[This is part of a series on the KISS Canvas]
30-page business plans are great for established businesses and terrible for startups that need to iterate quickly. 15 years ago the Business Model Canvas (BMC) changed everything by giving us a 1-pager (or 4×3 foot poster) to help you quickly document and test the key hypothesis behind your business model. The BMC was a quantum leap forward.
However, my students and I often struggled with the structure of the canvas. While it was superior to a business plan it was relatively hard to read & use. You literally needed a map to show you how to read it – start here, jump to there, then jump down to here…
In a Nutshell
And so was born the the KISS (Keep It Super Simple) Canvas. Each key stakeholder (payers, users, channel partners, etc.) gets their own row. Read the columns in each row from left to right and you’ll find the facts of the business model layed out in a logical narrative structure. In fact, it tells the story of your business, as you would in a good pitch. The bottom of the canvas holds the “beard of learning” where you store your invalidated hypothesis, so you can easily remember and tell the story of what you’ve learned in your startup journey. No map required.
At the highest level, this KISS canvas tells the following story just by reading from left to right: We help [key Stakeholders] by providing [value proposition]. We find, earn, and retain their trust by [relationships]. This is economically sustainable because of [financials].
We help the blind and visually impaired by empowering them to connect with their fully sighted friends and family as equals. We find, earn, and retain their trust through word-of-mouth and strategic partnerships with nonprofits that serve the blind. Customers pay us an $8 monthly subscription.
And today, after 3 years of field testing, I’m proud to roll out version 3! It has two variants. The first is…
KISS Canvas (Lite)
This variant is for people at the “I have an idea” stage.
- Key Stakeholders – Who do you serve?
- Segments – Name each of the groups of people you will deliver value to: payers, users, channel partners, etc. Each gets their own row.
- Deciders – Describe the actual people (COO, front-line employee, Head of New Products, etc.) who make the decisions for each segment.
- Pains – What problems do they have?
- Value Proposition – What do you offer?
- Features – How will you solve their problems?
- Benefits – What promises are you making to your customers?
- Competitors – Who else is solving the problem?
- Competitive Advantages – How are you superior at solving the problem?
- Relationships – What kind of relationships will you have with each segment?
- Marketing – How will you make people aware of your solution?
- Sales – Once aware of you, what process will they go through to use/pay for your solution?
- Retention – Once someone is using your solution, how will you retain their loyalty?
- Financials – How does the money (and value) flow?
- Value Model – What value does each segment provide you in return for your product (money, attention, referrals, etc.)?
- Pricing – How much do you charge?
- Cost Structure – What are the costs associated with running your venture?
- Beard of Learning – When you disprove a hypothesis, move it vertically down into the Beard Of Learning. If you’re using sticky notes they will eventually form chains and completely cover the bottom of your canvas and stretch down close to the floor. Each sticky in that beard represents a hypothesis you thought was true… and found out it was not! My students noticed this and one day said “It kind of looks like our canvas grew a beard… a beard of learning!” Thus the name :).
KISS Canvas (Full)
If you are past the I-have-an-idea stage and ready to really develop your business model, then you’ll need to start answering much more detailed questions in each section. If that is you, then check out the full version of the KISS Canvas, where just about all the top-priority questions for a startup have been laid out in step-by-step, fill-in-the-blank fashion…
Examples (inspired by real startups):
- A Business to Consumer (B2C) company selling slime to kids and their parents
- A Business to Business (B2B) company selling ergonomic mops
Get Your Own (free!)
If you would like to use the KISS Canvas, you may do so completely for free as they are licensed under creative commons :).
Check out more KISS Canvas Content.