business-model-canvas

What Is a Business Model Canvas? Business Model Canvas In A Nutshell

The business model canvas is a framework proposed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in Busines Model Generation enabling the design of business models through nine building blocks comprising: key partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

A quick intro to business models

A business model is a way in which organizations capture value. Not only the economic value but also the social values an organization can foster and the cultural values it can sustain in the long run.

In other words, generating a business model isn’t just about how companies make money but how they create value for several players. Unlocking profits for the organization that came up with that business model is one of the critical elements.

There isn’t a single way to design and assess a business model. However, the business model canvas is a holistic model that takes into account nine factors or building blocks.

Alexander Osterwalder proposed the Business Model Canvas.  He’s a  Swiss business theorist that in 2000 together with a team of 470 co-creators in an attempt to create a tool that entrepreneurs could use for their businesses.

The aim of having a sharp understanding of your business model is critical to provide strategic insights about your customers, product/service, and financial structure.

Thus, to take action and iterate the business model until it unlocks value for your organization as a whole.

Let’s take a real case study. I often mentioned the Google business model as a great example. You might like or not the giant from Mountain View.

Yet what made this company so profitable – I argue – was its ability to unlock value for several players in the digital marketing space.

In fact, on the one hand, with AdWords, Google allowed businesses to transparently bid on keywords based on the clicks those ads received.

This allowed companies to disintermediate advertising from intermediaries that were taking up most of the margins (of course now Google gets them).

On the other hand, with AdSense, Google allowed small publishers around the world to monetize their content. All they needed was an AdSense account and enough traffic to start earning money.

Of course, as of today, this model isn’t sustainable anymore for many businesses. In a way, AdSense democratized the ads revenues, which before were only taken by large players. With Google, those profits got shared with content creators.

Also, Google offered the best search experience compared to any other search engine.

Even though it wasn’t the first to take over the market (it was actually among the last movers) Google offered a free service that worked wonders.

The focus on a great search experience was one the most crucial factor in Google‘s success.

googles-business-model

Little critical note: Just like professors study birds flight and go around the world to teach birds how to fly while they can’t. So entrepreneurs that tinker on a daily basis with business models might have a better feel for that compared to theorists trying to teach them what a business model is. In short, my point is that you don’t need to get bogged down on its definition or to stick with the business model canvas to assess your business model. You might want to develop your way to look at your business as – if you’re an entrepreneur – there’s none better than you to do that. In short, use the business model canvas as one of the many methods you can use to assess your business. What really matters is that you’ll be able to build a valuable business in the marketplace. 

Going back to the business model canvas Alexander Osterwalder, outlined several prescriptions that form the building blocks for a business model.

Those building blocks enable entrepreneurs to focus on operational, strategic, and financial assessments of their business.

Business model canvas in a nutshell

The nine building blocks of the business model canvas comprise vital partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

Key partners

Who are your key partners/suppliers?

What are the motivations for the partnerships?

It all begins with your partners. If you don’t have the right partnerships in place, you don’t have a business at all. That is the starting point of your business model. Finding the right partners is critical.

The success of your business and the traction depend upon your ability to identify and offer your partners a compelling reason to do business with you.

For instance, if you think about Google, the principal partners are the small publishers part of the AdSense program, together to the businesses that are part of the AdWords network and the users that daily keep going back to the Google search box by giving it critical data to sustain its business model.

If you think about Uber instead, you’ll notice how the key partners are its drivers for which Uber means an additional if not a full-time income as self-employed. Its engineers that keep the platform smooth and running and people that sustain the cause of Uber.

If you think instead at Airbnb, you’ll notice that those key partners aren’t only hosts and travelers that transact each day on the platform. Also, freelance photographers that travel the world to take professional pictures that enrich the user experience of Airbnb are also key players.

When it comes to partners “who” and “why” are critical questions. In short, who’s the niche of people that can sustain your business? And why, so what compelling reason are you giving them? What value do they get from this partnership? It doesn’t have to be just in terms of finances.

Of course, initially, a better deal would do. But it could also be about social values or personal values. For instance, initially for its drivers, Uber didn’t mean right away full-time income. But it also meant more freedom for its drivers to work when they wanted. So initially freedom might have been a critical aspect.

Key activities

What key activities does your value proposition require?

What activities are important the most in distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue stream…?

As innovationtactics.com explains, critical actions for Uber were: 

  1. Remove friction from all interactions
  2. Scale driver and customer side to reduce idle times for drivers and waiting times for customers
  3. Reduce negative externalizes, e.g., bad behaviors on both sides
  4. Grow the platform by getting more participants joining
  5. Keep participants engaged and stimulate ongoing participation
  6. Continue improving the value proposition, e.g., cheaper rides for regular commuters through UberPOOL
  7. Look out for complementary value propositions (e.g., car financing, new customer segments, etc.)
  8. Deliver on the customer proposition
  9. Reduce churn (esp drivers)
  10. Expand to more cities (US and global)
  11. Analyze the data to fine-tune everything
  12. Enhance technological lead and intellectual property to steepen barriers of entry

In short, those are the activities needed to make your value proposition compelling for your key partners. Thus, they can vary from removing friction (think of a marketplace that is hard to use), add features or make transactions smooth.

In short, the more your organization acts as an enabler of business relationships among several players the more its value proposition consolidates. Thus, anything that solves a customer problem, or satisfies an unfulfilled need would do.

Based on my personal experience from the case studies I’ve looked at the more the value proposition can adapt to several players’ needs, the more it makes a business model become the driver for organizational growth. Take Quora:

The Q&A social network can bring together several partners (users, writers, top writers, publishers/online businesses, and investors) with different value propositions; all met on the same platform.

Value proposition

What core value do you deliver to the customer?

Which customer needs are you satisfying?

Although the value proposition is not listed as the first element. In reality, this is the first thing you should assess. I’d say this is the foundation of your business model. That is what keeps the blocks together.

Without knowing the core values for your customers or partners and what needs you’re satisfying, or what problems you’re solving for them you might have a product but not a business.

This is connected with the previous building blocks and with the next ones. This is the glue that keeps it all together. As explained in the last point a value proposition doesn’t have to be for only one player, partner or type of customer.

Take the case of a multi-sided platform like LinkedIn. The value proposition can embrace both sides of the marketplace:

linkedin-multi-sided-platform

The value proposition isn’t marked in the stone, but it can change over time. As new partners join; and as you tinker with your business model and as new unforeseen needs come about your value proposition might also change.

Customer relationship

What relationship that the target customer expects you to establish?

How can you integrate that into your business in terms of cost and format?

Based on the identified partners and customers you need to assess how to manage those relationships to keep them aligned with their expectations and within your business model.

If you take Uber, as specified by innovationtactics.com it needs to consider four elements to manage their customer relationships. 

(1) the customers(=riders),

(2) the drivers,

(3) the broader public and

(4) regulators.

Each of those relationships will have different dynamics. For instance, drivers might be concerned about safety risks while regulators might be worried about transparency and proper data management.

Another example, if you take the Airbnb business model, hosts are critical to the success of the platform, and concerns like liability coverages are essential for them to keep using it.

That is why hosts are provided with insurance and liability coverage, the “Host Protection Coverage” (of course that might have happened because of some accidents).

How Does Airbnb Make Money? Airbnb Peer To Peer Business Model In A Nutshell

Customer segment

Which classes are you creating values for?

Who is your most important customer?

Once you have the previous building blocks in place, it shouldn’t be hard to define for which class of people you’re creating value and what are your most important customers.

It is important to stress that although this is a list of blocks, it is not necessarily meant to be read or assessed in order. In fact, at times you might have some blocks but miss others.

For instance, let’s take the case of a startup that has created an innovative software-based on new, emerging technologies. The startup founders might know for sure that technology is valuable and it will open up market opportunities.

Yet that same founder might not have a clue about who the potential customers might be. This shouldn’t surprise you. Starting up a business doesn’t necessarily mean to start from a problem people have.

That is true in more traditional industries. In tech, the opposite might apply. You have new technology and a product that does many things.

However, you struggle to have that business take off. How to find your customers? Often they will come to you as the interactions with the first customers become more intense. You’ll also refine your service to make it more focused on specific features and needs.

That process of iteration will bring you to the so-called “product-market fit.” This process can be at times painful and time-consuming.

product-market-fit

Sourcestartup-marketing.com

Key resource

What key resources does your value proposition require?

What resources are important the most in distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue stream…?

As we’ve seen the value proposition is the glue that keeps all the blocks of your business model together. Thus, it is critical to assess what financial and human resources to allocate to allow your value proposition to keep your business model going.

For instance, on Airbnb, it is critical to continue growing the offering and the quality of it to give more and more options to travelers. Also, Airbnb has noticed users wanted more experiences. It started to offer a whole new section focused on those experiences.

airbnb-experiences

Distribution channel

Through which channels that your customers want to be reached?

Which channels work best? How much do they cost? How can they be integrated into your and your customers’ routines?

A Peter Thiel might say if you don’t have a distribution you don’t have a product. As engineers are running many successful tech companies, it’s easy to get deluded by the fact that engineering alone can generate a successful business model. This is false!

The business world is a competitive environment. It doesn’t matter if you’re technically skilled if you don’t have the guts to take action in critical moments your business might well sink with your technical skills.

If you take Bring and Page, Google‘s founders, they are engineers, but they are businessmen.

When Google paid  $300 million for keeping its search engine as default choice within Mozilla, when Microsoft was about to steal it, it was an aggressive move to keep one of the most important distribution channels (at the time).

Microsoft was trying to have Bing featured as the default choice of Mozilla. When Google’s founders understood what was happening, they didn’t stop thinking for a second. They didn’t build algorithms to make that decision. They acted out of their guts feelings.

If I had to name what’s the most important asset of any company, the distribution would come first. Finding the distribution channels that best fit your business isn’t a natural process. Traditional channels are word of mouth, paid marketing and media coverage.

In the digital business world instead, there are channels like SEO, social media and content marketing. I know you might look at them as marketing tactics and they are. However, those are meant to build distribution channels.

For instance, content can be used as a way to connect with key players in your industry that you’d want to have as business partners. Google can also act as a “distributor” as with a proper SEO strategy can bring a continuous stream of qualified traffic to enhance your business and so on.

Gabriel Weinberg, the author of “Traction” and founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track you, has identified 19 channels you can tap into to grow your business.

https://fourweekmba.com/sales-distribution-peter-thiel/

Cost structure

What are the most cost in your business?

Which key resources/ activities are most expensive?

In the business community often growth is confused for profitability. That is not the case. Many companies that achieved staggering growth rates have failed to be profitable.

This isn’t necessarily bad, but a successful long-term business needs to become profitable as soon as possible. When Google opened its hood in 2004 after its IPO, the numbers were staggering. In terms of growth, revenues, and profitability.

A cost structure is then crucial to allow sustainable long-term growth.

google-financials-2000-2004

Generally speaking, your customer acquisition cost has to be lower than the lifetime value of your customers. Easy said than done. This connects us to the next, critical building block, the revenue stream generation.

Revenue stream

For what value are your customers willing to pay?

What and how do they recently pay? How would they prefer to pay?

How much does every revenue stream contribute to the overall revenues?

Until you don’t have a stream of revenues coming in you can’t say you have a business. This might seem a trivial point. Yet the way you monetize the company will also affect the overall business model.

There isn’t a single way to generate revenues. You might choose a subscription business model, a freemium, a fee or membership model. That also depends upon the industry, product, and service you offer.

For instance, Facebook uses a hidden revenue generation model.

In short, the utterly free platform in a way “hides” to its users the way it monetizes. Of course, business people and marketers are well aware of how Facebook makes money as it has been so far a proper advertising channel for many businesses.

However, the average user doesn’t have a clue. Things are changing now that privacy issues and new regulations have brought attention to the Facebook, business model.

Yet for a decade Facebook has benefited from a vast stream of revenues and high profitability without most users ever noticing it.

How Does Mark Zuckerberg Make Money? Facebook Hidden Revenue Business Model Explained

Many might argue that the hidden revenue generation model is the most powerful. And in fact, it has proved so (Google is another example).

Indeed, as Peter Thiel remarks in his book, Zero to One, sales works best when hidden. As none likes to be reminded of being sold something. However, a business model that works, in the long run, needs to be aligned with users’ interests.

Thus, the way you monetize isn’t only about the bottom line but also about the kind of organization you’re building. If the revenue streams you generate provides value and is in line with your users’ interests, there is no need for corporate slogans like “don’t be evil.”

What more? Once you’ve found a revenue stream the works and is in line with your business model you can’t stop there. You need to keep experimenting with new revenue models.

In short, the business model canvas is the starting point for your business, rather than the ending point of your entrepreneurial journey.

Google business model canvas case study

business-model-canvas

So far we’ve seen how a business model canvas is a framework to design a company’s business model. At the same time that can be used as a tool to dissect, understand others’ companies business models and how they are positioned in the marketplace.

In this article, we’ll look at the Google business model canvas. Keep in mind that the business model canvas is just one of the frameworks you can use to build, design or assess a business model.

Also, a business model canvas will capture where a company is or where it will want to be in the future. Thus, we’ll look at where Google business is at the time of this writing.

While a business model does create a long-term competitive advantage, being able to innovate it over time is critical. If Google itself doesn’t want to be disrupted, it will need to evolve its business model.

This might imply a complete change in a few years on a few things that comprise its business model according to the business model canvas like key partners, distribution channels and customer relationships.

While the vision of a company might stay the same, other things like value proposition might change substantially.

Google key partners

Each day billions of people get online, and they “google things up.” For many of those people, Google is de facto the web. Yet it hasn’t always been this way. There was a time, back in the late 1990s when the web was called AOL.

Indeed, probably more than half of the traffic on the internet went through this portal. When Google launched, while it had figured a great product and search engine, it didn’t have a business model yet.

For instance, by reviewing some of the thoughts of Google founders Page and Brin, it seems clear that they thought advertising wasn’t well suited for a search engine:

the-future-of-google

In the paper, they pointed out their “mixed feelings” about the advertising business model. As they believed any search engine based on the premise of advertising in a way went against its primary mission.

However, over time Google figured a way to show advertising in a way that would not affect user experience.

Since the beginning traffic going through Google’s digital properties (its search pages) has been a critical ingredient for its long term success.

 That is also why initially Google made a deal with AOL to be featured as a primary search engine on its portal, which gave it massive visibility. 

AOL on its hand was offered such a good deal, and it also saw search as a secondary feature, that it couldn’t say no to Google. Therefore, while we give for granted the billions of queries – that each day – go through Google.

We miss the fact that Google had to build up a vast distribution network that each day guarantees it this traffic. This isn’t a simple network, but rather a massive infrastructure worth billions of dollars each year.

How does this infrastructure look like? There are a few elements:

Partnership agreements

One example is the multi-billion dollar deal with Apple to have Google featured as a default search engine on Safari. Traffic doesn’t come from thin air; it comes from physical devices.

As the web has shifted from desktop to mobile devices, Google has developed its distribution strategy (for instance via Google Chrome).

However, a vast array of devices (take iPhones or iPads) are operated by Apple IOS operating system and its internet browser (Safari). To be featured on those devices Google pays a substantial amount of money.

Open handset alliance

As pointed out above mobile users have grown massively in the last decade. This implies that whoever takes hold of the mobile content consumption can build a sustainable business model for years to come.

With other 84 technology and mobile companies, Google forged the Open Handset Alliance. In fact, in 2005, Google acquired Android (what would become the prevailing operating system for mobile).

Just after a few months from the launch of the iPhone by Steve Jobs, Google announced its Open Handset Alliance. The aim was to build “the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices.”

The business model behind the Open Handset Alliance is a simple one. Google provides its free of charge, the operating system for mobile devices, Android, and in exchange for many apps, like Google Play and Google Chrome come pre-installed.

AdSense network

It wasn’t just traffic the critical ingredient for Google success. It could offer relevant and high-quality content compared to any other portal, or search engine.

On the one hand, Google had figured out how to offer relevant ads by introducing AdWords with its quality score.  On the other hand, it needed to balance that with high-quality organic content from the web.

While Google did offer that by indexing the entire visible web, it managed to improve quite a lot when it offered to any publishers (independently from their brand) the possibility to monetize their content via the AdSense network.

Comprising millions of websites around the world; those websites allow Google to tap into their sites to place banners from businesses that want to advertise their services. Google shares the advertising revenues generated from those banners with these publishers.

Webmasters

A great payoff of Google is its ability to send qualified traffic to any site, based on searches people perform. For instance, if I search for “car insurance” on Google, I will find a few text-based ads on top of its search results.

At the same time, I’ll also find may other organic results, that didn’t pay a dime to be featured there. This is possible because Google has a massive index of the web, and if that content is relevant, it will be featured on Google’s first page.

Being on Google’s first page might turn in substantial income for those sites able to rank through it. In particular, web owners can submit their website via Google Search Console (a platform to monitor the indexing of a site) to control how Google sees the site.

This allows publishers – independently from being part of Google AdSense – to “control” their rankings vis Google organic search engine. Millions of webmasters each day help Google index their content, and make it easier for the search engine to keep a qualified index of the web!

Google key activities

Google mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

This bold vision requires Google keeps innovating in the search industry, while it also looks forward to new ways the web is developing. From voice search, visual search, machine learning and more.

Google needs to invest first of all in a robust and secure infrastructure that makes it possible for the company to handle each day billions of queries. This implies a few key activities:

  • At a basic level, Google has to keep innovating its search algorithms. This alone requires substantial investments.
  • As voice search is growing it is critical that Google keeps innovating by also offering new products. For instance, Google launched its new voice devices, such as Google Home, which compete against other tech giants, like Amazon‘s Alexa and Cortana.
  • Google still generated most of its revenues from advertising. A business model based on a single source of revenue might not be sustainable in the long run. That is also why Google is investing resources in betting in other areas that might lead to the next innovation.

Google’s value proposition

For a tech giant like Google, which has a sophisticated business model, based on a hidden revenue generation, there isn’t a single value proposition.

Instead, several value propositions will serve the purpose of keeping key partnerships that allowed Google to scale up and let it today to maintain its market dominance. Thus, if I had to summarize the fundamental value propositions those would be:

The value proposition for billion of users

Free search engine for billions of users around the world. This is how Google managed to grow quickly. A great, reliable and free service that allowed users anywhere in the world to find the information they needed, fast.

Tools and productivity apps

Besides its free search engine, Google also offers a set of free tools and apps (to mention a few: Gmail, Google Analytics, Blogger, Google Books, Google Chrome and many others). Those free tools are among the most used in the business world.

Google advertising business

The core of the Google business model is advertising, focused on targeted text-based ads for businesses offered via the AdSense network.

Before Google existed,d there was no way for marketers to know in detail all the conversion metrics of their ads. While Overture was the first in offering CPC advertising, Google managed to scale it up at massive levels.

Google AdSense

Before Google disrupted the advertising world and took over the digital advertising market, a few established publishers could make money via advertising.

With its AdSense network, Google also allowed small publishers to monetize their content

In a way, it was a democratization of the digital advertising market, where anyone with the content that got the most eyeballs and attention could monetize on it, independently from its brand.

Google AdSense is still an essential element of Google value proposition.

Google customer relationships

The cash cow for Google is its AdWords network, made of a growing number of businesses looking to sponsor their products and services. That implies two things.

First, Google needs to keep offering targeted ads that allow those businesses to generate leads. Second, Google is as worth as much as the qualified traffic it can generate.

This implies that Google needs to keep focusing on making sure that users go back to its search results pages. Indeed, even if users do not pay for Google search results, they are the products.

As any attention merchantGoogle is selling back their attention. That means Google will need:

Salesforce able to support AdWords (now Google Ads) businesses

Offer the proper support to businesses part of the AdWords network requires a substantial investment in business development people able to expand the list of companies that join Google’s advertising network. This implies local initiatives, training, and support to those businesses.

Privacy

Companies like DuckDuckGo have built their business on Google weakness in terms of privacy. If those concerns are not addressed Google might be losing an increasing chunk of users, willing to switch because of privacy concerns

Google customer segments

In terms of value creation, with its massive business model, Google has several “customers” not intended only to businesses paying Google for service but also those people or organization that contribute to Google financial success. In that respect we have:

Free internet users

Internet users around the globe. Even though Google is a free service, Google‘s users are among the most important “customers.” If Google lost them, there would be no business at all.

Agencies, marketers, and businesses

Those who are bringing big bucks to Google are agencies, marketers and businesses part of its Ad Network. They are driven by the fact that Google is an incredible source of targeted, and qualified traffic.

Publishers

AdSense Network Members allow Google to offer targeted ads on its web properties.

It is important that Google keeps offering those publishers enough incentives to keep monetizing their content via the AdSense platform.

I treat them here as “customers” because Google still needs to “convince” them to use the AdSense platform to monetize their content.

Google key resources

Even though Google is a digital business, that might make you think the company has no real assets. This is far from the truth.

As of 2017, Google had $7.2 billion of contractual obligations, primarily related to data center operations, digital media content licensing, and purchases of inventory.

This implies a few key resources:

  • The most basic thing of any site with a large number of traffic needs is a massive server infrastructure. Back in the late 1990s when Google was still in the very initial stage at Stanford, it brought down its internet connection several times, by causing several outages. That allowed its founders to understand they needed to build up a solid infrastructure on top of their search tool. Today Google has a massive IT infrastructure made of various data centers around the world.
  • Another element to allow Google to stay on top of his game is to keep innovating in the search industry. Maintaining, updating and innovating Google‘s algorithms isn’t inexpensive. Indeed, in 2017 Google spent over $16.6 billion in R&D, which represented 15% of its total revenues.

Google distribution channel

I believe that one of the vital ingredients to Google’s success was its distribution strategy, since its first few years of operations. That is also why Google relies on:

  • global sales team which uses business development to keep growing Google operations
  • Google deals and partnerships that bring it on billions of devices in the world

I’ve extensively covered Google distribution strategy below:

Google cost structure

With its over $110 billion in revenues in 2017, Google reported a $12.6 billion in net profits. This implies a few critical items in its income statements:

  • traffic acquisition costs is a crucial metric to assess Google ability to generate value over the years:
what-is-google-tac
TAC stands for traffic acquisition costs, and that is the rate to which Google has to spend resources on the percentage of its revenues to acquire traffic. Indeed, the TAC Rate shows Google’s percentage of revenues spent toward acquiring traffic toward its pages, and it points out the traffic Google acquires from its network members. In 2017 Google recorded a TAC rate on Network Members of 71.9% while the Google Properties TAX Rate was 11.6%.
  • As we’ve seen R&D costs represented 15% of its total revenues, or $16.6 billion
  • Sales and marketing represented 11.6% of its revenues or almost $13 billion
  • Datacenters costs also represent another good chunk of Google cost of revenues

Google revenue streams

Google business model can be broken down into three main lines:

Key takeaways

The business model canvas is a model that helps you have an overall strategic vision of your business. It is comprised of nine building blocks. Those building blocks are critical to assessing your long-term strategy.

This is one of the methods you can use. To sum up, the nine building blocks are:

  • Key partners
  • Key activities
  • Value proposition
  • Customer relationship
  • Customer segment
  • Distribution channel
  • Cost structure
  • Revenue stream

Each of those blocks is not independent of each other. In fact, in many cases, they are strictly tied to each other.

And from the interactions between them, you can build a sustainable business model able to unlock value for your organization and other players that are part of its growth.

Alternative ways to design, develop and understand a business model

The business model canvas is a good starting point to assess your business or a competitors’ business. It is also a simple tool to leverage if you need to design a sustainable and financially viable business model.

However, that is not the only tool. Alternative tools for business model innovation and design comprise the lean startup canvas, the growth hacking canvas, Blitzscaling business model innovation canvas, and many others.

Leaner canvas

customer-problem quadrant

The customer/problem quadrant from the LEANSTACK, also called by its author, Ash Maurya, “leaner canvas.”

A tool like the leaner canvas might be quite useful in the first stage. Where all the building blocks are still missing. And they will probably be lacking for a while.

Thus, at that initial stage, it becomes critical to focus on understanding the problem you’re trying to solve and who you’re solving that for. Once you fine-tune that process you’re ready to move to the next step.

The most important takes from Ash Maurya leaner canvas is a via negativa approach (as Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains in his book Antifragile, via negativa is about focusing on the things you might want to remove), where you need to limit your focus to the problem rather than having a pre-conceived solution to it. Thus avoiding to fall in what Ash Maurya called in our interview the “Innovator’s Bias.”

Lean startup canvas

Once you fine-tune the process of truly understanding the problem, it might make sense to move to the next building blocks to test some of the assumptions underlying the business you’re building.

Assumptions can make or break a business.

While in the past or when financial resources are easily available to companies, it is possible to hold these assumptions for a long time (until you won’t run out of cash or potential investors interested in your business) in a beautifully drafted business plan.

For a company with limited resources, gathering feedback from customers, mastering the problem, and building a solution on top of that becomes a key element. Therefore, the Lean Canvas by Ash Maurya helps do that:

lean-startup-canvas-vs-business-model-canvas

The Lean Canvas is a variation of the Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder, put together by entrepreneur and author (Running Lean and Scaling Lean) Ash Maurya. 

The advantage of the lean startup canvas is the reduction in uncertainty and risk intrinsic to the initial stage of the launch of a business. It’s important to highlight that there is no tool that can remove all the risks.

And entrepreneurship is risky, that’s part of the game. And that is also what makes the opportunity worth it. What these tools should help us achieve is a focus on the things that matter and remove the rest. 

The business world can be very noisy, and if we have a few tools that make us focus on a few key elements those are welcome. Thus, with a tool like the lean canvas, as you start reiterating on a measuring whether the product or service delivered to your audience is a solution to their problems.

You can track that by looking at key metrics. This model is well suited for those that want to grow a lean organization by limiting the risk of running a business based on too many assumptions and with an approach that is driven by your customers’ needs.

Growth hacking canvas

Another tool that might work instead, if you want to accelerate the growth process, via a framework that is designed to test and prioritize marketing channels to enhance growth, the growth hacking canvas:

Growth-Hacking-Canvas

The growth hacking canvas also built on top of the business model canvas and similar to the lean startup canvas, it has an additional layer in comparison to the latter as it allows to identify a set of actions to undertake to measure, assess and speed up growth.

Growth marketing is a key ingredient for the success of any business in the current landscape. It is also the first move toward a 10X growth thinking for your business.

Blitzscaling business model canvas

The last tool, you can use for your business is called Blitzscaling business innovation canvas. I put together this framework after reading the book Blitzscaling, by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

The Blitzscaling canvas aims to design an innovative business model to generate aggressive growth. More precisely Blitzscaling prioritizes speed over efficiency and makes of massive growth its primary objective.

Thus, in a climate of uncertainty where competition or the market might threaten your business, any delay might mean the death of your business. Then the Blitzscaling framework might be the best suited to face that scenario:

blitzscaling-business-model-canvas

Blitzscaling tells you that – in some particular circumstances – if you want to scale a business, you’ll need to leverage a few elements, among which business model innovation plays a key role.

This business model will need to be built around four growth factors (market size, distribution, high gross margins, network effects) and to avoid the to primary growth limiters (lack of product/market fit and operational scalability).

Blitzcaling is well suited if you’re trying to scale a business and bring it to a billion-dollar business as quickly as possible. This is only suited to a few scenarios, where the company is in a place to doing or dying. Thus, this framework might be both a defense and an attack mechanism.

What tool to use?

What tool to use to design your business model will depend on what is that you’re after. In this guide, you have enough material to get going with your business.

Business model tools can be used for several reasons:

  • Analysis: imagine you are a business analyst trying to make sense of a company, a tool like the business model canvas is a great framework to start with as it gives you a clear path to follow.
  • Entrepreneurship: if you’re an entrepreneur trying to build a valuable company than using tools like the leaner canvas or the lean canvas is probably a good starting point.
  • Business innovationif you’re looking for the recipe to build an innovative business, intended as a company that finds new ways to build value for its customers, both the business model canvas to study existing successful businesses, in other fields might be a good starting point. In many cases, business innovation is about finding the right mix of existing patterns. Or transposing things that have been done in other faster industry, in a slower, and less attractive industry.
  • Business acumen: if you want to just improve your business acumen, I’d suggest not using any particular tool, but rather keep your mind open to the things you might stumble upon. Look at financials, at data, look at entire industries and try to absorb as much as you can. Once the process becomes automatic and almost unconscious your mind will know how to make sense of that!

Keep it creative

One of the biggest mistakes people make (I do it as well) is to fall in love with particular tools, methodologies, and instruments. But those are just tools, that while helpful to get us started and give us a clear path, they might also limit our understanding.

The real world is extremely messy and it requires an open approach, where you are able to look at different aspects, angles, and perspectives. Only when you leave the process creative, and you leave space to test many things out, eventually you might stumble on incredible business discoveries!

Other valuable business resources (FourWeekMBA Library):

Business model case studies:

Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, professionals, and entrepreneurs in 2019 alone | Gennaro is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate and become profitable | Gennaro is an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance | Subscribe to the FourWeekMBA Newsletter | Or Get in touch with Gennaro here

6 thoughts on “What Is a Business Model Canvas? Business Model Canvas In A Nutshell

Leave a Reply