Big Revenues vs. little revenues – a strategy question that startups often struggle with. Should we focus on a business model that supports small payments, subscriptions, etc., or look for major large chunks of money from partnerships or strategic investors? There are strong arguments for both types of incoming dollars for a startup, but the correct answer is have both coming in simultaneously; it will balance your cash flow get you through valleys and help you avoid raising expensive equity capital. And will get you more respect all around.
Almost every company with long term success has used this dual revenue plan, throughout history.
Many easy-to-set-up payment systems and business models on the Internet have recently popularized little revenues – micro-payments, price per transaction, low cost, SaaS, freemium, monthly payments. Easy to use systems like PayPal, Square, and several other new online cash acceptance systems are hen there are the thousands of derivative companies that are thriving from commissions from larger companies – Google ads, Facebook ads, and the all encompassing affiliate market industry.
I went to an affiliate marketing meetup recently (kind of by accident) and was knocked out of my chair by the size and sophistication of this world. The speaker (Shoemoney) told a great rags to riches story of making tens of millions from affiliate marketing tricks, getting ~$1 to 50 per referral. That’s a machine, maybe one that only produces for a bit, but still and semi-automatic mechanism for short term scalable revenue. He’s been at it for 10 years, so I guess he’s got the long term figured out, too.
Little revenue systems have vastly lowered the barriers to entry to starting a business, no longer must you have bricks and mortar, a merchant account, office equipment or even a staff to do business. It hasn’t decreased the need for innovation, salesmanship or marketing prowess. Many 2.0/3.0 startups are learning this the hard way.
As a product company, very large injections of cash are always a nice add on to any business as long as they don’t disrupt your business strategy, kill margins or cause you to customize your offering too much. I was with a startup once where we sold our software products for average $500 each generating about $1 million per year, running as fast as we could. I was lucky enough to close 2 large contracts for $900K each within a month, and while we were negotiating a funding round. They were volume sales of standard product so caused no disruption to our processes. Those 2 deals changed our company forever, put us on the map for long term.
In the Shoemoney example above, the ultimate in trickle revenue, he has actually had several Big Revenue transactions, selling entire websites or business models, or taking on expert consultant gigs, all these for high six figure injections to compliment his $20 per click businesses.
In the auto industry, most large companies augment their car unit sales with $ multi-million R&D contracts – Ford, Cadillac, and Porsche get over 20% in extra revenues doing this.
Back to early stage startups. No matter how early, the most sophisticated startups are looking for these Big Revenues from the beginning. They bring on the expertise required to make this happen. It’s often called OEM, white labeling, or strategic partnership, but it’s big chunks of money when you need them most.
I recently met with a respectable high growth early stage startup – increasing revenues, retained all of their equity so far, thousands of customers, even made the Inc 500 recently. But they totally depend on one revenue model for 100% of their revenue, and it’s breaking down. They desperately need the Big Revenue injections before it’s too late.
If you’ve built something compelling enough, there are always larger companies that will welcome you to take their money. Current vs future revenue is very dynamic, two different businesses can leverage each other when their needs compliment each other. Connect or contact me on twitter: @tomnora