Software as a service (SaaS) startups provide software that is hosted in the cloud, allowing customers to access the software from any web browser. This revolutionary technology has allowed entrepreneurs to develop services and products quickly and cost-effectively. A financial model for a SaaS startup requires integration of different financial statements, such as Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement and Income Statement, to provide a complete picture of the company’s current financial health.

The goal of a SaaS financial model is to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) from the startup project, such as analyzing the estimated cash flows, capital investments and financial performance. This post will provide a step-by-step guide on how to create a robust financial model for your startup.

Overview of financial models

  • Valuation Model
  • Forecast Model
  • Break-even Model
  • Discounted Cash Flow Model

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the components of a SaaS financial model
  • Learn the basics of creating a valuation, forecast, break-even, and discounted cash flow model
  • Integrate financial statements like Balance Sheet and Income Statement to get a complete view of the current financial health
  • Calculate the ROI of your project with a financial model

Major Milestones

Creating a financial model for a Software as a Service (SaaS) startup can help entrepreneurs understand their software's financial viability. There are several major milestones that help in developing an accurate model.

Identify the Core Assumptions

The first major milestone is to identify the core assumptions of the business. Core assumptions should include the number of customers, customer acquisition cost, gross margin, and operating expense structure of the business. It is important to create accurate assumptions by analyzing market trends and feedback from potential customers.

Set the Overall Context

The second major milestone is to set the overall context for the SaaS startup. Context should include the pricing strategy, revenue model (subscription-based, one-time payment, free trial, etc.), customer segmentation, and target markets. Once the context is set, it's important to establish financial goals as well as operational goals.

Determine the Financial and Operational Goals

The third major milestone is to determine the financial and operational goals. These goals should include a timeline to reach profitability, project cash flow, return on investment, and break-even point. Additionally, operational goals should include product development milestones, customer segment growth projections, and customer onboarding goals. It is also important to set milestones for key performance metrics, such as user adoption rate, churn rate, customer lifetime value, and average revenue per customer.

Revenue Model

Determining a successful pricing structure and understanding customers’ lifetime value and customer acquisition costs are critical to any SaaS startup. To understand the potential of your startup, create a financial model that incorporates the key revenue components. Below are several considerations that should be included.

Assess Pricing Structure

An effective pricing strategy sets the right revenue structure for your SaaS startup. Many businesses offer subscription services as well as pay-as-you-go features. This strategy allows customers to gain access to necessary features, while paying for additional services as needed. Companies should evaluate the market, current customer trends, and pricing strategies of competitors when determining a pricing structure.

Analyze Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)

Customer lifetime value (LTV) is the total value of a customer over their lifetime as a customer. This is an important component of the revenue model for any SaaS startup, as it can tell how profitable a customer is to the business. By understanding a customer’s LTV, a company can allocate marketing resources and focus on acquiring high-value customers. It is important to understand customer LTV to determine a successful marketing budget.

Revisit Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

The customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the cost of acquiring a new customer. This cost should be tracked and monitored as it provides insight into the company's cost structure and how effective marketing campaigns are driving customers. The CAC should be understood before designing any marketing campaign to ensure that the campaigns drive enough revenue to be profitable.

An accurate and comprehensive financial model should provide insight into the revenue potential of the SaaS startup. By assessing the pricing structure, analyzing customer lifetime value and revisiting customer acquisition cost, a business can develop a successful revenue model. This will provide the guidance required to evaluate the potential of your startup and to make informed decisions on marketing and pricing strategies.

Cost Model

Creating an effective financial model for a software as a service (SaaS) startup requires an analysis of several costs. Estimating development costs, calculating operational costs, and understanding administrative costs are important components of the overall financial model for a SaaS startup. Below is a breakdown of each cost and steps for estimating and calculating costs.

Estimate Development Costs

Estimating development costs is the first important step in creating a financial model for a SaaS startup. For an accurate estimate of development costs, account for all the resources necessary for designing, building, and releasing the software. Some costs to consider are the cost of staff labor, software license fees, computing hardware, and data storage. Additionally, any fees paid to outside contractors or freelance labor should be included.

Calculate Operational Costs

Operational costs represent ongoing fees related to the upkeep and administration of the software. As part of calculating operational costs, account for fees such as hosting, server maintenance, customer support, security, payment processing, and taxes. To make the calculations easier, research the cost of existing SaaS platform services and use those figures as a basis. Additionally, calculate the estimated cost of third-party services, such as AI or machine learning services.

Foresee Administrative Costs


Profit Model

A profit model for a software as a service (SaaS) startup is designed to depict the income potential of the organization. The model is also used to identify potential areas of cost leverage and to set appropriate pricing models. To establish an accurate profit model, there are three key components that need to be addressed: establishing a burn rate, assessing gross and net profits, and projecting the company's break-even analysis.

Establish a burn rate

The first step to creating a successful profit model is to calculate a burn rate. A burn rate is the rate at which a SaaS startup uses up its capital. It is typically expressed in terms of months. This figure is determined by taking the total sum of the startup's expenses over a given time period, such as a quarter or six months, and dividing it by the total capital. This figure will allow investors to understand the pace of spending and generate an accurate picture of the company's financial well-being.

Assess gross and net profits

Once a burn rate is established for the SaaS startup, the next step is to assess gross and net profits. Gross profit is calculated by subtracting the cost of goods or services sold from the revenue generated. While net profit is calculated by subtracting all the company's expenses from its gross profits. Monitoring gross and net profits helps a SaaS business understand the sustainability of its financial situation in the short and long term.

Project the company's break-even analysis

Once the burn rate and profits are established, the company should then project its break-even analysis. A break-even analysis is a calculation that estimates the amount of sales and revenue a business must generate in order to reach the point where it no longer accrues losses. By projecting the company's break-even analysis, a SaaS startup can identify if and when the business will become profitable.

Additional Tools

For any software as a service (SaaS) startup, having an effective financial model is essential. For the financial model to be useful, certain additional tools must be properly implemented. These tools need to be included in the model to obtain an accurate picture of the financial health of the startup.

Utilize Profitability Assessments

Profitability assessments will provide valuable information concerning the financial success of the software as a service (SaaS) startup. This assessment is comprised of details such as total revenues, operating costs, capital expenses and other metrics. This assessment should include income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements. Profitability assessments should also include a comparison to industry averages. This assessment will provide valuable insight on the financial status of the SaaS startup.

Implement Cash Flow Forecasts

Cash flow forecasts are a critical part of the financial model for a SaaS startup. These forecasts need to account for all cash inflows from such sources as customer payments, investments, financed debt and credit arrangements, among others. Forecasts also need to account for all cash outflows, such as expenses and loan repayments. The cash flow forecast should be regularly updated to take into account changes to revenue and expenses.

Explore Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis helps to further evaluate different scenarios and identify how various changes in input assumptions affect the financial health of the SaaS startup. This analysis allows the SaaS startup to assess the financial effects of various decisions and strategies. For example, the analysis could be used to determine how changing the price of the SaaS product will affect the financial performance of the startup. Sensitivity analysis offers an in-depth view into the financial state of the startup and can help drive strategic decision-making.


A financial model is a necessary tool for any SaaS startup to understand the costs, price points, profitability, and scalability of their business. Creating a financial model can seem daunting, but breaking it down into the components of revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses and capital expenditures makes it more manageable. Additionally, perspectives from both investors and founders are important so that a collective understanding of where the business may go can be established.

To create a financial model for a SaaS startup, entrepreneurs should consider the following key elements:

  • Revenue models and pricing
  • Cost of sales and operating expenses
  • Capital expenditures
  • Investor and founder perspectives

By taking into account each of these components, a SaaS startup can create a thorough financial model that considers their expense structure, revenue potential, and valuation. Financial models help entrepreneurs think analytically and take a disciplined approach to their budget, helping to ensure that the company is able to make sound business decisions.

Excel financial model

  • 5-Year Financial Projection
  • 40+ Charts & Metrics
  • DCF & Multiple Valuation
  • Free Email Support