SaaS Financial Modeling: Key Concepts & Template | Graphite Financial

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SaaS Financial Models:

Expert Tips for Predicting Your Startup's Future

Josh Leider

Josh Leider - Head of Growth

June 11, 2024

Financial models are important for any business, but especially for a SaaS startup that’s still finding its bearings. Learn more about how to predict your startup’s financial future in this post.

SaaS financial models include more than just financial data, but non-financial data as well. It’s worth noting that one of the most important roles that a financial model can serve is to attract investors and capital. This is especially true for startups. That said, financial models should also include intangibles such as organizational culture, sustainability pledges and brand recognition. This is in addition to income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements and more. In the end, this financial and non-financial data should all come together to create one dynamic model.

Why Do SaaS Startups Need a Financial Model?

Financial modeling is important for any company, and SaaS companies are no exception. So why is a financial model, a “record of truth” that balances financial and non-financial data, so important? Here’s a look at some of what a good financial model can accomplish:

  • SaaS startups differ from other companies in that their business model is more based on recurring subscriptions than one-time purchases. Models that can accurately capture a SaaS startup’s financial overview are of the utmost importance.
  • Good financial models can aid in strategic planning and decision-making for the future.
  • Financial modeling can help make your startup more attractive to potential investors or help hold your startup accountable to current investors.

Another key benefit of following a good financial model template is that it can help keep your SaaS startup honest. It can help predict future milestones and safeguard your company against unrealistic or overly optimistic projections that could hurt your status in the market and with investors. Understanding the importance of financial modeling is essential for success in the SaaS industry.


Common Mistakes to Avoid in SaaS Financial Modeling


Good financial modeling is important for strategic planning, decision making and securing investor funding. Poor financial modeling, conversely, can cause serious harm to your SaaS business and its reputation. Here’s a look at some of the common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid when you’re creating your financial model:

Unrealistic Projections

It’s important to remember that your financial plan should take historical data into account to help determine your future forecast. That said, this historical data – combined with industry benchmarks – should also help your startup avoid making overly optimistic predictions. One way you can avoid unrealistic projections is by digging deeper into your historical data. For instance, if your startup experienced a month of significant growth that exceeded growth in all other months of its tenure, it’s important to understand the factors that led to that growth and if it’s reflective of any trend in the market. However, your financial model should not be based on that one month.

Neglecting Churn Rate

The churn rate is defined as the percentage of customers who stop doing business with a company over a certain timeframe. Attrition is common in many industries, but it has the potential to make a real impact on SaaS startups. Calculate the churn rate by identifying a period and determining how many customers you began the period with versus how many you lost over that period. The higher the churn rate, the more customers stop doing business with your SaaS startup. The lower the churn rate, the better your startup is doing at keeping customers.

Churn rate can also tell you a lot about what you need to do to keep customers. To reduce this number, look for any common characteristics for those who are taking their business elsewhere. Consider comparing churn rates between different periods to look for different patterns to help your SaaS mitigate churn.

Lack of Regular Updates

Another common mistake that many SaaS startups make is failing to update their financial model with actual data and maintaining version control to track changes and compare and contrast against actual performance. Like any good model, it needs to be adapted and adjusted over time to paint an accurate picture and ensure it remains relevant and accurate. Regular updates often reflect any new business strategies, changing market conditions that must be accounted for and more.

Components of a SaaS Financial Model

Various key components help make up a good SaaS financial model. Here’s an overview of some of them:

Revenue Forecasting

Also commonly known as “sales projection,” revenue forecasting uses historical data, present-day data and growth assumptions to predict – or forecast – future revenue. The main goal of revenue forecasting is to provide a business with reliable, accurate estimates of expected income over a set period – whether it’s a month, quarter or year. Revenue forecasting includes any existing customer revenue as well as anticipated revenue. 

Cost Projections

Also known as “expense forecasts,” cost projections help a SaaS startup estimate any future costs that it may incur to help understand what it will take for it to operate and help ensure it won’t run out of cash. Cost projections are based on present-day costs, previous sales and operating expenses. It’s important to factor in both direct and indirect costs, including labor, materials, equipment, administrative expenses, among others. Cost projections can also help influence any hiring plans and dictate a reasonable budget.

Customer Metrics

Several key customer metrics should be included in any SaaS financial plan. One is the customer acquisition cost, or CAC. CAC is a measure of how much your SaaS startup needs to spend to acquire new customers. Think of it as the total cost of sales and marketing, property and equipment, and other factors that are needed to attain new business. Another key metric is customer lifetime value, or LVT. LVT is an estimate of the average revenue that customers generate throughout their lifespan as customers of a business. These metrics – among customer metrics – all have an impact on churn rates, sales cycles and revenue predictability. 

Financial Statements

Finally, the three main financial statements – profit and loss (P&L), balance sheets and cash flows – should be embedded within the model somewhere. Here’s a brief overview of each of these financial statements and the role they plan in a SaaS financial model:

  • P&L: This is a summary of the SaaS startup’s revenue, cost of goods sold (COGS) and expenses over a defined period.
  • Balance sheet: This financial income statement details the SaaS startup’s assets, liabilities and its equity. It specifically focuses on key assets such as cash and items that include accounts receivable, accounts payable and deferred revenue.

Cash flow statement: The cash flow statement integrates data from both the P&L statements and the balance sheet to arrive at the organization’s cash flow by type, which is crucial for any SaaS startup that wants to focus on cash management.

Key Steps to Building an Effective SaaS Financial Model

Are you curious about how to build an effective SaaS financial model for your startup? Here’s a brief overview:

  1. Use a great and vetted template! Many use Graphite’s SaaS financial model template.
  2. Identify a problem statement for what your financial model is intended to forecast and determine who the model is intended to inform.
  3. Calculate the appropriate ratios and key metrics using realistic and measurable data.
  4. Create the three-statement financial model for your SaaS startup.
  5. Continue to revisit and reassess the financial model regularly over time.

Learn more on building an effective SaaS model and avoiding bad SaaS financial modeling

It’s also important to maintain version control and regularly update the model to reflect actual performance versus anticipated performance. Don’t be afraid to re-forecast and create new financial models accordingly.

Benefits of a Well-Structured SaaS Financial Model

    A good financial model has many benefits, including:

    • Help with resource allocation and performance tracking.
    • Help with affirming investor confidence.
    • Providing insightful, actionable insight to a SaaS startup.
    • Help with improving organizational efficiency.
    • Help with supporting strategic decisions.

    Learn more about these key benefits and how they can help control cash burn and help with investor reporting.

    Tips for Crafting a Winning SaaS Financial Model

    Other practical tips for building an effective SaaS financial model include:

    • Optimizing data collection, data analysis, data presentation and finding a realistic and optimistic balance.
    • Leveraging historical data.
    • Keeping any industry benchmarks or industry trends in mind as you’re building your model.
    • Using a robust software program to help improve accuracy and streamline efficiency.

    How Graphite Financial Can Help With Your SaaS Financial Model

      If your startup needs help creating its financial model, know that Graphite Financial is here to help. As experienced experts and providers of specialized accounting services for SaaS startups, our controllers, accountants and bookkeepers make it a point to understand your startup and develop the right solutions to help you meet your needs.

      Expert Guidance and Support

      SaaS startups have different financial modeling needs than other types of businesses. Graphite is here to help your startup create and maintain accurate financial models. Our track record and talent speaks for itself when it comes to working with SaaS startups.

      Customizable Financial Modeling Template

      Our financial modeling services are robust and allow SaaS startups to use data, rather than mine it themselves. We specialize in creating solutions that are easy to comprehend and offer comprehensive inputs and outputs for enhanced flexibility.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      What are the key components of a SaaS financial model?

      Key components of a SaaS financial model include revenue forecasting, cost projections, customer metrics and financial statements.

      How do I start building a financial model for my SaaS startup?

      It all starts with information gathering and identifying your purpose statement and goals. From there, you can take this data and begin to work it into your financial model to help predict future finances.

      How do financial projections benefit SaaS businesses?

      Financial projections help give an accurate snapshot of the health of a SaaS startup, often leading to more favorable financial outcomes, more stable cash flow, and better access to credit and investors to facilitate business growth over time.

      What are some essential metrics to track in a SaaS financial model?

      Customer acquisition costs, lifetime value, churn rate and revenue predictability are all metrics to consider when modeling.

      How often should I update my SaaS financial model?

      While all financial models should be regularly updated and re-forecasted as needed, the frequency depends on a variety of factors. In some cases, it’s best to update models monthly.

      Can a robust financial model help attract investors?

      Absolutely! Financial modeling can aid with strategic planning and decision-making, all of which can help influence business decisions, facilitate growth and attract investors.

      What tools or software can aid in SaaS financial modeling?

      Working with the right partner who can set your SaaS startup up with the right templates and software can help streamline financial modeling.

      Download Graphite Financial’s SaaS Financial Modeling Template

      Download Graphite Financial’s modeling template to get started with your SaaS startup today.

      For more information on our personalized financial modeling and services, contact Graphite Financial today.