Instead of writing a multi-page business plan, many lean startups prefer to create a 1-page business model that shows where the business opportunity is. This 1-page business model is called the lean canvas (developed by
One of the reasons businesses and startups alike prefer the lean canvas template is because it's
simple to complete
. No more writing long paragraphs of prose that no one will read. The goal of the lean canvas is to help you and your team determine the key metrics to move the business forward.
What is lean canvas?
The lean canvas is a business plan template modeled off of the
, but simpler. As the name implies, it's meant for lean startups who want to quickly iterate on their unique value proposition in the market. The lean canvas consists of nine boxes for you and your team to fill out (see more below).
Since the lean canvas is only one page, it's easy to show during meetings. Other employees can also quickly see where your business or startup's competitive advantages are. While the lean canvas shouldn't be confused with the
, the spirit of iteration and moving fast is common between the two frameworks.
What are the benefits of using lean canvas?
As mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of the lean canvas template is that it is
only one page
. This makes the
very easy and straightforward to fill out. Some other benefits of the lean canvas template include:
Unlike traditional business plans that get into the weeds of your business' financials and user metrics, the lean canvas focuses on the high-level matters of your business. If you and your team want to dive into the details behind one of the boxes in the lean canvas, you can set up another
to discuss those details.
Improved business planning
Since the lean canvas template covers all aspects of your business (internal and external), it makes business planning much easier across your entire company. If you spot specific revenue streams for your business early on, you can better support this revenue stream in terms of building the right product features, offer the right customer support, and hire the right people to staff this revenue stream. The same goes for the major costs for your business. If you can get a sense of the high-level costs for your business idea, you can better plan for the funding and runway you'll need to keep your business afloat.
Streamlined communication across the organization
The lean canvas template has an advantage over the business plan and even the business model canvas template because can easily brainstorm with your team in the lean canvas template. Since you can probably knock out this template in a 30-minute or 1-hour meeting with your team, it makes communication between your team more streamlined in that everyone knows the key metrics of the business. Instead of forcing everyone to read pages and pages of a business plan, the lean canvas template is a shareable asset that everyone can easily digest.
10 elements included in the lean canvas template
Now onto the main parts of the lean canvas template. There are nine "quadrants" you and your team should fill out about your business. You can easily customize this lean canvas template in Coda so feel free to play around with the order and formatting if the current template doesn't fit your needs.
The main reason your startup or business exists is to solve a problem. Articulate what this problem is for the various customer segments you serve. There's a reason that
is number one. Without a clear problem statement, the rest of the lean canvas template will be difficult for you and your team to fill out.
In defining the problem, you should also list out the current alternatives for solving the problem. While it's tempting to list competitors here, you should ask yourself the question: "what do my customer do today to solve this problem?"
With the problem defined, now you list out how your product or service solves those problems. It's important to list out the solutions to all the customer segments of your business (if you have multiple segments). You have the option to select the customer segment in this Coda lean canvas template.
What are the key metrics, KPIs, or success criteria for your business? These should be quantified so that your entire company can see how your business is progressing towards meeting your company's goals. Common metrics include revenue, lifetime customer value (LTV), and customer acquisition cost (CAC).
4. Unique value proposition
This part of the lean canvas describes how you will differentiate your product or service from your competition. The unique value proposition is the unique value your provide to your
. Your secret technology or way of doing things is in the
part of the lean canvas.
To add more detail to the unique value proposition, the high level concept is the quick phrase that conveys your startup or business to someone else. Think "the Uber for X" as an analogy to describe your startup.
5. Unfair advantage
This is the competitive advantage you have to maintain differentiation with your competitors.
This could be proprietary technology or a unique way of doing something that separates your business from others.
This is a list of all your distribution channels for reaching your target customer. This will be tied closely with your Go-To-Market and marketing strategies. Channels might include online ads, podcast ads, blog posts, and more.
7. Customer segments
List out all the customer segments that your product or service benefits. In this Coda lean canvas template, the customers segments is the first thing you list (even before the
If applicable, you might list out the early adopters for each of your customer segments. What type of person is the early adopter? What do they care about?
8. Cost structure
While you may not have a specific financial model built out for your startup, this section should list out the major costs for your business. You must take into account both fixed costs and variable costs to help you forecast how much runway your startup has.
9. Revenue streams
For each customer segment, list out how you will generate revenue from each segment. For B2C companies, these revenue streams are typically product sales, subscriptions, or ads.
👉 Get started with this lean canvas template.
After you copy this template, share the template with your team and start filling it out together in
How do you make a lean canvas with a lean canvas template from Coda?
Step 1: Share this doc with your team.
After you copy this template, click
in the top-right and invite your team to collaborate on the doc. This way, you can fill out the lean canvas together as a team and review the content after everyone has added their entries.
Step 2: Add customer segments.
page, you will see a button called
Add Customer Segment
. Clicking this button adds rows to the table right below it. These customer segments will be used throughout the rest of the lean canvas. After you add in a customer segment, select a color for that customer segment in the next column. This color will be used to highlight each of the entries you and your team add to the lean canvas.
Step 3: Fill in the lean canvas.
In each group of the lean canvas, click on the
option when you hover over each group. This inserts a blank row in that particular quadrant of the lean canvas. After you write something for the “Problem” part of the lean canvas, for instance, you can select the customer segment associated with that specific entry. Some quadrants in the lean canvas don’t have an associated customer segment. These quadrants include “Revenue streams,” “Channels,” “Key metrics,” and “Cost structure.”
Lean canvas template FAQs
What is the difference between Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas?
The main difference between the lean canvas and the business model canvas, according to Ash Maurya, is that the lean canvas is meant for
. While the business model canvas and the lean canvas are both visual representations of a business model or business idea, the lean canvas focuses much more on the problem a startup solves.
What is existing alternatives in Lean Canvas?
This is a sub-section of the
section listed above. Existing alternatives are your
. When your current customers find alternative ways to solve the problem you aim to solve,
are your competition. Your goal is to make your startup's solution
than these alternatives.
What are some examples of Lean Canvas business model?
for examples the lean canvas filled out for large companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Tesla, and Skype.
What is a potential customer base for a Lean Canvas template?
The customer base or customer segment in the lean canvas template are groups of customers that have a specific need one of your products or services solves. Some potential customer bases include:
- The broad market that consists of a majority of the population
- The complete opposite of mass market. This is a customer group that has specific needs that your product or service has to be tailored to.
- Your customer segments are varied and don't overlap in terms of characteristics.
- When your startup has a supply and demand side, you will have a 2-sided market. These customer segments depend on each other in order to get value or benefits from your product or service.
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