Brad Feld writes:
Ive been involved in over 100 startups at this point and have seen many more. I can only remember a few instances where the company exceeded its revenue numbers in its first year of product ship. Many companies make their expense, EBITDA, and cash forecasts by adjusting spending, but thats fundamentally different than making the top line and the bottom line numbers early in the life of the business (again lets focus on year 1 of product ship not after the company has had several years of products in the market.) Ive found that for year 1, the correlation between the sales plan and reality is completely random.
As a result, I generally take a different approach to year 1 of sales / revenue. Rather than hold a company to a revenue plan in year 1, I try to focus on the cash spend in year 1 (Fred highlights cash flow as the ultimate measure and focusing on managing the negative cash flow is equally effective as managing the positive cash flow.) An early stage company needs to spend a certain amount to make progress, but managing the expense line should be straightforward. As revenue comes in (especially high gross margin revenue), it becomes easy to step up the spending, especially on variable cost (more demand generation) or highly leveraged items (more sales people) that impact future sales.