Case Study: Financial Plan for High-Tech Relief Shelter Startup

Arthur Zwern, President, HOMErgent

July 2, 2009

Serial entrepreneur Arthur Zwern co-founded HOMErgent to launch a new generation of rapidly deployable off-grid relief shelters that enable a comfortable life for the desperate and pay for themselves by integrating self-sufficient eco-friendly resource systems. He uses ModelSheet Software for financial planning and believes the tool is a powerful advance, analogous to CAD versus hand drawing, or visual programming versus hand coding software.

Arthur has plenty of experience building business and financial plans. According to Arthur, "Everyone who builds financial plans knows the painful challenges of doing it conventionally. With spreadsheets, the formulas are hard to author, understand, and debug. You have to sacrifice realism to avoid overwhelming complexity, and you have great difficulty finding and fixing math errors or bugs. Customizing a pre-built plan template brings the same problems, while canned business planning software packages I’ve seen are lightweight and rigid."

Arthur hunted for a better solution until he discovered ModelSheet. Arthur started his plan using ModelSheet’s standard financial plan template. He was the first heavy user of the template, and he went over it carefully and hardened it in many places that benefit future users.

When he needed features that the template did not have, Arthur relied on ModelSheet Software to make custom changes rapidly and reliably. Many of Arthur’s requests turned into features of the current ModelSheet financial plan template, including production learning effects, recruiting expenses, methods for estimating company valuation, changing time grains across a financial statement, and more. His model also includes summary worksheets for assumptions and key financial results. The ModelSheet Authoring tool also was improved in many ways to meet HOMErgent’s needs. According to Arthur,

"I now have a far more realistic and detailed plan for my unique business than I could ever imagine pulling together through conventional Excel methods, templates, or canned business plan software. And I can evolve the plan in minutes, while similar changes in Excel would take hours."

Arthur’s plan contains 60 months, 22 products in 4 product families, 8 job levels, and 5 departments in a 19 megabyte Excel workbook. Spreadsheets of this size are a small fraction of the size that ModelSheet now routinely generates. He said,

"The combination of detailed starting template, powerful ModelSheet authoring tool, and very responsive consulting service were unbeatable. While I have only used the authoring tool minimally myself due to time pressures, the speed and scope of the changes the ModelSheet staff could make in a few minutes was clear evidence of ModelSheet's unprecedented power as a spreadsheet authoring and maintenance tool. While the authoring tool itself still needs evolution for casual users like me, it has come a long way in a few months, and power users such as financial planners or CFOs should find it indispensable."

ModelSheet technology "keeps on giving" – the greatest benefits are realized in maintaining and extending a model after the original version is finished. "I intend to keep my financial plan synchronized with ModelSheet – which means making enhancements through ModelSheet instead of by hand in Excel. An important enhancement I envision is integrating Quickbooks historical financial reports with our pro-forma business model while avoiding a discontinuity at the transition time – this is a challenge I have never found a convenient solution to. When I need enhancements in the future, there is no substitute for being able to add them in the same way we built the original plan. In short, ModelSheet technology offers a breakthrough that revolutionizes the authoring and maintenance of complex spreadsheets."