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8 Types of Business Models for Startups to Utilize

Business Model for Startups

Many new and aspiring entrepreneurs have ideas that they would love to take to the market. Whether it is a new physical product or a digital one, the excitement of launching a startup may be dampened by the decision regarding the best way to drive revenue. The way a startup will make the most of its existence may be determined by which business model its founders choose to follow. While some may be able to identify which model works best, oftentimes, the best option isn’t always as obvious as many would like to believe

That is because there are many different types of business models used today. These models range from leveraging audience attention to pioneering community-driven projects. That is why choosing the right model provides unique opportunities and challenges. Whether you’re an entrepreneur on the brink of launching a venture or simply a curious mind, this article gives you some insight into some of the most influential and effective business models used by startups


1. Subscription Model

Imagine the comfort of knowing that, every month, a set number of customers will pay a recurring fee for your service. This model has been prevalent among software companies, magazines, and gyms. However, entertainment, education, and even grocery delivery have hopped onto the subscription bandwagon.

A key advantage of the subscription model is its ability to gain customer loyalty. Once subscribed, customers are more likely to stick around and use the service. As long as they see value in it, they will stick around provided they see consistent value.

To be successful, startups need to ensure that their offerings provide continuous and evolving value. Any perception of stagnancy or lack of innovation can lead to churn – where subscribers decide to opt-out. Startups should also be wary of over-automating communication in this model, as personal touch points can significantly boost retention rates.


2. Freemium Model

The freemium model is characterized by providing core services for free. But with an option for charging for premium features. This approach is particularly potent for startups. That is because it allows potential customers to get a taste of the product without any real commitment. Think of platforms like Spotify. Their users can listen to music for free with ads. However, they can also pay a monthly fee for an ad-free experience.

The genius of the freemium model is twofold. Firstly, by offering a free tier, startups can rapidly grow their user base. This massive influx can lead to organic marketing. Secondly, once users are accustomed to the service, they often find value in upgrading to the premium features. This can quickly generate revenue.

However, there are pitfalls to watch out for. Striking the right balance is crucial. If the free tier is too generous, there may be little incentive for users to upgrade. Conversely, if the free offerings are too limited, users might get frustrated and abandon the platform altogether. Startups choosing to use the freemium business model need to understand their user needs deeply. Then, tweak things continuously to strike that perfect balance.


3. Marketplace Model

At its core, the marketplace model is about connecting buyers with sellers. Massive companies like Airbnb, Amazon, and Uber are prime examples of startups that evolved into behemoths through this model. The beauty of the marketplace model is that it allows startups to scale without necessarily having to hold inventory or manage logistics. Instead, they focus on creating a seamless experience for their users.

One of the main challenges of the marketplace model is the classic ‘chicken and egg’ problem. Sellers want to join platforms where there are numerous buyers. However, buyers are drawn to platforms with a wide variety of sellers. If the platform lacks one, it cannot attract the other.

Overcoming this initial hurdle is tough. In order to succeed, a startup needs to do a lot of things right without running out of capital. One thing that can be done is to offer incentives for early adopters. If a startup has a small user base, they can offer cash or site credit for every friend they invite to join the platform.

Once the ball gets rolling, network effects kick in. As more users join, the platform becomes increasingly attractive to new users.



4. Direct-to-Consumer

For many startup companies, the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model can serve as a linchpin for success. One of the primary advantages of this approach is how close the company is to the end-user. Rather than being one step removed from the end-user, startups can interact with customers directly. This allows them to tailor their products and messaging based on firsthand data and feedback. This not only facilitates a more agile and responsive business approach but also can engender loyalty and foster a community of brand advocates.

Furthermore, a DTC strategy bypasses traditional selling options like retail outlets and wholesalers. That means companies using this model can create their own conditions for selling. It also means they get to keep more of the profits made. By eliminating these middlemen, startups can retain greater control over their brand image and narrative.

While many DTC companies sell their products online, this model is not strictly an online venture. Many companies manufacture their own products and sell them in traditional retail stores as a part of their strategy. For example, you can buy an iPhone from online retailers or at electronic stores like Best Buy. However, Apple created the Apple Store so they could sell their products directly to their customers and retain more control and profits.


5. E-commerce Model

This is an internet-based model where a business conducts all sales operations online. This could be via a startup’s own website or through a marketplace like Amazon. This eliminates the need for a physical selling location. It also removes geographical boundaries.

For startups, diving into the e-commerce realm offers numerous advantages. One of the most important is the potential for scalability. A startup could very easily scale the business without much trouble. That is compared to a retail store that would need to open several locations in order to drive sales and profits.

Nevertheless, this landscape is not without its hurdles. The competition in e-commerce is fierce. Whatever the startup is selling, there is a chance there are several other major players that have established themselves in the same space.

Site owners will need to find a way to drive people to their e-commerce site. They will most likely need to utilize paid advertising, content marketing, and SEO in order to help customers find the site. All of these can become time-consuming and costly. We have an article on the advantages and disadvantages of the e-commerce model that is worth checking out.



6. Advertising Model

The advertising model thrives on the principle of monetizing audience attention. Essentially, businesses offer content, services, or platforms for free (or at a reduced cost). And, in turn, generate revenue by displaying advertisements. Giants like YouTube and Facebook are shining examples. These companies generate revenue by leveraging the vast amounts of user data they collect to deliver targeted advertising.

For startups, the advertising model offers a tantalizing proposition: rapid user growth. By offering services or content without upfront costs, they can attract a broad audience quickly.

While the potential for revenue is substantial, startups venturing into this domain must navigate the thin line between monetization and user trust.


7. Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding Model

Most people are familiar with the crowdfunding model to raise funds for a worthy purpose. Platforms like GoFundMe have been used to help individuals get financial help from friends and strangers. However, startups have also used crowdfunding to raise capital for their business or products.

Crowdsourcing involves tapping into the collective intelligence of a large group to solve problems. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the go-to spaces for startups and creators. Startups in the concept phase of their business can get funding from customers without even having a completed product. 

For startups, this model provides an alternative to traditional financing. On top of that, it serves as a way for market validation. A successful crowdfunding campaign shows genuine interest in a product or service. However, the challenges are multifaceted. 

Communication, transparency, and follow-through on promises are non-negotiable. While the potential for capital and market validation is alluring, startups must approach this model with thorough preparation and unwavering commitment to deliver the product to the donors when completed.


8. Dropshipping Model

Dropshipping offers an entry into the retail sector. The best thing about this model is that the startup doesn’t have to deal with the burdens of inventory. They also don’t need much capital investment to launch. In this model, businesses sell products directly to consumers without holding stock. When a customer places an order, the retailer purchases the product from a third-party supplier. That supplier then ships it directly to the customer.

For many startups, dropshipping is an attractive proposition. For one, it has a low barrier to entry. That’s because there is no need to manage inventory or a physical storefront. Secondly, the model offers flexibility in the product. If you find that your products aren’t selling, you can quickly pivot without needing to unload the remaining inventory.

The problem with this model is the margins. Profits are typically thinner than traditional retail businesses. Another issue may be customer service. Since the retailer is not in control of inventory or shipping, delays or product quality issues from suppliers fall on the dropshipping company.

Here are some companies that help facilitate the dropshipping model:

  • Oberlo: Connects Shopify merchants with suppliers who dropship products, streamlining the process of product listing and order management.
  • SaleHoo: A directory service for dropshipping suppliers, offering a platform for retailers to connect with vetted suppliers.
  • Printful: Specializes in print-on-demand products, allowing businesses to sell custom designs without holding inventory.
  • Doba: Acts as a dropshipping marketplace, connecting e-commerce stores with a vast range of products from multiple suppliers.



While there are many types of common business models, these are the models most commonly used by startups to help them move forward. Many use more than one model to maximize the startup’s potential. Growing a startup means pivoting, changing, trial and error, and constant adjustments. That goes for the business models too. Startups must be willing to adjust which model they utilize until they find the one that works best for the company. 

Ralph Paul on Twitter
Ralph Paul
Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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Business Models · Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Productivity · Sales

Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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