Summary due 11/16/99, at the beginning of class. 
Complete plan due 12/07/99, at the beginning of class. details

This assignment involves your planning a new Internet/Web-based business. This is a team assignment, and (like your Excel assignment) should be done in teams of 3 to 5 members.  There is no extra credit for smaller teams, so round up all the resources you can.

Structure your plan within the following framework:

  1. A 100-200 word executive summary, providing an overview of your business.  Give this section 'punch' -- this summary should motivate the reader to keep reading.

  3. A brief description of the product or service you wish to sell, and which of the 'slots' of Internet companies you would fit into (if any).  Some useful resources are at the Industry Standard Metrics  pages. 

  5. Your targeted customer base (who are the people you wish to sell to, how many are there, is the number growing).  There are a bunch of survey summaries about these things all over the Web. Again, check out the Industry Standard Metrics pages. 

  7. Your business model, and your sustainable competitive advantage.  In other words, what's your model of doing business, what set of factors will lead to your success under this model, what makes you better at what you're planning to do than potential entrants like Yahoo or Microsoft , and how will you sustain this advantage?

  9. Who are your competitors? How are you different from them? If you aren't the first mover in your space, you need to have a compelling story for why you are different.  

    For [4] and [5], think about what is unique about your product/service (i.e., why would these customers from [2] want to buy from you, or use your service; is your product/service different, do you offer more convenient access, some kind of innovative content or a new mechanism, are your prices lower, and if so, can you sustain this over time).

  11. How will you generate revenues and profits? Possible strategies include:
    • Charging for your service eventually.  Remember, you don't have to charge consumers; you could be charging businesses, whose consumers you provide a service to, for free. 
    • Margins on the products you sell 
    • Advertising revenue (not very popular these days)
    • ..other creative ideas welcome..

  12. What is your entry strategy: why will people start using your service/buying from you? Possible strategies include
    • You are entirely new and different (this is a difficult reason to back up)
    • You complement, or add value to, an existing popular web business
    • You will ally with a leading web business, or a portal (would they be willing?)
    • You launch for free or by 'paying' people to visit you, attract customers (how?), and then contemplate a transition towards making money. 

  13. What is your planned commerce infrastructure?  Address these three points, if applicable:
    • Pricing strategy
    • Delivery of product
    • Payment and settlement
When  formulating the idea and the plan, keep these points in mind:
  • Leverage the fact that the business will be Web-based.  In other words, if you plan to sell a physical product/set of products, it/they must be suited for Web sales, and must have a growing market. If you plan to be a Web-based intermediary, it should be an advantage for you to be on the Web, not a liability.

  • Before you decide on a business idea, do extensive research on whether there are existing companies in the same business.  The WWW is an ideal resource for this kind of research.  Other good resources include The Industry Standard, Red Herring, and Business 2.0
  • Lots of the 'big ideas' are already taken -- it's the niche businesses that are largely successful these days.  Think about our class discussions on intermediaries, and try and find a small 'slice' of the e-commerce value chain that hasn't been occupied as yet.  Not that there isn't space for more huge successes, but it's getting harder every day, and its wise to aim for a place where there isn't any competition/incumbent.  

  • The following can strengthen your plan -- they are not required, however:
    • A good financial model, projecting revenues, expenses and capital requirements, with reasonable assumptions.  Typically, a venture capitalist does not worry so much about the exactness of these projections, but more about how large you could become, were your assumptions to pan out. 
    • Some good original market research.  Students have done short surveys (of other students), interviews, and so on. 
    • A good viral marketing idea to launch your business.  
    • A technology plan, or a prototype.  The latter takes a great deal of time, and requires a lot of investment into technology learning, so think carefully about attempting this, and don't do so unless you really are interested in your idea.  Sometimes, however, a storyboard (i.e., a simple Powerpoint. HTML or hand-drawn mock-up of your customer experience) is a good place to start; it is truly useful if you are considering transforming this assignment into reality. 
A frequently used site for Internet business planners is  It's got links to a wealth of good resources. Another good online resource is the American Express Business Plan Workshop.   Note that the type of plan they describe is much more comprehensive than the one you have to submit.  However, its a good site to visit, to get a sense of what a business plan is, and to add to you business education in general.  If you're really into Internet startups, a classic (though dated) book that is 'required reading' is High Tech Start Up, by John Nesheim.  

As an added incentive, any exceptional plans will be passed on to some real venture capitalists I know, if you want them to be.  


    November 16th, 1999: A 100-200 word summary describing your plan.  We'll give you feedback on it by November 23rd. You're free to alter direction after that, but its a good idea to spend lots of time on the 'idea generation' aspect of the assignment before you submit this part.  
    December 7th, 1999: A 1000 to 2000 word document detailing your plan (including the executive summary).  The first page should be a title page, with your business' proposed name, and your team members' names. The second page should be blank, for our comments. The third page should have the executive summary.  The fourth page onward should have the rest of the plan: organize it by the seven points (2 through 8) above.  Each of the seven points need not be of equal length (you choose which aspect you want to detail).  If you choose to add any of the plan 'strengtheners' (financial model, market research,...), attach them as appendices. Try not to exceed the word limit -- if you do, we will hold your plan to a much higher standard while grading it.  Ideally, submit a printed Word document (or use any other word processor of your choice).  If your plan is handwritten, make it neat and legible.