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LivePlan: Online business planning. Everything you need to plan, manage and grow your start-up.

LivePlan: Online business planning.  Everything you need to plan, manage and grow your start-up.What is the name of your business and URL?

Company Name: Palo Alto Software – www.paloalto.com
Application Name: LivePlan- www.liveplan.com

A brief synopsis of the website / application:

LivePlan is an online business planning application that helps start-ups and growing small businesses write business plans to obtain funding, pitch investors, or just make sure they understand what they need to do to make their business successful. LivePlan allows entrepreneurs to create budgets that include sales forecasts and expenses, as well as a cash flow statements. With these forecasts, LivePlan provides the entrepreneur with a clear picture of just how much funding the business actually needs and when that funding needs to be in place. LivePlan also helps businesses plan their strategic direction, and put steps to implement that direction in place.

Why did you start this company?

The company was started in 1987 by my father, Tim Berry. In April of 2007, he stepped out of a management role and transitioned the business to me and my husband. Shortly thereafter, we realized that we could build a business planning tool that was easier, better, and more collaborative if we developed an online application and hosted it in the cloud. LivePlan was launched April of 2010, and has experienced growth of over 20% per month. LivePlan allows our customers to work on their plans from anywhere with Internet access, from any browser. LivePlan is a tool that’s incredibly easy to use, with features specifically designed to engage business owners in planning and managing, rather than in just building a static business plan document.

LivePlan: Online business planning.  Everything you need to plan, manage and grow your start-up.Was your company started on a shoestring budget or funded?

Palo Alto Software was started as a bootstrapped firm and continues to fund new projects with revenue from existing ones. We believe that if we manage cash flow correctly, we can effectively launch and grow new products without having to rely on outside capital. It does require careful planning and careful cash flow management, but in the end we have been able to keep the company private without any outside investors.

Who is your competition, and what do you do better?

We have various competitors online, mainly free tools and templates people find through google searches. These templates are frequently sub-par and often times not even error-free. There are a few web apps that appear to more directly compete, but they are brutally unsophisticated in the way they deal with the financial section of the business plan. We’re also very proud of the text editor interface included with LivePlan. Enloop is probably our closest online competitor. They have a “Mad Libs” approach through which they “auto-write” part of your plan. They also limit each text topic to 1500 characters. We don’t limit text topics, and instead of “auto-writing” your plan (who wants a robot to write their most strategic document?) we include over 500 sample business plans that you can read and compare in order to give you an understanding of what others have written in their plans.

Our philosophy is that every business plan is unique, and that a plan’s strength is only as good as the author’s knowledge of their business. Our tools are used to guide the entrepreneur to write a better plan to launch a more successful venture. We offer extensive help resources (including video tutorials), detailed instructions, and an array of options to customize the plan, format text and edit the outline to empower our users. Our competitors have limited resources available to their customers.

Why would a small business, entrepreneur, freelancer, etc use your product?

A small business, entrepreneur, or feelancer would use LivePlan for the following reasons:
1. To start their business and determine what it will cost to launch the venture, break even, make a profit, and maintain positive cash flow.
2. To complete research and prepare a pitch to Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors, or to simply apply for a bank loan.
3. To prepare their business in order to sell it. Building a plan helps get the best valuation and demonstrates the value of the opportunity to a potential buyer.
4. To grow a business significantly. In most cases, growing a business requires additional capital. A business plan is critical to understand how much capital is required, when it is needed, and what it will be used for.
5. To manage a business better. Every business should have a plan at the beginning of the fiscal year and should use it on an ongoing basis to compare their plan to their actual results. This allows an entrepreneur or small business owner to understand areas of success as well as areas of the business that require attention.

How could you effectively use these tools?

A LivePlan account can be established at our web site (www.liveplan.com). The software can be accessed from any browser with an Internet connection. LivePlan users can collaborate with others and even write notes to each other from within the software in order to ensure that everyone on the team is involved in the strategic development of the plan. LivePlan can also be used on an ongoing basis to manage the business and to understand differences between planned and actual results that help an owner make better decisions.

A short bio of your company:

Palo Alto Software is the worldwide leader in business plan software and marketing plan software because we’re passionate about helping small businesses and entrepreneurs. The company was founded in 1987 by Tim Berry, a well-known business planning expert. Despite our name, we’re headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, with international offices in London and Ireland.

Our mission is to help people succeed in business. All our products are aimed at helping new businesses launch and thrive and existing businesses grow. With our free websites, Bplans.com and Mplans.com, we actively support the small business community by providing a wealth of information and guidance. Bplans.com attracts roughly a million visitors per month, offering free business planning articles, financial tools, sample business plans, and other important resources. A companion site for UK visitors is available at Bplans.co.uk. Mplans.com provides similar content and marketing planning resources. Members of our leadership team, including company founder Tim Berry and CEO Sabrina Parsons, travel the country speaking about business planning and starting and running small businesses. We work closely with various local, regional, state, and national organizations such as SBDC offices, SCORE counselors, community colleges and universities, and the SBA to provide resources, software, and guidance to budding entrepreneurs.

Do you offer free online or offline tools?

Bplans.com is our free content web site and offers thousands of articles, free tools and downloads, and business calculators, as well as more than 500 free sample business plans.

Are there different pricing levels?

LivePlan has one primary pricing tier: $19.95 per month for 2 users and 3 plans. Additional pricing is available for enterprise, academic, and non-profit customers.

Do you have a blog that keeps users updated?

Our blog Up and Running (http://upandrunning.bplans.com/) provides updates as well as unique, relevant content to anyone who is starting or managing a small business.

Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ? Provide exact URL of each
@LivePlan, @bplans,

https://www.facebook.com/Bplans

YouTube – Do you have a YouTube video URL that you can share with us, and allow us to publish with your story

How long have you been in business?

Since 1987

Number of current users? Estimated yearly growth?

LivePlan has more than 25,000 active accounts. This year we estimate we will grow almost 1400% (yes, it’s a big number. But with a compounded growth rate of more than 20% monthly, the numbers get that big).

How do you see your company in the next 2-5 years (more products or services?)

We will always provide tools to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed. LivePlan will grow and more features will be added to help accomplish this mission.

How many employees do you currently have working with you and/or freelance contractors?

We have over 40 employees and approximately 15 contractors.

Are you looking to hire more people or contractors? If so, what positions and skills are you looking for?

Yes we are always looking for A players, particularly web application developers, web developers, and awesome online marketing people.

What other web based products would you recommend to entrepreneurs, business owners, or freelancers?

We always recommend our suite of products: Sales and Marketing Pro (windows only) and Email Center Pro (web-based SaaS customer service email management solution). We also recommend FreshBooks and Legal Zoom

Any Patents Pending?

No

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