Finances & Fundraising
Setting Up a Startup Budget

Setting Up a Startup Budget

Written by 
Pilot Team
March 26, 2024
Setting Up a Startup Budget

Running a startup is exciting but requires careful financial planning to ensure success. One of the fundamental aspects of financial planning is building and tracking a budget. In this article, we will explore the importance of creating a budget for newly funded startups and highlight the benefits a polished budget brings, such as financial governance, headcount planning, and investor management.

Understanding the Significance of a Budget

A budget serves as a financial roadmap for your business and can help answer critical questions such as “If I hire two more engineers what happens to my runway?” and “How much should I spend on digital advertising to meet my revenue goals?” You can make informed decisions about resource allocation, monitor revenue growth targets, and manage cash burn with a well-crafted budget. Moreover, investors rely on your budget as a measure of confidence in your ability to set and achieve your business’ goals.

Preparing to Build Your Startup Budget

Building a comprehensive budget requires the following steps. 

  • Gathering Essential Information: To begin preparing your startup budget, you need to collect key components such as revenue sources and expense needs across all facets of the business. If you have an accounting system such as Quickbooks you will need to factor in historical financial data as well. Collecting accurate data and making realistic projections is crucial to ensure the budgeting process is based on practical information.

  • Preparing Your Team: The budgeting process should involve input and ownership from various stakeholders within your company. Co-founders and department executives should contribute insights regarding hiring needs, product timelines, and resource requirements. By involving the right people, you can ensure that your budget reflects the goals and objectives of the entire organization.

  • Setting Realistic Goals and Assumptions: Setting realistic goals and assumptions is vital for creating a reliable budget. Market trends, competition, size, and cash constraints are just some of the factors that impact your financial projections. By conducting thorough market research and considering both internal and external factors, you can develop realistic revenue and growth targets, which form the foundation of your budget. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Startup Budget

  1. Revenue Projections: Identify your startup's revenue streams and relevant customer acquisition channels. Determine key metrics that drive revenue growth and model them first. This will help you plan for the resources needed to achieve your revenue goals.

  2. Cost of Goods Sold (Cost of Sales): Identify the costs associated with completing sales, such as inventory, shipping, payment processing fees, hosting fees, and implementation costs. Ensure that your pricing, revenue, and cost of goods sold allow for strong gross margins and sustainable unit economics at scale.

  3. Operating Expenses: Identify and categorize your expected fixed expenses, including salaries, contractors, rent, travel, IT,  software subscriptions, sales, and marketing expenses. Estimate these expenses by leveraging industry benchmarks, obtaining vendor quotes, and utilizing internal credit card and bank statements.

  4. Capital Expenditures: Account for one-time capital expenses, such as equipment purchases, hardware upgrades, or office setups. Identify and estimate capital expenditures based on your business requirements and growth plans.

  5. Cash Flow Management: Cash flow management is crucial for startup budgeting. Develop strategies to effectively forecast and manage your cash flow, including monitoring receivables, payables and maintaining financial reserves. By maintaining a healthy cash flow, you ensure the sustainable growth of your business.

  6. Review: Regularly review your budget to assess whether you have allocated enough resources to support your revenue growth. Analyze key metrics such as customer acquisition costs, lifetime value, and retention to ensure your unit economics support future profitability. Additionally, consider if your budget provides sufficient runway to reach your milestones.

  7. Contingency Planning: Incorporate contingency provisions and scenarios into your budget to account for unexpected expenses or changes in market conditions. Develop bear and bull scenario versions of your budget to have plans for various performance and economic realities. By preparing for contingencies, you can mitigate risks and ensure your business remains adaptable in challenging times.

Downloadable Template for a Startup Budget

To assist you in creating your budget, we have provided a template to guide your budgeting process and produce a polished, comprehensive budget. The template offers pre-built formulas and categories for revenues and expenses while allowing flexibility to tailor the budget to your business needs.

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How to use the Startup Budget Template

The Startup Budget Template is straightforward to use but will require the preparations outlined above to make sure your inputs and assumptions are well thought out and comprehensive.

  • Your budget items are inputted on two tabs: Headcount Planner and Main Inputs
  • Your hiring plan should be entered on the Headcount Planner tab. 
  • Your Revenue, Cost of Sales, and all other Non-People Related Expenses should be entered on the Main Inputs tab.
  • Your consolidated, monthly Income Statement can be viewed on the Budget tab, while the KPI Dashboard will show you summary values by year as well as helpful metrics and KPIs.

Video Tutorials

Much of the work in creating a budget goes beyond what can be provided in a template. If you need any help, please get in touch. Our fractional CFOs from Pilot will drive the budgeting process from assumption to output, making sure all factors are considered and that your budget is both rational and investor ready. 

A budget is a critical tool for managing the financial aspects of your growing company. By investing time and effort in creating a comprehensive budget early on, you gain control over your finances, enhance decision-making, and increase investor confidence. A well-structured budget sets the stage for financial success and long-term growth.

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