans across several pages, by offering a much easier way to understand the different core elements of a business.

The right side of the canvas focuses on the customer or the market (external factors that are not under your control) while the left side of the canvas focuses on the business (internal factors that are mostly under your control). In the middle, you get the value propositions that represent the exchange of value between your business and your customers.

The business model canvas was originally developed by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur and introduced in their book ‘ Business Model Generation ’ as a visual framework for planning, developing and testing the business model(s) of an organization.

Business Model Canvas Explained

What Are the Benefits of Using a Business Model Canvas

Why do you need a business model canvas? The answer is simple. The business model canvas offers several benefits for businesses and entrepreneurs. It is a valuable tool and provides a visual and structured approach to designing, analyzing, optimizing, and communicating your business model.

  • The business model canvas provides a comprehensive overview of a business model’s essential aspects. The BMC provides a quick outline of the business model and is devoid of unnecessary details compared to the traditional business plan.
  • The comprehensive overview also ensures that the team considers all required components of their business model and can identify gaps or areas for improvement.
  • The BMC allows the team to have a holistic and shared understanding of the business model while enabling them to align and collaborate effectively.
  • The visual nature of the business model canvas makes it easier to refer to and understand by anyone. The business model canvas combines all vital business model elements in a single, easy-to-understand canvas.
  • The BMC can be considered a strategic analysis tool as it enables you to examine a business model’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges.
  • It’s easier to edit and can be easily shared with employees and stakeholders.
  • The BMC is a flexible and adaptable tool that can be updated and revised as the business evolves. Keep your business agile and responsive to market changes and customer needs.
  • The business model canvas can be used by large corporations and startups with just a few employees.
  • The business model canvas effectively facilitates discussions among team members, investors, partners, customers, and other stakeholders. It clarifies how different aspects of the business are related and ensures a shared understanding of the business model.
  • You can use a BMC template to facilitate discussions and guide brainstorming brainstorming sessions to generate insights and ideas to refine the business model and make strategic decisions.
  • The BMC is action-oriented, encouraging businesses to identify activities and initiatives to improve their business model to drive business growth.
  • A business model canvas provides a structured approach for businesses to explore possibilities and experiment with new ideas. This encourages creativity and innovation, which in turn encourages team members to think outside the box.

How to Make a Business Model Canvas

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a business canvas model.

Step 1: Gather your team and the required material Bring a team or a group of people from your company together to collaborate. It is better to bring in a diverse group to cover all aspects.

While you can create a business model canvas with whiteboards, sticky notes, and markers, using an online platform like Creately will ensure that your work can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Create a workspace in Creately and provide editing/reviewing permission to start.

Step 2: Set the context Clearly define the purpose and the scope of what you want to map out and visualize in the business model canvas. Narrow down the business or idea you want to analyze with the team and its context.

Step 3: Draw the canvas Divide the workspace into nine equal sections to represent the nine building blocks of the business model canvas.

Step 4: Identify the key building blocks Label each section as customer segment, value proposition, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, and cost structure.

Step 5: Fill in the canvas Work with your team to fill in each section of the canvas with relevant information. You can use data, keywords, diagrams, and more to represent ideas and concepts.

Step 6: Analyze and iterate Once your team has filled in the business model canvas, analyze the relationships to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. Discuss improvements and make adjustments as necessary.

Step 7: Finalize Finalize and use the model as a visual reference to communicate and align your business model with stakeholders. You can also use the model to make informed and strategic decisions and guide your business.

What are the Key Building Blocks of the Business Model Canvas?

There are nine building blocks in the business model canvas and they are:

Customer Segments

Customer relationships, revenue streams, key activities, key resources, key partners, cost structure.

  • Value Proposition

When filling out a Business Model Canvas, you will brainstorm and conduct research on each of these elements. The data you collect can be placed in each relevant section of the canvas. So have a business model canvas ready when you start the exercise.  

Business Model Canvas Template

Let’s look into what the 9 components of the BMC are in more detail.

These are the groups of people or companies that you are trying to target and sell your product or service to.

Segmenting your customers based on similarities such as geographical area, gender, age, behaviors, interests, etc. gives you the opportunity to better serve their needs, specifically by customizing the solution you are providing them.

After a thorough analysis of your customer segments, you can determine who you should serve and ignore. Then create customer personas for each of the selected customer segments.

Customer Persona Template for Business Model Canvas Explained

There are different customer segments a business model can target and they are;

  • Mass market: A business model that focuses on mass markets doesn’t group its customers into segments. Instead, it focuses on the general population or a large group of people with similar needs. For example, a product like a phone.  
  • Niche market: Here the focus is centered on a specific group of people with unique needs and traits. Here the value propositions, distribution channels, and customer relationships should be customized to meet their specific requirements. An example would be buyers of sports shoes.
  • Segmented: Based on slightly different needs, there could be different groups within the main customer segment. Accordingly, you can create different value propositions, distribution channels, etc. to meet the different needs of these segments.
  • Diversified: A diversified market segment includes customers with very different needs.
  • Multi-sided markets: this includes interdependent customer segments. For example, a credit card company caters to both their credit card holders as well as merchants who accept those cards.

Use STP Model templates for segmenting your market and developing ideal marketing campaigns

Visualize, assess, and update your business model. Collaborate on brainstorming with your team on your next business model innovation.

In this section, you need to establish the type of relationship you will have with each of your customer segments or how you will interact with them throughout their journey with your company.

There are several types of customer relationships

  • Personal assistance: you interact with the customer in person or by email, through phone call or other means.
  • Dedicated personal assistance: you assign a dedicated customer representative to an individual customer.  
  • Self-service: here you maintain no relationship with the customer, but provides what the customer needs to help themselves.
  • Automated services: this includes automated processes or machinery that helps customers perform services themselves.
  • Communities: these include online communities where customers can help each other solve their own problems with regard to the product or service.
  • Co-creation: here the company allows the customer to get involved in the designing or development of the product. For example, YouTube has given its users the opportunity to create content for its audience.

You can understand the kind of relationship your customer has with your company through a customer journey map . It will help you identify the different stages your customers go through when interacting with your company. And it will help you make sense of how to acquire, retain and grow your customers.

Customer Journey Map

This block is to describe how your company will communicate with and reach out to your customers. Channels are the touchpoints that let your customers connect with your company.

Channels play a role in raising awareness of your product or service among customers and delivering your value propositions to them. Channels can also be used to allow customers the avenue to buy products or services and offer post-purchase support.

There are two types of channels

  • Owned channels: company website, social media sites, in-house sales, etc.
  • Partner channels: partner-owned websites, wholesale distribution, retail, etc.

Revenues streams are the sources from which a company generates money by selling their product or service to the customers. And in this block, you should describe how you will earn revenue from your value propositions.  

A revenue stream can belong to one of the following revenue models,

  • Transaction-based revenue: made from customers who make a one-time payment
  • Recurring revenue: made from ongoing payments for continuing services or post-sale services

There are several ways you can generate revenue from

  • Asset sales: by selling the rights of ownership for a product to a buyer
  • Usage fee: by charging the customer for the use of its product or service
  • Subscription fee: by charging the customer for using its product regularly and consistently
  • Lending/ leasing/ renting: the customer pays to get exclusive rights to use an asset for a fixed period of time
  • Licensing: customer pays to get permission to use the company’s intellectual property
  • Brokerage fees: revenue generated by acting as an intermediary between two or more parties
  • Advertising: by charging the customer to advertise a product, service or brand using company platforms

What are the activities/ tasks that need to be completed to fulfill your business purpose? In this section, you should list down all the key activities you need to do to make your business model work.

These key activities should focus on fulfilling its value proposition, reaching customer segments and maintaining customer relationships, and generating revenue.

There are 3 categories of key activities;

  • Production: designing, manufacturing and delivering a product in significant quantities and/ or of superior quality.
  • Problem-solving: finding new solutions to individual problems faced by customers.
  • Platform/ network: Creating and maintaining platforms. For example, Microsoft provides a reliable operating system to support third-party software products.

This is where you list down which key resources or the main inputs you need to carry out your key activities in order to create your value proposition.

There are several types of key resources and they are

  • Human (employees)
  • Financial (cash, lines of credit, etc.)
  • Intellectual (brand, patents, IP, copyright)
  • Physical (equipment, inventory, buildings)

Key partners are the external companies or suppliers that will help you carry out your key activities. These partnerships are forged in oder to reduce risks and acquire resources.

Types of partnerships are

  • Strategic alliance: partnership between non-competitors
  • Coopetition: strategic partnership between partners
  • Joint ventures: partners developing a new business
  • Buyer-supplier relationships: ensure reliable supplies

In this block, you identify all the costs associated with operating your business model.

You’ll need to focus on evaluating the cost of creating and delivering your value propositions, creating revenue streams, and maintaining customer relationships. And this will be easier to do so once you have defined your key resources, activities, and partners.  

Businesses can either be cost-driven (focuses on minimizing costs whenever possible) and value-driven (focuses on providing maximum value to the customer).

Value Propositions

This is the building block that is at the heart of the business model canvas. And it represents your unique solution (product or service) for a problem faced by a customer segment, or that creates value for the customer segment.

A value proposition should be unique or should be different from that of your competitors. If you are offering a new product, it should be innovative and disruptive. And if you are offering a product that already exists in the market, it should stand out with new features and attributes.

Value propositions can be either quantitative (price and speed of service) or qualitative (customer experience or design).

Value Proposition Canvas

What to Avoid When Creating a Business Model Canvas

One thing to remember when creating a business model canvas is that it is a concise and focused document. It is designed to capture key elements of a business model and, as such, should not include detailed information. Some of the items to avoid include,

  • Detailed financial projections such as revenue forecasts, cost breakdowns, and financial ratios. Revenue streams and cost structure should be represented at a high level, providing an overview rather than detailed projections.
  • Detailed operational processes such as standard operating procedures of a business. The BMC focuses on the strategic and conceptual aspects.
  • Comprehensive marketing or sales strategies. The business model canvas does not provide space for comprehensive marketing or sales strategies. These should be included in marketing or sales plans, which allow you to expand into more details.
  • Legal or regulatory details such as intellectual property, licensing agreements, or compliance requirements. As these require more detailed and specialized attention, they are better suited to be addressed in separate legal or regulatory documents.
  • Long-term strategic goals or vision statements. While the canvas helps to align the business model with the overall strategy, it should focus on the immediate and tangible aspects.
  • Irrelevant or unnecessary information that does not directly relate to the business model. Including extra or unnecessary information can clutter the BMC and make it less effective in communicating the core elements.

What Are Your Thoughts on the Business Model Canvas?

Once you have completed your business model canvas, you can share it with your organization and stakeholders and get their feedback as well. The business model canvas is a living document, therefore after completing it you need to revisit and ensure that it is relevant, updated and accurate.

What best practices do you follow when creating a business model canvas? Do share your tips with us in the comments section below.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

FAQs About the Business Model Canvas

  • Use clear and concise language
  • Use visual-aids
  • Customize for your audience
  • Highlight key insights
  • Be open to feedback and discussion

More Related Articles

What is an Action Plan? Learn with Templates and Examples

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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What is a business model?

A business model is nothing other than a representation of how an organization makes (or intends to make) money. This can be nicely described through the 9 building blocks illustrated in the graphic below, which we call " business model canvas ".

business model for business

The business model topic is very popular among business people today because in various industries we can see a proliferation of new and innovative business models (i.e. new ways of making money).

In several industries new business models are threatening or even replacing established companies and conventional ways of doing business. Just have a look at the music or airline industry.

Hence, the interest in business models comes from two opposing sides:

  • Established companies have to find new and innovative business models to compete against growing competition and to fend off insurgent
  • Entrepreneurs want to find new and innovative business models to carve out their space in the marketplace

Within this context the business model concept is a particularly helpful unit of strategic analysis tailored to today's competitive business environment.

It helps executives as well as entrepreneurs increase their capacity to manage continuous change and constantly adapt to rapidly changing business environments by injecting new ideas into their business model.

But what actually is a business model?

In management meetings the question of what a business model is (even what “our” business model is) often remains relatively vague.

The main reason for this is because business people have an intuitive understanding of business models. Normal, since the business model is about how an organization makes money, which is a manger’s job after all.

However, there is often a lack of a more precise and shared understanding of what a business model is. Yet, such a common understanding is required if we want to have high quality discussions of one’s business model and make important business model decisions.

Therefore we have come up with the 9 building block approach to describing business models. It has the characteristics of any other type of model (e.g. in architecture or engineering).

Like other models it is a simplified description and representation of a complex real world object. It describes the original in a way that we understand its essence without having to deal with all its characteristics and complexities.

In the same line of thought we can define a business model as a simplified description of how a company does business and makes money without having to go into the complex details of all its strategy, processes, units, rules, hierarchies, workflows, and systems.

Based on an extensive literature research and real-world experience we define a business model as consisting of 9 building blocks that constitute the business model canvas (readers of this blog will realize that this is an updated and slightly adapted version of the model):

  • The value proposition of what is offered to the market;
  • The segment(s) of clients that are addressed by the value proposition;
  • The communication and distribution channels to reach clients and offer them the value proposition;
  • The relationships established with clients;
  • The key resources needed to make the business model possible;
  • The key activities necessary to implement the business model;
  • The key partners and their motivations to participate in the business model;
  • The revenue streams generated by the business model (constituting the revenue model);
  • The cost structure resulting from the business model.

Origins of the term business model

The term business model became popular only in the late 90s, which, personally I think is related to the rapid erosion of prices in the IT and telecom industry.

The roots of my assumption lie in Transaction Cost Economics (TCE). As it became so cheap to process, store, and share information across business units and other companies all the way to the customer, many new ways of doing business became possible.

Value chains were broken up and reconfigured. Innovative information rich or enriched products and services appeared. New distribution channels emerged. More customers were reached.

Ultimately this lead to globalization and increased competition, but, as described above, it also led to new ways of doing business. In other words, today there is a larger variety of how companies can make money. "New" in this case refers to what they do, how they do it and for whom they do it.

For managers and executives, this means that they have a whole new range of possibilities to design their businesses. This results in innovative and competing business models in the same industries.

Before, it used to be sufficient to say in what industry you where in, for somebody to understand what your company was doing. All players had more or less the same business model.

Today it is not sufficient to choose a lucrative industry, but you must also design a competitive business model.

In addition, increased competition and rapid copying of successful business models forces all players to continuously innovate and adapt their business model to gain and/or sustain a competitive edge.

Companies that thoroughly understand their business model and know how the building blocks relate to each other will be able to constantly rethink and redesign these blocks and their relationship to innovate before their business model is copied.

Business models & innovation

The term business model is also closely related to innovation. As I mentioned, the business model concept is related to a whole new range of business design opportunities.

There are examples of business model innovations in each of the 9 building blocks described.

The most obvious is innovating in the value proposition. When mobile phones appeared in the market they offered a different value proposition than fixed line phones.

In the early days of the internet, popular indexes like Yahoo! helped people find information on the web.

Regarding target customer segments, low-cost airlines like EasyJet have brought flying to the masses.

Dell became really successful by exploring the web as a distribution channel.

Gillette has made a fortune by establishing a continuous relationship with customers based on its disposable razors.

Apple resurged based on its core capacity of bringing design to computers and electronic gadgets.

Cisco became famous for its capacity of configuring activities in new and innovative supply chains.

Intel thrived for its capacity to get partners to build on its processing platform.

Google tapped into an innovative revenue stream by linking highly specific search results and content with text ads.

Wal-Mart became dominant by its ability to slash cost throughout its business model.

About the speakers

Dr. Alexander (Alex) Osterwalder is one of the world’s most influential innovation experts, a leading author, entrepreneur and in-demand speaker whose work has changed the way established companies do business and how new ventures get started.

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Business Models – Example, Types, Importance & Advantages

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Every business or company makes a plan for generating profit. They create a model for identifying products and services to sell, the market they want to target and also take into account anticipated expenses. This is known as business models.

Even if the business is already established or even if it is a new business, a plan needs to be made. Businesses need to regularly update their plans and strategy as they need to take into account the challenges and trends for future models.

Table of Contents

What are the business models.

The strategy a business uses to turn a profit is referred to as its business model. It lists any estimated costs as well as the goods or services the company intends to sell, as well as its chosen target clientele.

Both new and established businesses need strong business models. They aid young, developing businesses in luring capital, hiring talent, and inspiring management and personnel.

Established companies must continuously alter their business models if they are to stay abreast of emerging trends and problems. Business models also assist employees in understanding the future of an organisation they might want to work for and investors in evaluating companies that interest them.

How to Evaluate Succesful Business Models

When developing their business concepts, many organisations frequently underestimate the costs of financing the venture until it turns a profit. It is not sufficient to calculate the costs of a product’s launch. A corporation must continue operating until revenues outweigh expenses.

The company’s gross profit can be used as one indicator for analysts and investors to determine whether a business strategy is successful. A company’s gross profit is its total revenue less its cost of goods sold (COGS).

The efficiency and efficacy of a company’s business model can be determined by comparing its gross profit to that of its main rival or its sector. However, relying only on gross profit can be misleading. Analysts also request access to net income or cash flow. This shows how much actual profit the company is making by taking gross profit and subtracting operating expenses.

Importance of Business Models

The business model helps to target the customer base of the company. It helps in making marketing strategies, and projections of revenues and expenses taking into account the type of Business models and clientele.

Every investor needs to review the business model in order to get knowledge about the company’s competitive edge . Understanding the business model helps investors to have a better sense of financial data.

Evaluating the business model helps the investors to get an overall view of the company’s products, its business strategies and future prospects.

Business Model Examples

For example, let’s take company A which rents and sells video games. So the company is in the business of video games. The company used to make a profit of 5 million after spending 3 million on their inventories for video games. So, the total gross profit margin is 2 million.

The Internet arrived in the market and the company now has to alter its business model by taking into consideration the Internet in order to survive in the market. So as a result the cost of holding inventory and distribution cost also gets reduced. Since expenses reduce profit increases.

Even though with the arrival of internet sales get reduced but the company was able to expand its business as technology helped it to change course.

In a similar way, there are various business models types-

What are Business Models Types?

We will discuss here 4 business models types:

Business Models - Example, Types, Importance & Advantages 2

1. Business -To- Business Models (B2B)

When dealings or transactions take place between two companies or businesses then this type of business model is known as business to the business model.

It has good market predictability and more market stability . Since under B2B sale is made in bulk amount this model leads to lower cost for the businesses.

The best example of this type of business model in India is IndiaMart InterMesh which is a wholesale B2B marketplace. It offers millions of products to its customers which includes consumer electronics, machinery, apparel and many more.

2. Business -To-Consumer Models (B2C)

The business-2-consumer business model is a model that refers to businesses that sell their services or products directly to the consumer who are the end users of the products or services.

There is an ongoing demand for the products as it provides the essential items. This thus eliminates the risk of fluctuation in demand and helps in maintaining consistency in the business. Since direct contact is there with the customers so information is shared with them directly and easily.

Customers are given products at a low price compared to their competitors for the business to run smoothly.

An example of business to consumer model is Avenue Supermart which provides goods directly to its customers.

3. Subscription-Based Models

Any application-based businesses or software companies have subscription-based business models. They offer their product as a one-time purchase, in return company earns monthly or annual revenues.

Business Models - Example, Types, Importance & Advantages 3

This type of business model allows the company to earn regular income by giving the client the opportunity to pay for the cost of the purchase in 12 equal payments rather than asking them to pay the wholesome amount in one go.

One of the leading examples is Infoedge for this type of business model.

4. On-Demand Business Model

It is the most recent form of model which is made out on the need by answering immediately. This type of business model is prepared in such a way that all the questions will be answered by just a click of a button in seconds.

It is very much convenient and easy for customers as even before customers have visited a particular city they get their hotels or places booked.

One of the examples is making my trip which allows customers to plan the holidays and make the bookings in advance.

Advantages of Business Models

  • A good business model gives the company a competitive edge in the industry.
  • A strong business model provides the company good reputation in the market place encouraging investors to remain invested in the company.
  • Making the business model strong leads to an ongoing business profit leading to an increase in cash reserve and new investments.
  • A proven business model brings financial stability to the organization.

Business models have disadvantages as well.

Disadvantages of the Business Model

  • Once a business model is created, then it restricts to implementation new ideas for the product.
  • Creating a business model is time-consuming as a lot of factors need to be considered.
  • There might be a chance that the business model may turn out to be inaccurate.

Apart from the disadvantages, the business model is mandatory to be prepared before starting of a new project.

To know more about Fundamental Analysis, you can join our course on Stock Valuation Made Easy Explore about business models and enhance your financial expertise through our premier stock investment courses . Enroll now for success!

A business is more than just a place where things are sold. It’s an ecosystem, therefore it needs a plan for who to sell to, what to sell for, how much to charge, and how much value it’s producing.

What an organisation does to consistently produce long-term value for its clients is described by its business model. A company should have a clearer understanding of how it intends to function and what its financial future looks like after developing a business model.

While preparing business and revenue models, one of the most important skills that is required is Ms Excel. Wish to learn it ? That also in Hindi? Then join our ms excel in hindi full course now!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good business model.

A good business model is one that provides the company with a competitive edge in the industry-leading to good business profits.

Why is a business model important?

The business model is important because it provides the investors with knowledge about the competitive edge of the company and provides better insight into the workings of the company. A strong business model leads to cash generation and future expansion.

How do you create a business model?

The business model is created by identifying the products and services that will be sold in the market to be targeted like B2B, B2C, subscription-based model or on-demand market.

What are the components of the business model?

The business model includes information about the company’s products, its target market and its future prospect related to its business type.

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What is a business model? (Plus, how to define yours)

Last updated: September 2023

Business models distill the potential of a business down to its essence. Companies across every industry and at all stages of maturity need business models. Some rely on lengthy processes to build complicated models, while others move quickly to articulate the basics and take action. Either way, having the discipline to work through this planning tool forces internal alignment.

You must build something that real people with real needs will find value in and pay for — otherwise you do not have a lasting business. Brian de Haaff Aha! co-founder and CEO

For established enterprises, a business model is often a living document that is reviewed and adapted over the years. For companies launching products and services or entering new markets, a business model helps ensure that decisions are tied back to the overall business strategy . And for early-stage startups, a simple one-page business model enables founders to explore the mechanics of a business and how you anticipate it will be successful.

Defining and documenting a business model is an essential exercise. Whether you are starting a new venture, expanding into a new market, or shifting your go-to-market strategy , you can use a business model to capture fundamental assumptions about the opportunity ahead and tactics to addressing challenges.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to integrate their business model into all aspects of the organization — from recruiting talent to motivating employees. Part of the issue is accessibility. That is why forward-thinking companies choose tools that make it possible to quickly build and share your business model. The Aha! business model canvas, for example, gives you a collaborative space to explore concepts and connect your model to everyday work.

Build a business model in Aha! Notebooks. Sign up for a free trial .

Business model large

Start using this template now

You can access the business model template shown above using Aha! Notebooks . You can also try a similar template that is built into the product strategy section of Aha! Roadmaps . Or you can download these free Excel and PowerPoint business model templates .

This guide covers the basics of business models, from core concepts to best practices. Jump ahead to any section:

Definition of a business model

Business model components

Business model vs. business plan.

Different types of business models

Pros and cons of different models

Analyzing competitor business models

Business model templates

How to build a business model

What is the definition of a business model?

A business model defines how a company will create, deliver, and capture value.

A business model answers questions that are crucial for strategic decision-making and business operations. Creating a business model for your startup or product means identifying the problem you are going to solve, the market that you will serve, the level of investment required, what products you will offer, and how you will generate revenue. Pricing and costs are the two levers that affect profitability within a given business model.

A business model is part of your overall business strategy. Some business models extend beyond economic context and include value exchange in social or cultural terms — such as the intangible impact the company will have on a community or industry. The process of constructing and changing a business model is often referred to as “business model innovation.”

15 elements of a brilliant business strategy

This is why innovation programs fail

There are three main areas of focus in a business model: value proposition, value delivery, and value capture. The proposition outlines who your customers are and what you will offer. The delivery details how you will organize the business to deliver on the proposition. And the capture is a hypothesis for how the proposition and delivery will align to return value back to the business.

business model for business

Below are some components to include when you create a business model:

Vision and mission : Overview of what you want to achieve and how you will do it.

Objectives: High-level goals that will support your vision and mission, along with how you will measure success.

Customer targets and challenges: Description of target customers (written as archetypes or personas ) and their pain points.

Solution: How your offering will solve customer pain points.

Differentiators: Characteristics that differentiate your product or service.

Pricing: What your solution will cost and how it will be sold.

Positioning and messaging: How you will communicate the value of your offering to customers.

Go-to-market: Proposed approach for launching new offerings and services.

Investment: Resources required to introduce your offering.

Growth opportunity: Ways that you will grow the business over time.

Positioning vs. messaging

  • What is value-based product development?
  • What is a go-to-market roadmap?

Business models and business plans are both elements of your overall business strategy. But there are key differences between a business model and a business plan.

A business model is seen as foundational and will not usually be reworked in reaction to shorter-term shifts — whereas a business plan is more likely to be updated based on changes in the economy or market.

Related: Business plan templates

What is the benefit of building a business model?

Innovation is about more than the products or technologies that you build. The way that you operate your business is a critical factor in how you stand apart in a crowded marketplace. The benefit of building a business model is that you can use the exercise to expose and exploit what makes your company unique — why choosing your offering is better for customers than any alternatives and how you will grow the business over time.

Many people associate business models with lengthy documents that describe a company’s problem, opportunity, and solution in the context of a two-to-five-year forecast. But business models do not need to be a long treatise.

A one-pager is just as effective for distilling and communicating the most important elements of your business strategy. The concise format is useful for sharing with broader teams so that everyone understands the high-level approach. Done right, a business model can become a touchstone for the team by outlining core differentiators to promote and defend in the market.

Related: A more comprehensive business model builder

What are the different types of business models?

There are many different types of business models. Below are some of the most common business models with example companies for reference (take note of the companies that appear in several categories):

Did you keep track of the companies that appeared in several of the business model examples? Good. You now have a grasp of how complex enterprises with vast portfolios of products and services often employ many business models within the same organization.

Consider a company like Apple, which manufactures and sells hardware products as well as offering cloud-storage, streaming subscriptions, and a marketplace for other applications. Amazon, whose offerings range from retail (with the acquisition of Whole Foods) to marketplace (Amazon.com) to subscription services (Amazon Prime and Amazon Music) to affiliate, also features in different categories. Each division or vertical will have a distinct business model that reflects the nuances of how it operates while also supporting the corporate business model.

Related: The product manager vs. the portfolio product manager

Pros and cons of different business models

Some types of business models work better for certain industries than others. For example, software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies often rely on freemium business models. This makes it easy for potential users to experience the value of the product and incentivizes paid conversions via access to additional features.

Many social media platforms make money through advertising. By providing full access to the platform for free, these companies attract more users. In turn, this creates a more valuable audience for advertisers and increases revenue for the business.

How do you analyze a competitor’s business model?

Business analysts and investors will often evaluate a company’s business model as part of due diligence for funding or market research . You can apply the same tactics to analyze a competitor’s business model — with a few caveats.

Public companies are subject to reporting requirements. This means that the business must regularly disclose financial and performance data to the public — these disclosures occur quarterly and annually. The data includes everything from gross revenue, operating costs and losses, cash flow and reserves, and leadership discussions of business results. Designed to protect and inform investors, these reports can provide you with the information you need to understand the basics of the company’s business model and how well it is performing against the model.

Private companies are not required to reveal business data publicly. Investors or partners may be privy to certain aspects of the company’s performance, but it can be difficult to understand exactly what is happening from the outside. Some analysts or business websites will attempt to “size” a business or market by looking at a variety of factors — including the number of employees, volume of search terms related to the core offering, estimated customer base, pricing structure, partnerships, advertising spend, and media coverage.

Once you have identified relevant alternatives to your offering and gathered all of the information that you can find, a good way to analyze a competitor’s business model is to conduct a competitive analysis.

Related: Competitor analysis templates

You do not want to spend too much time thinking about other companies when you could be focused on your own. A simple SWOT analysis is a helpful way to map out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that were revealed during your research.

Below are three types of business model example layouts you can use to succinctly and objectively assess what is possible and what challenges could arise for your business.

Aha! Notebooks business model template

Articulate the foundation of your product or service in a flexible whiteboard-style format with the Aha! Notebooks business model template.

The focus is on capturing key elements like why the solution is worth buying (messaging), pain points of the buyers (customer challenges), and ways you will grow the business (growth opportunities).

Aha! Roadmaps business model canvas

The Aha! Roadmaps business model is the most complete template in this guide — based on our team's decades of experience building breakthrough products and software companies.

You can drag and drop each component within a custom layout. And once you have completed your business model, it is easy to share with your team via a live webpage or exported PDF. This business model builder is included with the free 30-day trial of Aha! Roadmaps.

Business model in Aha!

Aha! Roadmaps lean canvas

Similar to the business model canvas, this model in Aha! Roadmaps takes a problem-focused approach to create an actionable business plan. It is most commonly used by startups and entrepreneurs to document business assumptions. The focus is on quickly creating a concise and effective single-page business model. It documents nine elements, including customer segments, channels used to reach customers, and the ways you plan to make money.

Lean canvas example in Aha!

How to build a business model in 10 steps

Crafting a business model is part of establishing a meaningful business strategy. But a business model is essentially a hypothesis — you need to test yours to prove that it will actually provide value. Many startup founders especially underestimate the costs and timeline for reaching profitability.

1. Identify your target market Who will benefit from your offering? What characteristics do prospective customers share?

2. Define the problem you will solve What is the problem that you are solving? What are the pain points of your potential customers?

3. Detail your unique selling proposition (USP) What will you build and how will you support it?

4. Create a pricing strategy How much will you charge for your offering? What factors will go into choosing your price point?

5. Develop a marketing approach How will you market your product and reach target customers? What channels will you choose for go-to-market?

6. Establish operational practices How will you streamline processes and procedures to reduce overhead and fixed costs?

7. Capture path to profitability How will your business generate revenue? What level of investment will be required and what fixed costs exist?

8. Anticipate challenges Who are your competitors? What opportunities and threats exist for your business?

9. Validate your business model Was your hypothesis correct? Does your business model solve a problem the way you thought it would?

10. Update to reflect learnings What can you do differently in the future to ensure greater success?

Your business model will ultimately guide your organization and influence your product roadmap. Give it the deep thought it deserves — questioning your core assumptions about how you will generate value and how your team will work towards achieving shared goals.

Deliver more with Aha! — try it free for 30 days .

Additional strategy resources

Using Aha! software

Aha! Roadmaps — Strategy overview

Aha! Roadmaps — Strategic models

Strategic blogs and guides

  • How to price your product
  • How to position your product

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business model for business

21 Different Types of Business Models With Examples

Different Types of Business Models

Having a solid, well-thought-out business model is essential for both new and established companies. These models work to attract new customers and anticipate any upcoming trends or unseen challenges. It also can allow the company to differentiate itself from competitors. Potential investors use business models to quickly and effectively analyze a company’s plans and flesh out information such as how they plan to generate income. Even if you are a small business with no plans of taking on investment, knowing and understanding your business model is crucial to your success.

There are many different types of business models to choose from. It can become overwhelming to decide which model would work best for a company’s individual needs and preferences. This article will analyze and define 21 of the top business models currently used to better understand what each type offers your company.

What is a Business Model?

Through the years, the term business model has had several different definitions. But essentially, a business model is simply an outline of how a company plans to make money with its product or service . Peter Drucker defined the term as “assumptions about what a company gets paid for”. A t their core, they all work to identify revenue sources, the customer base for their products and services, and the expenses the company anticipates to allocate to marketing these products and services.

Understanding your business model is important for many reasons. One of those reasons is that when you understand your business model, you are also closer to answering many other important questions about your business. When your business model is clear you get a better idea of who your customers are. And once you understand that, you also can answer the question “how does our business model add value to our customer”.

Not knowing, understanding, and choosing the right business model can be detrimental to your business. Later in the article, we explain how choosing the wrong business model is costing one company hundreds of millions of dollars. But for now, all you need to know that if your business model does not match up well with your product and what the market demands, you may soon see your profits dwindle as competition increases.

 If you are not sure if you have the right business model for your business, or if your current business model is running out of gas, read our list of 21 business models to see if there is another, better, solution for you.

21 Types of Business Models

1. freemium business model.

Freemium is a combination of the words free and premium. Companies following the freemium business model offer the most basic version of their product or service for free to entice consumers to purchase the more advanced features, capabilities, or add-ons of the product or service in the future. The freemium business model works for new companies by cultivating strong relationships with customers. It also works best for internet-based service companies.

Freemium business model examples:

2. subscription-based model.

business model for business

Image by mjimages from Pixabay

The subscription-based model allows companies to charge consumers monthly or yearly subscription fees to access their product or service. This model depends on these consumers continuing to love and utilize the service. To keep consumers satisfied and paying monthly subscription fees, companies need to continually improve their products or services to keep up with changing trends or competitors. The subscription-based model is popular with streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify. It is also popular among monthly subscription boxes for beauty and fashion such as Ipsy or FabFitFun. The ideal profit margin varies depending on the type of subscription.

Physical subscription based businesses should aim for 30%-40% profit margins. Streaming services do not directly report profit margins but the figures can somewhat be figured out by the average revenue per user. Although it may be hard to find those numbers for all services, most services only make between $4-$10 revenue per user.

Subscription-based model examples

  • Streaming services
  • Dollar Shave Club
  • XBox Game Pass

3. Peer-to-Peer Business Model

Peer-to-peer business mode

Image by postcardtrip

In a peer-to-peer business model, a company acts as the go-between businesses and the customers interested in purchasing their products or services. The companies using this model provide the platforms, navigate the regulations, and set pricing for the products or services. A well-known example of this business model would be ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber. These platforms allow people to receive rides to and from requested destinations by those who apply to be drivers for the service.

Peer-to-peer business model examples

4. franchise model.

business model for business

Sometimes the franchise model is referred to as a hybrid model. It provides a sense of working for oneself with the added security of having a company’s backing with familiar trademarks and products. There is a legal and commercial relationship between the franchisor, the parent company owner (usually a corporation), and the franchisee. The franchisee (or business owner) is allowed to sell the franchisor’s products or services in exchange for paying a royalty fee. Both parties sign contracts to clarify the specifics, spelling out each side’s role in the business relationship.

Franchise model examples

  • Merry Maids Residential Cleaning

5. Direct Sales Business Model

In the direct sales model, a company’s employees will be the ones who demonstrate and sell the products or services being offered directly to the intended consumers. This effectively eliminates steps within the distribution process, such as wholesalers and the regional distribution centers. Direct sales is a great way to build strong, lasting customer relationships. One common direct selling types is single-level marketing (SLM). This is when a salesperson is compensated for their sales. Another second type is called multilevel marketing (MLM). This model is when a person is compensated for sales made by salespersons recruited by them and under their authority.

Direct sales business model examples:

  • Stella & Dot

6. Affiliate Marketing Business Model

People using the affiliate marketing business model promote and sell products from other companies online to get paid a percentage of the sales they make. This business model is common with “influencers” on Instagram or other leading social media apps. They will post about a company’s product to entice their followers to buy it through them. Many of their followers will buy the product through the supplied link. It is a win-win situation for both the influencer marketing the product and the company selling it. Affiliate business models are also popular among bloggers and online publishers.

There are 4 primary ways an affiliate can earn money from an affiliate program.

  • Pay Per Sale (PPS) – Affiliate earns a commission when a sale is made.
  • Pay Per Click (PPC) – Affiliate earns a commission whenever an affiliate link is clicked.
  • Pay Per Impression (PPI) – Affiliate earns a commission when a visitor lands on the merchant’s site.
  • Pay Per Lead (PPL) – Affiliate earns a commission when someone clicks on affiliate link and then takes an action such signing up for a free trial or completing a form.

Affiliate marketing business model examples:

  • Amazon Affiliates
  • Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate)

7. E-Commerce Business Model

e-commerce

Photo by PhotoMIX Company

Electronic commerce, or “e-commerce,” is a business model in which companies and individuals buy and sell products and services online. Because the business is entirely online, the products and services offered are nearly limitless. An e-commerce business offers companies the extra convenience of not needing a physical store. This increases the selection of products available to consumers. A business might combine the e-commerce model with the drop-shipping model.

Types of E-commerce business models

  • B2B: Business to Business Ecommerce- The B2B model focuses on providing products from one business to another.
  • B2c: Business to Consumer Ecommerce- B2C model focuses on businesses providing products to the consumer base
  • C2C: Consumer to Consumer Ecommerce- C2C model focuses on consumers selling directly to other consumers. Sites like eBay and Craigslist are examples of C2C companies.
  • C2B: Consumer to Business Ecommerce- This model is when a consumer sells products or services to businesses. Those in this line of work will often times be freelancers and sole proprietors.

8. Drop-Shipping Business Model

Companies using the drop-shipping business model sell various products on their websites, but supplying and shipping these products is done by a third-party wholesaler. The significant upside to this business model is that you do not need to pay for or maintain inventory for any of the products you sell. It can be costly to store, package, and mail out orders. In the drop-shipping model, a third party (which is typically the wholesaler) will handle the logistics of shipping and making sure the customers receive the products they ordered. The individual who marketed the products gets a percentage of the sales.

9. Vertically Integrated Business Model

The vertically integrated supply chain business model is when the company controls both supply and distribution.   The company controls all costs of production, inventory stocked, marketing, and pricing. Because the company has complete control of the product from start to finish, it can decrease transportation costs and improve sales and profitability.

Vertically integrated business model examples

10. consulting business model.

business model for business

There are two parts to the consulting business model. First, hiring experts or developing a list of freelancing consultants, and second, charging a fee to provide access to these experts by your clients. Typically, your experts will provide a service that speaks to the consumer’s needs. Hopefully, the customer will return to you as further needs arise. Common examples of this could be online tutoring, mentoring, and freelance work in several different fields.

11. Ad-Supported Business Model

Advertising is a significant component in why some companies are incredibly profitable and why some will financially fail. Failure to advertise a product or service can lead to people not even knowing a company exists. The ad-supported business model emphasizes the importance of advertising and the sales generated from it. Popular platforms to advertise products or services include print media, online media, and television.

Ad-supported business model examples

12. enterprise business model.

In the enterprise business model, specific aspects of a business are modeled, such as infrastructures and asset groups. The company leaders will see what needs to be altered within the business to maximize profits. The enterprise model is more about evaluating how the business is functioning than it is about the overall structure of the business.

13. Lock-In Business Model or Lock-In Strategy

The lock-in business model takes customer loyalty and kicks it up a notch. This is done by essentially locking customers into a company’s product or service by making it difficult to abandon the company without dealing with negative consequences. Some of these consequences include increased costs or making it difficult to switch. For example, Apple compels customers to stick with them by making it extremely simple to sync every Apple product. But, also make it challenging to use their products alongside competitors. For example, the Apple watch is nearly impossible to use with an Android phone. A lock-in business model ideally leads to customers sticking with one company for the long haul.

Lock-in examples:

  • Apple utilizes this strategy
  • Some major banks utilize this strategy as well
  • Microsoft Office Suite

14. Multi-Brand Business Mod el

business model for business

Old Spice has done a brilliant job marketing their multi-brand business with clever and hilarious advertisements.

With the multi-brand business model, a parent company will offer similar products with different brand names to increase their market share. By doing this, the company effectively reduces any potential competition. A company with many similar products at different price points will appeal to a significant number of customers.

Multi-brand companies examples:

  • Procter & Gamble

15. Razor and Blade Model

The razor and blade model works by selling products or services to consumers at a lower price. Then later selling a related product or service to the consumer for increased profits. The name razor and blade comes from King Gillette. Gillette effectively worked to overtake the men’s razor market by offering a sturdy and reliable razor that required the use of blades only sold by Gillette. As a result, the company cornered the market on razors for a time and is still dominate today.

Examples of razor and blade business model:

  • Playstation
  • Computer printer manufactures

16. Distribution Based Business Model

The distribution-based business model facilitates the distribution of products or services offered from the manufacturers to the consumers. With this model, the business ensures that the mode of distribution chosen to get the product or service to the consumer is the most direct, and more importantly, the most cost-efficient manner possible. No one distribution method is universal for all companies. The chosen methods depend on such factors as your product’s perishability, target market, and geographic area covered by your company.

17. Direct-to-Consumers Business Model

business model for business

With the direct-to-consumer business model, consumers buy products or services directly from a company’s website, eliminating the middle-man. The model not only saves the company money but can be convenient for the customer as well. Consumers would have to physically visit a store to purchase the product they desire but know they can order the product directly from the company or manufacturer. There is no longer a need for a brick-and-mortar store, saving the company money. The company tends to have greater control over their branding and stronger relationships with their customers with this model, leading them to buy from the company again.

In recent years, however, the DTC model has struggled to scale on its own for many larger companies. One of the pioneer companies in this type of business model was the DTC mattress company Casper. This company was once seen as a unicorn startup a decade ago but has seen its market share and valuation plummet. The company’s IPO attempt in 2020 was nothing short of a disaster. At one point, Casper was valued at more than $1 billion. But, at the time of its regulatory filing, it had cut its IPO target share price to $12 to $13 from $17 to $19. That valued the company at around $500 million. A lawsuit was even filed accusing Casper of misleading investors into pouring $100 million into its IPO, knowing its financial prospects were far dimmer than it promised.

Examples of direct-to-customers business model:

  • Apple Store
  • Warby Parker
  • Casper Mattresses

18. Low-Touch Business Model

Some customers want the least amount of interaction with the company possible. Businesses that want to meet that need should adopt a low-touch business model. Products sold using this model can be consumed or used with little interference from salespersons or customer service. Due to the pandemic of 2020, many businesses learned to adapt to the threat. These businesses adopted low-touch strategies to help keep their doors open. For example, more take out restaurants began using kiosks for ordering instead of placing an order with a human team member. 

Other sectors such as hotels began using virtual check-ins through apps. This limited contact with other guests in the hotel lobby as well as employees of the hotel. As we return to normal, it is believed that many of these businesses will retain their low-touch option and many other businesses will begin using this practice also.

Low-touch business model examples:

  • Wal-mart Online
  • e-commerce sites

19. Fractionalization Business Model

In this model, companies will sell partial usage of their product or service to consumers, such as offering a timeshare deal for a condominium in a desirable location. Consumers will receive full benefits of the timeshare when they are there, but they can only be there for a pre-determined time each year.

20. Pay-As-You-Go Model

business model for business

Photo credit: Mike Motzart

As the name suggests, consumers will pay for the service or product as they use it.  Meaning there is no recurring bill or subscription necessary. This model should entice those who do not like to be tied down. If the product or service is of high quality and worth the price paid, they will continue using it.

Pay-as-you-go model examples:

  •  Cell phone carriers
  • Power companies
  • Internet service providers

21.User-Generated Content Business Model

User-generated content business is a type of content distribution platform where the users create the content. Social media platforms and sites like Youtube and Quora are successful due to the content that is nearly 100% user-generated. This model eliminates the need to create content as a primary way to engage visitors. This is another type of business model that is often combined with the advertising model. But unlike traditional content distribution platforms like CNN and Fox News, UGC sites typically adopt the personality of their users.

User-generated content business model:

  • Online forums

In conclusion, the different types of business models mentioned will appeal to a wide range of companies’ needs and preferences, including highly niched marketed ones. When picking a company’s business model, it is vital to consider what would be appropriate for the company as a whole and the intended consumer. Which model will entice the target market to buy (and continue to buy) from the company? Using the right business model will maximize profits and provide clear, practical ideas to sustain profitability for years to come. 

Additional photo credits: Under CC

Thomas Martin

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Tom is a member of the Editorial Team at StartUp Mindset. He has over 6 years of experience with writing on business, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He mainly focuses on online businesses, digital publishing, marketing and eCommerce startups.

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How To Create A Business Model In Seven Steps

Define the problem you’re going to solve, then define the customers for which the problem will be solved. Next, identify the customer and the problem. After that, define a set of possible solutions. After, define a set of possible monetization strategies for that solution, test, and choose your business model .

Table of Contents

A business model design in seven steps

Time needed:  1 day

How to create a business model in one day and seven simple steps

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The most valuable asset any organization has is its business model .

Indeed, that is the way all the moving parts of the organization fit together to create a value chain.

The aim of the value chain is value creation for several players in that industry, market, and so on.

The business model is not static, it changes and evolves along with the scale of the organization.

The type of  business model you designed for your company will not work if your company scales. You’ll need to rethink and redefine it.

This is even more evident in companies that are trying to innovate.

When those organizations create a new technology or an innovative approach to existing industries, it is critical to understand who are the players involved in that industry and how you’re creating value for them.

In this blog, we covered the business models  of many organizations.

For instance, Google’s massive success is strictly connected to its business model .

The company managed to create a balance between several players in the publishing and information industry where each of those players gets back some value (economic and not) from having a relationship with Google .

Where do you start when it comes to creating a business model ?

Related : Successful Types of Business Models You Need to Know

It’s all about business model design

The primary aim of a business model is to create a sustainable chain, able to unlock value for several players in a market, industry, or niche .

Therefore, this value chain will start from a value proposition , a promise you make to the key players and partners in that market, industry, or niche depending on where you start.

For instance, when PayPal started out it didn’t look to dominate the whole market. It started from a niche .

As Pether Thiel put it in his book, Zero to One:

The most successful companies make the core progression—to first dominate a specific niche and then scale to adjacent markets—a part of their founding narrative.

Indeed, PayPal began by identifying its most valuable partner, what at the time they called “power user.”

That was a choice driven by its business model design .

Therefore, instead of focusing on generically offering a service for everyone, PayPal focused on acquiring and attracting as many power users as possible.

Those power users were mostly on another platform that had already scaled up: eBay.

Thus, PayPal focused all its effort on acquiring those power users from eBay , fast!

Only after PayPal had drafted, tested, and validated a clear value proposition for a small , yet critical group of power users, it could move on to take larger and larger segments of that market.

What is a value proposition?

At its most basic level, a value proposition is a promise you make as an organization to deliver something (either monetary or advantage) to a critical player you have in our industry.

For instance, when Google started it showed right away it was capable of offering 10x of search results, at a faster speed and more relevant to users.

However, had Google kept its search engine primarily focused on providing paid results, it would not have taken off.

Instead, Google focused on offering relevant paid results but also a bunch of organic results.

In short, Google managed to index and rank the web pages from blogs, journals, news sites and any other website that made those pages available to Google for its index.

In exchange for that content, Google offered back visibility as qualified traffic toward those sites.

Indeed, search engines back then (at the end of the 1990s) were not focused on offering quality traffic.

Thus, most of the audience you got back to your site might have been quite relevant to your business.

Google instead, with its dominant search engine allowed publishers, and businesses (small and large) to gain customers.

That sealed an implicit deal “Me (Google) will send you qualified traffic that helps you grow your business if you (publisher, business, or whoever publishes on the web) offer me your content to be indexed.”

We might call that an implicit contract, which is the beginning of a value chain.

In fact, from this sort of contract part of the Google business model has been built. Imagine the scenario where Google was not attractive enough to provide qualified traffic to content producers.

They would have stopped offering their content for free by blocking access to the search engine.

Instead, they allowed Google to index their pages because the visibility they got was too attractive.

A business model is also about how you make money but how you make money isn’t your business model

One of the biggest misconceptions of the business model is to confuse it with the monetization strategy or the revenue model of the company.

While this is an essential piece of the puzzle, it is just one of the components of a successful business model .

In this blog, we’ve discussed at great length how companies make money  as a way to start the discussion of a business model .

However, a business model implies the understanding of

operations, customer acquisition and retention, supply chain management, and the cost above and revenue aspects

According to the business model you designed over the years for your organization there will be a piece that plays a more critical role compared to others.

For instance, a vital component of the Coca-Cola business model is its distribution strategy .

For other companies like McDonald’s, the key to its business model success is the heavily franchised restaurants that helped the company scale up all over the world.

Each company will develop a unique  model  among the many types of business models which is what makes it thick in the long run!

What principles should I follow to create and design a business model?

Developing a deep understanding of your business model implies asking a few critical questions. For instance, some of those questions might be:

  • What value do I offer my potential customers? Or what problem do I solve with my product/service?
  • How do I charge my customers?
  • What does my acquisition cost look like?
  • What channels can I tap into to find my ideal customer?
  • Did I create a predictable revenue stream ? If not what can I do to generate that?

Your business model will be based on a few critical assumptions about who your customers are, how your product or service should look like, what are the favorite channels to reach them, and a few others.

Those assumptions will be tested as soon as you start kicking off your operations.

Your main concern should be just that. You need to check those assumptions as quickly as possible. 

Steve Blank has identified 17 principles in his  Customer Development Manifesto :

  • There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside
  • Pair Customer Development with Agile Development
  • Failure is an Integral Part of the   Search for the Business Model
  • If You’re Afraid to Fail You’re Destined to Do So
  • Iterations and Pivots are Driven by Insight
  • Validate Your Hypotheses with Experiments
  • Success Begins with Buy-In from Investors and Co-Founders
  • No Business Plan Survives First Contact with Customers
  • Not All Startups Are Alike
  • Startup Metrics are Different from Existing Companies
  • Agree on Market Type – It Changes Everything
  • Fast, Fearless Decision-Making, Cycle Time, Speed and Tempo
  • If it’s not About Passion, You’re Dead the Day You Opened your Doors
  • Startup Titles and Functions Are Very Different from a Company’s
  • Preserve Cash While Searching. After It’s Found, Spend
  • Communicate and Share Learning
  • Startups Demand Comfort with Chaos and Uncertainty

I suggest you read this manifesto over and over again. This should be the first step!

What tools can you use to design and create your business model?

One of the most used tools to design and create a business model has revolved around the customer development manifesto above.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that this manifesto was the fruit of an era where venture capital had become scarce compared to the dot-com bubble at the end of the 1990s.

Those tools for business modeling have been developed in that context. Thus, those are not a one-size-fits-all toolbox but rather work better in a context where capital is scarce, and you need to test your business model assumptions as quickly as possible. In that context three primary tools are:

  • Business model canvas.
  • Lean startup canvas.
  • Customer development canvas.

Those tools can be used by entrepreneurs in the phases of the business model generation:

  • Map the business model hypotheses.
  • Test these hypotheses with customer feedback.
  • Iterative this process.

The result will be an incremental development of a product that will reach a minimally viable version .

The better the product, based on customer feedback, the larger the audience it will reach.

Lean makes sense when capital is scarce and when you need to keep burn rates low.

Lean was designed to   inform the founders’ vision  while they operated frugally at speed. It was not built as a focus group for consensus for those without deep convictions .

Is the lean startup still a valuable model?

As Steve Blank has pointed out in an HBR article entitled “ Is the Lean Startup Dead? “

I realized it was time for a new startup heuristic: the amount of customer discovery and product-market fit you need to find is inversely proportional to the amount and availability of risk capital.

In other words, the more risk capital that is available on the market the least the lean startup model might work.

The reason is, that if you have massive risk capital, you won’t need to test all your assumptions.

Quite the opposite, you’ll need to execute them fast.

Also, one of the primary logic of the lean startup is to burn cash at the slowest rate possible, while evolving (so-called pivoting) your business model .

If money is not an issue, then why go for the lean startup?

Steve Blank went further:

Rather than the “first mover advantage” of the last bubble ,  today’s theory is that  “massive capital infusion owns the entire market.”

Therefore, if you secured a massive injection of money, then your aim might be primarily toward growth , rather than profits.

In that context, the lean startup might not work!

Are capital moats sustainable?

blitzscaling-business-model-innovation-canvas

When a company or startup has a substantial capital allocate for growth , that is when this injection can become a short-term competitive advantage.

However, as companies finance growth through artificial injection of capital, those also become extremely risky, because many of the assumptions underlying the business model can’t be tested organically, thus leaving the company’s foundations weak.

An example of this excess of use of capital as a competitive moat has been WeWork , which has proved one of the most disastrous business endeavors of the last decade.

Thus, capital moats and technological moats need to be balanced with careful business model testing and organic validation in the marketplace!

Key Highlights

  • This step is the foundation of your business model . It involves identifying a specific problem that your product or service aims to solve.
  • Problems can be functional (solving a practical need) or emotional (addressing a psychological desire or pain point).
  • Defining the problem clearly helps you focus on delivering value to your target audience.
  • Once the problem is defined, it’s important to identify the individuals or groups who are facing this problem. These are your potential customers.
  • Group your potential customers into categories, keeping it to a maximum of three types. Each type may have distinct characteristics and needs.
  • From the categories of potential customers and the identified problems, narrow your focus to one key customer type and one specific problem.
  • This step helps prevent spreading your resources too thin and allows you to concentrate on understanding your primary audience and addressing their primary need.
  • Brainstorm a range of solutions that could address the key problem for your chosen customer type.
  • List up to ten solutions. Then, evaluate these solutions based on feasibility, cost, time, and resources required.
  • Narrow down the list to three solutions that are viable given your constraints.
  • For the solution you’ve chosen, consider how you’ll monetize it. Determine how your business will generate revenue from providing the solution to your target customers.
  • Brainstorm up to five potential monetization strategies. These could include subscription models, one-time purchases, freemium offerings, etc.
  • Focus on the two strategies that can be tested quickly and efficiently.
  • This step involves practical validation of your selected solution and monetization strategies.
  • Test your product or service with real customers to gather feedback. Evaluate how well your monetization strategies perform in real-world scenarios.
  • Based on the feedback and data collected, choose the most effective solution and monetization strategy combination.
  • With a validated solution, monetization strategy , and a clear understanding of your target audience, you have the foundation of your business model .
  • Your business model is the blueprint that outlines how your company will create, deliver, and capture value in the market.
  • Continuously monitor and refine your business model as you gather more insights from customers and adapt to changing market conditions.

Create Your Business Model Idea In Less Than A Minute!

With our Business Model Idea generator, you can craft the perfect business model idea, in less than a minute, by leveraging AI, to help you find the first version of the building blocks needed to build a successful business model !

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The 9 Most Successful Business Models Of Today

2 July 2021

Times are changing so fast, particularly in the world of business. How businesses interact with their customers, how companies innovate, and even the very business models that organisations are built on – all are undergoing rapid change.

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Yet, from what I’ve seen, many businesses are failing to keep up, and far too many are operating on outdated business models.

If you’re leading a company – whether it’s small or large, a brand-new start-up or an established business – you’ll need to understand the latest business models and assess how they might apply to your company. That’s why I’ve picked some of the most successful business models for 2019 and beyond. Let’s take a look.

The servitisation (subscription) business

Instead of selling a product or a service as a one-off, servitisation companies operate on a subscription or ongoing service model, building a more intimate understanding of their customers in the process. As an example, let’s compare content creators Netflix and Disney. Disney produces a film, releases it in cinemas, and the film is either a hit or it’s not. They won’t necessarily understand exactly how many people watched it and how much those viewers liked it. Netflix, on the other hand, has an intensely close customer relationship, understanding exactly how many users have streameda movie or series, whether they gave up part-way through and watched something else, whether they then went on to watch more content starring the same actor, etc. Another example is Dollar Shave Club (grooming subscription company) versus Gillette (razor manufacturer with limited direct customer relationship).  

The platform-based business

This model is closely linked to the sharing economy and subscription models (see above– in fact, platforms are particularly powerful when combined with a subscription model). Well-known examples of platform businesses include Facebook, GitHub, Uber and Airbnb. As you can probably guess from these examples, platforms provide a mechanism or network – this could be a physical network, not necessarily online – for parties to interact with each other. Platforms deliver value for users by facilitating direct connections and exchanges between people (the more valuable the network is to the user, the more successful it is). In return, the platform gets incredible insight into its user communities.  

The social, authentic business

The traditional, corporate business model,with its hierarchies, silos and endless formal meetings is changing. These days, customers want to see the people behind the brand; they want to really “connect” with a business. Remember how companies and, more specifically, the people who work for them were discouraged from voicing personal view points or discussing the company outside of work? That’s now an outdated way of operating. Today’s authentic businesses share their opinions and stand up for their values. Typically,the CEO is active on social media and employees are actively encouraged to be brand ambassadors. And crucially, the brand itself has a lively and engaging social media presence, with a strong brand message that really connects with the target audience. Some of today’s most authentic brands include Adidas, Apple and Lego.

The employee-centric business

The way we work is changing. People are more nomadic in their work, and the days of a “job for life” are well and truly gone. To be successful, companies still need great people, but the way they go about attracting those people is changing.The “gig economy” has played a huge role in this transformation, since it gives businesses the means to create a fantastic team in lots of different ways – not just the traditional, full-time, permanent employee route. As such, businesses are increasingly happy for people to come and go, and to work for more than one company at a time. In this changing environment, it’s vital companies become employee centric. This means offering people an attractive place to work, flexibility, space to grow, and the means to develop their career.Google is a prime example of such a business.

The partner-centric business

As well as becoming more employee centric, companies are also becoming more partner centric. They are almost like networked businesses, outsourcing work, tapping into on-demand services, partnering with providers, and in sourcing expertise where necessary. They create attractive networks of partnerships – and are a valuable partner to others.Just look at the average small or mid-sized business these days and you’ll likely see an example of a networked, partner-centric business. They might, for instance, outsource their social media strategy to one firm, partner with a web design company, bring in a brand consultant, enlist external training providers, and so on. In today’s rapidly changing business world, larger companies have a lot to learn from this flexible, scalable model.

The customer value-obsessed business

For me, this model applies to absolutely every business because it’s all about solving customers’ problems,anticipating their needs,making people’s lives easier and removing any friction or hassle. Amazon is an obvious example of this. Online personal styling subscription service Stitch Fix is another great example. With Stitch Fix, users detail their size and style preferences by filling out a questionnaire (they can also link to their Pinterest account). Then, using artificial intelligence, the system pre-selects clothes that will fit and suit the customer, and a (human) personal stylist chooses the best options from that pre-selected list. And voila, the perfect clothes for you arrive at your door every month. No more shopping in crowded shopping centres, queueing for changing rooms, or ordering items online only to find they don’t fit.

The constant-innovation business

The ability to innovate is crucial to business success. But, today, the pace of innovation isn’t just fast, it’s constant. Some of the most successful businesses in the world are constantly innovating and transforming, even if it means cannibalising their own products and services to create something new. Take Apple’s iPod, for example. By introducing smart phones that could hold your music, the company effectively killed off the need for a separate device. Sure, some people still love their iPod. But even die-hard iPod lovers won’t be surprised to learn that iPod sales have been in decline since 2008 – which, funnily enough, was the year after the iPhone was introduced. 

The data-driven business

Smart organisations recognise that data is one of their critical business assets.  Really  smart organisations encourage a data culture, where the importance of data is recognised at every level of the business, and decisions across the company are based on data, not assumptions. The data-driven business has measures in place to understand exactly what’s happening now, and uses that information to make better decisions, refine operations and even create new revenue streams. Companies who really value data are well placed to experiment and innovate at a faster pace, which ties in with the previous business model.

The tech-savvy business

We live in a time of break-neck technological innovation. AI,big data, blockchain, 3D printing,augmented reality and virtual reality are just some of the massive changes that are taking place right now.So it’s no surprise that many of the most successful companies on the planet are tech businesses. Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook are, at the time of writing, among the six most valuable companies in the world; the only non-tech company in the top six is Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. Regardless of your sector and company size, it’s vital your organisation embraces technology. If you don’t, you risk being left behind.

Many of today’s most successful businesses have managed to combine a number, if not all, of these business models to catapult their companies to stellar success.Over the years, I’ve helped companies big and small reshape their businesses and create more successful business models.So,if you’d like help with your business model transformation, get in touch . 

Where to go from here

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of successful business models. If you would like to know more, check out my related articles:

  • How to Build a Platform Strategy for Your Business
  • Why Every Company Needs A Plan-On-A-Page
  • How To Develop Your AI (Artificial Intelligence) Strategy – With Handy Template

Business Trends In Practice | Bernard Marr

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Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity.

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Social Media

VSCO's CEO explains how the app found a profitable and sustainable business model — and breaks down 3 lessons for new social-media startups

  • Photo-editing app VSCO had its moment in the sun in 2019 as "VSCO girls" took over the internet.
  • Despite a decline in growth, VSCO remains profitable, the company's CEO told BI.
  • VSCO's CEO outlined 3 lessons for startups entering the social-media arena in 2024.

If you were chronically online in 2019, you might remember "VSCO Girls," the viral phrase coined to describe the Gen-Z users obsessed with the photo-editing and sharing app.

The app, which offers a slew of editing tools like filters, became a go-to for influencers and everyday social-media users, rivaling Instagram in cool factor if not in size.

"What ended up happening, though, is I think we kind of walked away from our roots in many respects," said Eric Wittman, who was tapped as CEO in September after serving as president since 2021.

VSCO has since doubled down on its mission to provide users a space to create and share photos, at a time when other platforms like Instagram are running in the other direction . It has also narrowed its focus on its core demographic: photographers and content creators.

"They still want this safe place to find themselves as creative individuals. They want to find other people and build community," Wittman said.

The platform has added features like "Spaces" (a shared gallery), DMs, and more customizable profiles for paying members to help users get discovered by and connect with potential clients. VSCO utilizes a freemium model after launching paid memberships in 2017, which now cost between about $30 and $60 a year. Paying members also get access to VSCO's video-editing tools. VSCO's memberships make up a majority of the company's revenue and it turned a profit in late 2022, Wittman told The Information last year.

Since its moment in the spotlight, VSCO's growth has slowed, however. According to market intelligence firm SensorTower, VSCO downloads declined 47% and 36% year-over-year in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The firm cited the rise of AI-powered apps and increased editing tools on existing platforms as a potential influence, which would include ByteDance's CapCut and other trendy AI photo-editing apps.

"VSCO boasts a worldwide community of more than 200 million users," Wittman told BI. "While we can't speak to SensorTower's data collection methods, viral moments are fleeting by nature, so it's natural to experience some course correction after new apps or major new feature launches occur. Our main emphasis is catering to aspiring and professional creators, photographers, and enthusiasts. Scaling a broad consumer audience was never a primary component of the strategy."

Wittman told BI that VSCO is "capital efficient" and a spokesperson confirmed the company is profitable by GAAP standards. It last raised venture capital in 2015 with a $50 million Series B round, bringing its total fundraising to $90 million. Wittman said the company, which has 105 employees, has also avoided layoffs during the latest tech downturn and that it is "always interested" in well-fitted acquisitions.

"We've been very conscious of how we want to make money as a company, and it's very much oriented towards giving creators value and then monetizing that value exchange directly with the creators," Wittman added. This contrasts with social-media companies like Meta, Snap, and TikTok, which are all heavily ad-based.

Now approaching its 13th year in business, VSCO isn't at the scale of Meta or TikTok, but its longevity could serve as an example for other startups aiming to build a sustainable social-media business. It's proof that maybe — just maybe — startups don't need to aspire to be the biggest or kill competitors to succeed.

Here are 3 lessons VSCO's CEO has for startups entering the social-media arena in 2024:

He wants to see tech startups building a healthy blend of online and offline communities. "We've got to get back to just reestablishing unmanipulated human connections again," Wittman said. "I do think that people post-COVID are craving real human connections and you've seen enough market data now where, especially in the United States, the increase in loneliness has dramatically grown over the last couple years."

Social networks could benefit from narrowing their focus. "The opportunity for new community or social networks is focusing on a certain category of people or subject matter because traditional social media has gotten very noisy," Wittman said. "It's increasingly harder to find your person or your people or the subject matter that you're interested in."

Social startups will need to think critically about their business models now more than ever. "Yes, you can bootstrap yourself for so long, but at some point, people have bills to pay, and if folks take venture capital, you're going to have investors who at some point in time are going to want to return," Wittman said. If a new network chooses advertising as its primary model, Wittman warns that it "takes a massive scale" of at least 100 million users to make it work.

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Watch: Peter Thiel Thinks This Could Be The Next $100 Billion Silicon Valley Success Story

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  • “Beyond GBS” organizations strengthen their ownership of end-to-end outcomes. They run GBS like a business in terms of performance, cost, and service levels, and they attract more attention from the C-suite.
  • They lead digitization initiatives, scale their best practices internally using consistent structures and processes globally, and provide new value-added services adjacent to their core delivery.
  • Implementing this model involves building a robust digital and data backbone, fostering internal partnerships, and redefining the GBS mandate to include value-added activities beyond traditional transactional processes.

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/ article, transforming global business services into a strategic function.

By  Fabrice Roghé ,  Sascha Kleebaur , and  Kai Sondermann

Key Takeaways

Once a revolutionary organization inside many companies, global business services (GBS) today stands at a crossroads. Created in the 1990s to centralize transactional tasks for finance, HR, and other internal units, many GBS functions have reached a strategic tipping point—requiring corporate leaders to make crucial decisions on the future of their GBS organizations.

A recent BCG study showed that only 41% of companies believe that GBS creates value. With that in mind, the leaders of these support functions must raise their game at a time when companies around the world face unprecedented challenges in how they operate. Marginal adjustments to GBS strategy are no longer sufficient.

As the limitations of traditional models become evident, GBS must transition from a purely operational role to a more strategic one. Although global business service organizations have been at the forefront of change in the past, they now need to reinvent themselves to build support and enabling functions that are more resilient, flexible, and scalable. They also need to expand their charters and provide more value-added activities such as collections and payments, customer management, and even sales functions.

The next generation of GBS functions are becoming more closely intertwined with corporate success—and the GBS model, as a key amplifier of change, is about to take center stage, creating value beyond its legacy contributions. GBS can lead the transformation of areas such as customer experience , operations , and worker training. This requires corporations to adopt a new mindset—and a new framework that we call “Beyond GBS.”

A Bold Vision for Global Business Services

Under the traditional GBS model, C-suite and GBS executives alike have focused largely on consolidating tasks, maximizing transactional processing efficiency, and minimizing costs by bundling resources and operating from low-cost locations around the world.

But the legacy model may have hit its limits: between 2009 and 2021, overhead costs—as measured by sales and general administration—grew 35% more than overall corporate margins, giving rise to what’s known as the “GBS value dilemma.”

This creates three imperatives for GBS organizations:

  • To further strengthen their ownership of end-to-end outcomes
  • To run GBS like a business in terms of performance, cost, and service levels
  • To attract more attention from the C-suite

The “Beyond GBS” model puts these imperatives into practice. It offers a bold vision, strategy, mandate, and governance structure that is aligned with the company’s strategic direction and initiatives and promoted by the group, business, and functional leadership. “Beyond GBS” organizations lead digitization initiatives, scale their best practices internally around the world using consistent structures and processes, and provide new value-added services adjacent to their core delivery.

Taking Support Functions to the Next Level

“Beyond GBS” is the highest of five levels in the support-function journey. At the first, or bottom, level are the roughly 15% of companies that either have no GBS function or have standalone centers siloed across multiple geographies. Companies at this level suffer the most: one company we’ve studied has 117,000 accounting cost centers for 72,000 employees, 150 reporting lines between shared services and the business units they support, and a $5 billion gap in cost optimization versus their peers.

The second level, representing 40% of companies, are those organizations still running multifunctional service factories. The third level and fourth levels, each representing another 20% of companies, consist of organizations with integrated global support functions.

The fifth, and highest, level consists of the roughly 5% of all companies who have gone beyond GBS. These companies have digitized transactional activities and developed effective platform deliveries and end-to-end solutions. They achieve all this while rebalancing workloads seamlessly between global worksites.

Reaching this top level remains a challenge for many companies. In our experience, GBS organizations achieve roughly 80% of the potential gains—the low-hanging fruit, in other words—if they depend on labor arbitrage, process efficiencies, and the first-time digitization of processes. Despite the complexity and high costs of most GBS initiatives, GBS teams tend to hit an early ceiling and incremental improvements tend to be small. This is particularly true for laggard GBS functions, which represent about two-thirds of all organizations.

The success of GBS organizations is mainly limited by weakly aligned top-management GBS priorities, a nonaligned target picture, and subsequently having a very rigid governance and ineffective steering of the GBS model. Leapfrogging from a less mature GBS model to an advanced one has only proven successful in isolated cases, given the lack of synchronized implementation across the organization. Thus, rather than focusing on incremental improvement of traditional practices—which add value for no more than 10% of companies—companies need to completely rethink and redesign the GBS function.

How to Get Started

Before implementing the best practices of the “Beyond GBS” model, corporate leaders must ensure that they have a firm foundation in place. That starts with an enhanced digital and data backbone with the latest technology solutions and continues with the following three building blocks:

  • An agile internal customer front line that brings GBS close to its customers and fosters rapid delivery of services and a responsive iteration of new offerings
  • A highly effective delivery platform that drives exceptional operations, focuses on value-adding activities, and attracts high-quality employees
  • A digital innovation center that delivers a steady stream of new capabilities and technologies, enabling constant improvement in the GBS unit’s interfaces and delivery platforms

Assured that a solid foundation is in place, organizations can then begin implementing the “Beyond GBS” model. There are five steps companies should take to unlock the most business value:

1. Forge internal “value partnerships.” This step repositions GBS teams from a siloed, transactional processing unit to a partner that can help other business units optimize their processes to create total company value through outcome- and impact-based solutions.

2. Boldly rescope your mandate. Leaders need to think beyond the transactional core mindset of the past to a bolder, broader, and even more radical vision of what GBS can provide. To be sure, transactional processing cannot be ignored. But by embracing AI and analytics, GBS can play a valuable role in ESG and compliance reporting and user experience design—all with a clear link to overall strategy and business outcomes. Once the foundation is secured, GBS leaders have an opportunity to sell the CEO and C-suite team on a broader charter.

3. Expand talent and capability access. To expand beyond extended-workbench thinking requires the creation of vibrant capability hubs and global capability teams that provide nonclassical GBS services, including R&D and other center-of-expertise activities. This shift allows these services to collocate to locations with the best mix of cost and talent. At the same time, attracting and retaining the best talent remain priorities and can be enhanced with upskilling and cross-skilling initiatives. This approach places greater emphasis on expertise and digital capabilities.

4. Rethink global ways of working. This critical step moves teams beyond the obligatory, if not forced, cross-functional and organizational alignment to a new model promoting institutionalized global ownership. This includes a globally organized mandate and the formation of distributed teams with global coverage. The goal is to maximize the contribution of global team members. GBS leaders can play a key role in fostering global functional ownership that enhances the contributions of these global teams.

5. Build in scale and resilience. The optimal setup for a “Beyond GBS” approach is a platform-based operating and technology model that provides agility, flexibility, and a healthy redundancy of globalized and localized services along a multicapability hub infrastructure that leverages external partners. The three key components of this model are a customer-centric interface, an agile (and digital) “center of competence,” and a global network of shared delivery platforms managed by the GBS team and vendors as needed. This setup ensures the company is globally resilient even as it scales—and enables the company to continuously rebalance workloads based on the geopolitical climate.

In the “Beyond GBS” model, vibrant service hubs are built around a globally consistent, modular approach that enables new “plug-and-play” services. This approach also allows for the collocation of noncore GBS functions at hubs to leverage GBS’s infrastructure costs and capabilities in the broader organizational ecosystem.

The main objective, of course, is to attract and retain the best talent while operating at the lowest costs. In addition, building out core process standards atop a digital and data backbone based on the latest tech solutions will create even more value. Leading these efforts are GBS’s global process owners, who will shape service operations globally and lead process optimization and digitization initiatives.

The evolution of the traditional GBS function into a more strategic business unit creates vast new opportunities for companies. By expanding beyond its historic back-office role, GBS teams can provide real value and drive impact rather than maintaining rigid structures and services. Solutions will become innovative and highly customized. And most important, “Beyond GBS” functions operate as business-like entities—actively managed by leading talent and measured against clear outcomes.

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Managing Director & Senior Partner

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Partner and Associate Director

Kai Sondermann

Partner and Associate Director, Organization Transformation

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More From Forbes

3 great business podcasts for business leaders and builders.

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A great way to learn about business, strategy, and lessons is to listen to great podcasts.

Many top business podcasts focus on how to start a company , an entrepreneurship journey, or a successful founder (sometimes billionaire) story. Unsurprisingly, personal stories of challenges and growth are compelling, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs. However, learning from the successes and failures of mature companies is applicable and valuable for every type of business leader. Prominent, household-name corporations have experienced significant transactions, hardships, and growth spurts not captured by one founder's experience alone. Here are three great podcasts focusing on business strategies, vicissitudes, milestone transactions, and decisions that sculpted and shaped the large corporations we know today.

Acquired podcast deep dives into one household name company per episode, and at 3-4 hours per episode, they are "better described as conversational audiobooks than podcasts." Examples of companies covered include LVMH, Costco, Visa, Nike, Porsche, and most recently, Novo Nordisk of the Ozempic fame. Some episodes also feature the companies' CEOs/Founders, such as Jensen Huang of NVIDIA or Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber. Based on their internal data, 40% of the audience of this content are executives at the C-Suite or VP level. This statistic reflects the in-depth and knowledgeable business-oriented content of the show. Each episode delves into a company's origins and describes the twists and turns that led to its current state.

Business Wars

The description of this podcast says it all: "Business Wars reveals the stories of the battles waged behind closed doors through reimagined conversations and clever sound design, putting you in the shoes of the dealmakers, execs, and stakeholders. Every rich and powerful company has a jaw-dropping story you've never heard, from hostile takeovers to boardroom backstabbing to turncoats who betrayed their mentor to start a rival company."

Successful businesses are ultimately managed by humans who take their victories very seriously. This podcast explores the behind-the-scenes events of famous corporations' rivalries that consumers may have only glimpsed. Some of the rivalries discussed include Marvel vs. DC, Hearst vs. Pulitzer, Southwest vs. American, and Ferrari vs. Lamborghini, among others. With 87 seasons, 539 episodes, and counting, you will have plenty of business drama to binge on and learn from.

Business Breakdowns

This podcast explores familiar companies' operational considerations, competitive landscape, and stakeholders, whose business model and operations may appear obvious. Take, for instance, the episode on Patek Philippe , the watchmaker. The episode delves into the company's founding story, primary and secondary market strategies, market sizing, dealer landscape, and M&A trends in the luxury market that impact Patek Philippe's future outlook. Another example is FedEx —despite the familiarity of the company's model (i.e., delivery as service) to most consumers, the episode delves into the impact of wage inflation on the business, drivers of margin differences between its service lines, railroad expansion, and competition with Amazon.

You will better understand the company's strategy, business model, marketing, and vertical and horizontal industry stakeholders—valuable or interesting information for entrepreneurs or aspiring leaders in the industry, or even a consumer of the product.

Juliette Han, PhD

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EV boat maker Arc debuts a premium wake sport model for $258,000

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  • Arc Boat Company started taking orders for its second fully electric model in three years on Tuesday.
  • The Arc Sport is a 23 foot, battery-electric boat designed for wake sports enthusiasts.
  • Founded by Ryan Cook and Mitch Lee in 2021, Arc has raised $110 million from investors including the NBA's Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Arc Boat Company began sales of its second electric boat model in just three years this week. The new $258,000 Arc Sport was designed for wake sports enthusiasts and follows the company's earlier Arc One, a limited-edition luxury cruiser.

While the startup produced fewer than two dozen of those earlier boats, it is gearing up for continuous production of the new model, which it unveiled on Tuesday.

The 23 foot Arc Sport can carry up to 15 people at a time. It boasts a large battery with enough power to last for four to six hours and has a top speed of 40 miles per hour. At its price, it will compete with high-end models sold by traditional boat makers such as Nautique, MasterCraft and Malibu.

Arc is one of a handful of promising startups aiming to electrify boating for sports and leisure including GM-backed Pure Watercraft and Stockholm-based X Shore.

Traditional fuel-burning boats contribute to significant environmental problems including noise pollution, smog and water pollution that is visible floating on the water around them.

Arc co-founder and CEO Mitch Lee said he spent his younger years water skiing, kneeboarding and wakeboarding on the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta near Stockton, California, and always noticed the stench of burning diesel at marinas and runoff from engines.

He wanted to do something to reduce the negative effects of these sports and partnered with a former SpaceX engineer, Ryan Cook, who is now the chief technology officer at Arc, to make that, and a "better boating experience," a reality.

Arc's leadership team also includes veterans of boating, automotive and transportation companies including Tesla , Rivian , Lyft , Brunswick and MarineMax , which helped the EV boat maker convince investors their designs and technology could work.

About $110 million in early-stage funding for Arc was raised from a mix of celebrity angel investors and venture capital firms including the National Basketball Association's Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson; actor Will Smith; and venture capital funds Andreessen Horowitz, Eclipse Ventures and Menlo Ventures, among others.

Arc was able to design and start building its fully electric boats within a relatively short time frame, under three years, because the automotive industry had already invested years and billions of dollars building up a supply chain for components that go into electric vehicles, Lee said.

Buying components from trusted suppliers, rather than creating many from scratch like electric auto manufacturers Tesla and Rivian had to do in their earliest days, made it possible to get from concept to the dock in a few years rather than in a decade, the CEO emphasized.

Arc plans to begin deliveries of its new battery electric Arc Sport to customers this year. Don't miss these stories from CNBC PRO:

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  • Michael Burry of 'The Big Short' fame buys Amazon, Alphabet and a dozen other new stocks
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Google halts AI tool’s ability to produce images of people after backlash

Catherine Thorbecke

Google is pausing its artificial intelligence tool Gemini’s ability to generate images of people after it was blasted on social media for producing historically inaccurate images that largely showed people of color in place of White people.

The embarrassing blunder shows how AI tools still struggle with the concept of race. OpenAI’s Dall-E image generator, for example, has taken heat for perpetuating harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes at scale. Google’s attempt to overcome this, however, appears to have backfired and made it difficult for the AI chatbot to generate images of White people.

Gemini, like other AI tools such as ChatGPT, is trained on vast troves of online data. Experts have long warned that AI tools therefore have the potential to replicate the racial and gender biases baked into that information.

When prompted by CNN on Wednesday to generate an image of a pope, for example, Gemini produced an image of a man and a woman, neither of whom were White. Tech site The Verge also reported that the tool produced images of people of color in response a prompt to generate images of a “1943 German Soldier.”

This screen grab shows CNN asking Google Gemini to create an AI-generated image of a pope, as well as the tool's response.

“We’re already working to address recent issues with Gemini’s image generation feature,” Google said in a post on X Thursday. “While we do this, we’re going to pause the image generation of people and will re-release an improved version soon.”

Thursday’s statement came after Google on Wednesday appeared to defend the tool a day prior by saying in a post on X, “Gemini’s AI image generation does generate a wide range of people. And that’s generally a good thing because people around the world use it.”

“But it’s missing the mark here,” the company acknowledged.

In other tests conducted by CNN on Wednesday, a prompt requesting an image of a “white farmer in the South” resulted in a response from Gemini saying: “Sure, here are some images featuring photos of farmers in the South, representing a variety of genders and ethnicities.” However, a separate request for “an Irish grandma in a pub in Dublin” resulted in images of jolly, elderly White women holding beers and soda bread.

This screen grab shows CNN asking Google Gemini to create an AI-generated image of a

Jack Krawczyk, Google’s lead product director for Gemini, said in a post on Wednesday that Google intentionally designs “image generation capabilities to reflect our global user base” and that the company “will continue to do this for open ended prompts (images of a person walking a dog are universal!).”

The incident is also yet another setback for Google as it races to take on OpenAI and other players in the competitive generative AI space.

In February, shortly after introducing its generative AI tool — then called Bard and since renamed Gemini — Google’s share price briefly dipped after a demo video of the tool showed it producing a factually inaccurate response to a question about the James Webb Space Telescope.

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