After last month’s TechCrunch Disrupt, and to provide a business companion to the popular “Lean Startup” customer development methodology, this TC Teardown focuses not on how one specific company makes money but rather seeks to provide a breakdown of the main general ways consumer Internet startups try to make money. Consider it a guide to Internet business models. If you are currently thinking about or are in the process of developing your own consumer startup idea, these key business models will help give you a working knowledge of what it takes to get to $10 million in revenues (assuming you have a good product that the market wants).
(Before you post in the comments about how unique your startup is, this list is not meant to capture every consumer business permutation. There are always going to be exceptions. And the breakaway companies like Zynga, Groupon, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, to name just a few, inevitably introduce nuances to pre-existing models.)
You can think about consumer Internet companies in three major categories. The following three categories of consumer Internet startups and the representative underlying thirteen business models should give you a more than basic understanding of the main drivers of 95 percent of the consumer Internet startups you hear and read about on TechCrunch. The best consumer investors are intimately familiar with these metrics, so make sure you know which business you are in and how you can get to $10 million before meeting with them.
The two main points I am trying to convey are 1) the activities needed to monetize each kind of consumer Internet startup are different and 2) the activities are not difficult to understand.
Currently there is not a good resource to demystify the various consumer Internet business models. In my effort to reduce these to basics elements, I know I have likely overlooked something obvious. Please feel free to comment or email me at tcteardown at gmail to let me know what I may have overlooked or to introduce your truly unique take on one of the models so that I can update this post and it can be useful to others. You can also view, download, and use each of the below financial models here.
The 3 Main Ways Consumer Internet Companies Make Money
As a consumer Internet company, you are trying to attract enough potential customers by providing one (or more) of three kinds of products: 1) media, 2) premium services, or 3) access to a physical good. These are not mutually exclusive—a startup can generate revenue from more than one of these sources. For example, many media companies make money off of both advertising and premium services, like LinkedIn.