Business Model Lab: Free tool to do and share Business Canvas Model

The business canvas model is the perfect tool for when you have an idea and want to shape it. It is usually done on physical paper and uses Postit but it is as manageable in practice. That's why we have created Business Model Lab where, besides being able to create them from a PC, tablet or mobile, it allows collaborative editing.

What's it?

In 2009 one Alexander Osterwalder proposed a canvas for the initial development of business models, the Business Canvas Model.

The idea was to have a simple but powerful tool to analyze and develop new business models.

Use Post-it so that teams of 3-5 people can work on the business model very actively.

The most important thing is that the canvas includes the 9 areas or most important aspects to consider in a business model: value proposition, market segments (customer), channels, customer relationship, key partners, key activities, key resources, fixed cost structure and revenue streams.

If you do not know the methodology it is highly recommended to read the author's book: Business Model Generation.

We decided to create our own online utility to help entrepreneurs shape their business ideas and even to model our own intrapreneurship projects.

Solution

We have chosen to develop the solution as Progressive Web App (PWA). By not requiring complicated native APIs, it adapts very well to what HTML5 allows for years.

BML screenshot with an overlay with the the text Business Model Labl

There is no user registration (at least for the moment). Each time you enter the PWA, a new canvas with associated unique hash is generated. If there is no hash, the canvas can not be recovered.

To facilitate this, the canvases worked can be saved in the browser and facilities are included to share the canvas or copy the address to the clipboard.

An important feature is the possibility of calculating the balance. If you define the size of the markets, you can associate different monetization mechanisms to the revenue streams (subscription, sale without variable cost, ...). This, together with the structural costs, let us to have an estimate of how good the business under study is.

The other important feature is collaborative development. To do this, just pass the canvas link to another partner and the collaborative mode is automatically enabled. Now they can work together even if they are thousands of kilometers away.

It is important to convey the mechanics of participation through post-it to the application.

The application has a client-server architecture where the main weight is located in the front-end.

The front-end is developed with Bootstrap 4 and Vue JS.

The backend is developed in Go and the database is MongoDB.

Collaborative implementation has been done using WebSockets.

Also included is a small REST API for loading and saving the canvases. For that we use the Gin library for Go. In the case of websockets, the Gorilla library works very well.

BML Collaborative mode screencast

Technical Challenges

The first challenge was to achieve a digital canvas similar to the physical one and to adapt it in row mode for mobile devices. We use Bootstrap 4 and the new possibilities that CSS-Flex layout provides so that the relative dimensions of each section are correct.

Another problem was the design of the Vue components for each of the areas and dialog boxes, such as the Post-it edition itself.

The logic of income computation also took a time of reflection.

Without a doubt what took a little more time was the implementation of simultaneous collaboration. Here the ease that Go offers for the treatment of websockets next to the native support of channels for concurrent systems was of great help.

Results

The tool is already online, bml.digitalilusion.com . We have included it as a subdomain of Digitalilusion because we want to offer this type of solutions to our customers, especially those start-ups that contact us for help or a solution.

Its use is free.

We are happy with the result. Proof of this is that we are using it ourselves to model internal ideas and active agents in the world of entrepreneurship have begun to use it as well.

We have good ideas to evolve the tool. Step by step, we will apply functionalities following a lean methodology.

What are you waiting for to land that idea in your head?

Business Model Lab - App

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