31 Startup business models you must know (with examples)

Navdeep Yadav
15 min readOct 9, 2022


There are countless business models on the internet and this can be overwhelming to a lot of people.

So if you are an entrepreneur then I am sure your startup will have one of these 31 business models.

This article is a short summary of 31 Startup business model e-books ( Buy only if you want to dig deep into these business models).

But first, Let’s have a look at the different types of startups.

Types of Startup

Let’s understand 31 Startup business models

1. Freemium Business Model (Freemium = Free + Premium)

The freemium business model allows users to utilize basic features of a software, game, or service for “free”, and then charges for “upgrades” to the basic package.

Examples — Google Drive, iCloud, and Slack

The idea here is to provide users with a basic, functional, and free version of your product or service.

Freemium Business Model
Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Google Drive and Dropbox, will give you 15GB and 2GB of free space but charge a premium if you buy some additional space.

You can read more about the Freemium business model.

2. Subscription Business Model

Subscription business models are based on the idea of selling a product or service to receive monthly or yearly recurring subscription revenue.

Subscription Business Model
Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Examples: Tinder, Netflix, Shopify, etc

It is the next step to the Freemium business model only if a customer is interested in paying monthly for a product or is willing to use some premium features.

Types of Subscription Business Models

You can read more about Subscription Business Model

3. Marketplace business model

A marketplace is a platform (e-commerce site or mobile app) where products or services are sold to customers by third-party sellers.

Examples — Amazon, Fiverr, etc

Marketplace business model
Marketplace Business Model
  • Amazon has a third-party seller or small business owner who sells their product on their platform.
  • Fiverr has freelancers who provide specific services like graphic design, and software development to other individuals or companies.

You can read more about the Marketplace business model

4. Aggregator business models

In the aggregator business model, the service is delivered to customers under their brand name.

Example: Uber, Airbnb, etc

Aggregator business models
Airbnb Aggregator Business Model

Aggregators have a slight difference between Marketplace and Aggregator business models.

Aggregator business models
Aggregators Vs Market Place

Marketplaces like Amazon and Fiverr connect vendors and customers and take a revenue cut (10% — 20%) from these vendors.

An aggregator like Uber and Airbnb Onboard these vendors and provide offerings under their brand names.

5. Pay-as-you-go business model

This is a pricing strategy where users pay based on how much they consume. It is widely used by cloud computing companies.

Example: Google Cloud Platform(GCP), Amazon Web Service (AWS)

Pay-as-you-go pricing in AWS

For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon that offers over 200 cloud services, each of which has its own pay-as-you-go pricing system.

“In short, the more you use the more you pay”

Types of Pay-as-you-plan

When should one use pay-as-you pricing?

The pay-as-you business model is used when it is hard to bucket customers into a few pricing tiers that you normally see in software products like Canva.

You can read more about the Pay-as-you-go business model

Would you like to get a detailed copy of these business models?

Buy my latest e-book on 31 Startup business models (300+ pages)🚀

Click here to Buy

6. Fee-for-service (FFS) business model

FFS’s business model is based on charging customers a fixed and variable fee for every successful payment.

Example: Stripe, Paypal, and PayU

Stripe charges 2.9% + 30¢ per successfully executed payment transaction.

Fee-for-service (FFS) business model
Fee-for-service (FFS) business model

These companies provide a payment gateway to accept payment from the customer and then settle the money to a business account number.

Read more about the Fintech business model

7. EdTech business model

In the edtech business model, you make money either by selling content or providing teaching as a service to the end user.

EdTech business model
Most popular revenue model in EdTech

Types of Business Models in edtech

Freemium subscription — When course content is free but you need to pay for the course certificate e.g Coursera

Free trial subscription — When you offer a free trial followed by a monthly or annual subscription e.g SkillShare

Marketplace — Self-serving model where you choose what you want to learn from the open marketplace.

Ad revenue business model — The core product is free and the company generates money by showing ads to the massive user base they have.

8. Lock-in business model

‘Lock in’ aims to create a barrier for customers to switch from your brand or offering and instead move to a competitor offering.

It uses a combination of increasing switching costs or the effort to transfer (soft lock-in) or the superior brand experience or incentives

Example: Apple, SAP, etc

Lock-in business model
Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Apple sells you an iPhone and then lock you in with their ecosystem with other hardware (Watch, Airpod) and platform service like Apple Store, Apple Music, cloud, etc.

9. API licensing Business Model

An application programming interface, or simply an API, is a tool that allows third-party applications to communicate with your service.

API licensing Business Model
How do APIs work?

Uber and Airbnb use Google Maps APIs in their mobile app for easy navigation.

Example: Twilio (SMS), Sendgrid(Email), Google Map APIs(Map) etc

types of apis business model
Types of APIs business model

Here are the different types of APIs business model

  1. Free: Simplest API-driven business model which allows app developers to access APIs freely.
    For example, Facebook, and Google Translate.
  2. Developer Pays: This model operates in a form where application developers have to pay for the services provided
    Ex AWS, Twilio, Github, Stripe, etc
  3. The developer gets paid: These are the paid developers or content distributors who are distributing the APIs using their content.
    Ex Adsense, Amazon affiliate, etc

10. Open-source business model

Open-source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance for personal use.

Example: Andriod, Java, Firefox, etc

Open source business model
Product with Open source business model

In 2018 Google paid $435.702 million to Mozilla for Google as their default search engine.

Here are six ways how open-source software makes money.

  1. Paid support — The Project maintainer has a lot of knowledge about the codebase and he can charge for personalization.
  2. Software as a Service (MongoDB Atlas) — Offer a complete database Solution for free but paid Monitoring tool.
  3. Open-core model — Better GUI alternative (R studio) for open-source projects.
  4. GitHub sponsors — 100% of sponsorships go to the developers.
  5. Paid feature requests — Get Paid To Build Open Source Extensions for Existing Products

Read more about the Open-source business model

11. Data as a business model

If the app or algorithm collects data from customers to improve the system or monetize it by adding value to other companies.

Example: Open AI GPT3 model becomes smarter as people use it.

Data as a business model
Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

A popular free check-in app Foursquare allows users to share their locations on check-ins.

Later they compiled massive databases to help retail companies like Starbucks to find user clusters to open new stores.

Would you like to get a detailed copy of these business models?

Buy my latest e-book on 31 Startup business models(300+ pages)🚀

Click here to Buy

12. Blockchain Business Model

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that allows other companies and business to deploy their smart contract without any central authority like AWS, Digital ocean, etc

Example: Ethereum, Solana, Alchemy, etc

Blockchain Business Model
blockchain business model

Types of Blockchain business Models

  1. Token Economy or Utility Token Business Model is when a company issue some token as one of the mechanisms to reward the token miner or token holder. Example: Solana and Ethereum
  2. P2P Blockchain Business Model — The peer-to-peer (P2P) blockchain enables end-users to interact with each other directly. Example — IPFS
  3. Blockchain As A Service Business Model (Baas) — BaaS is about providing ecosystem services like Microsoft (Azure) and Amazon (AWS) but in web 3 space. Example: Bitcoin and Ethereum i.e. Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS).
  4. Blockchain-Based Aggregators — AWS for blockchain means you will do an API call for your favorite blockchain, and you can use that service. Example: Alchemy is a node provider for a variety of blockchains.

13. Freeterprise business model

In the freeterprise (free & enterprise) business model the free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product and later convert into a B2B/enterprise account.

Example — Slack and Zoom

Freeterprise business model
Freeterprise business model

Some companies use collaboration as the growth engine in the Freeterprise model

Loom wants you to join your workspace for an enterprise account.

You can start from a single free professional account, and pull a whole organization into that, to transform it into an enterprise.

14. Razor blade business model

It is Widely used in hardware items where one item is sold at a low price or at losses and generates profits from refills or add-ons.

Examples — Gillet razor & blades, Coffee machine & coffee beans, HP Printer & Cartage, etc.

Razor blade/Bait and hook business model

Sony sells the Playstation console at a loss but makes up for it by selling games and charging for online services.

Benefits of the Razor-Razorblade Approach

  1. Reduces customer risk of trying the product
    Allows customers to try the products and services without a substantial upfront cost.
  2. The constant revenue stream from the product
    Potentially resulting in sales many times over the initial outlays.

Read more about the Razor blade business model

15. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model

In the D2C business model, the brand cut out the middleman and sells its product directly to the end consumer from its website using a third-party logistic partner.

Examples: GymShark, Kylie Cosmetics, etc

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model
Direct-to-consumer business Model

Brands using the D2C business model can only expand using online channels like Websites, Marketplaces(Amazon, eBay ), etc

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model
Traditional Retailer vs D2C business model

Benefits of using the D2C business model

  • No middlemen = Higher control over profits
  • You are gaining access to more targeted customer data- Demographic, Geographic.
  • More room for product testing
  • A higher degree of personalization in your product range-Inventory Less

16. Private Label vs White Label business model

A private label/White label product is manufactured by a contract or third-party manufacturer and sold under the brand name.

Most of the electronics products on amazon are manufactured in china and are white-labeled under some brand name.

Example — Supplement and electronic products on amazon.

Private Label vs White Label business model
White-label business model

Brands specify their product quantity with the design label and the rest is taken care of by the Contract manufacturer

17. Franchise business model

Here the franchisee(Store owner) is using the trademark, branding, and business model of a franchisor (company).

Examples: Dominos, KFC, etc.

Franchise business model
Master Franchise business model

This business model is widely used by Quick service restaurants (QSR) like Subway, Domino, Burger King, etc.

Opening your restaurant vs Frenchies

Opening your restaurant increases the risk of failure hence many people choose to take a franchise.

18. Ad-based business model

This business model is used by social media and search engine giants who use your search engine and interest data to show ads.

Examples are Google, Meta, TikTok, and Snapchat

Ad-based business model

It keeps users out of the equation so they don’t pay for the service or product offered, e.g. Google users don’t pay for searches.

In return, they collected the data and then hyper-personalized these ads to ensure maximum revenue for the business.

19. Octopus business model

It’s a diversification business strategy where each business unit like the tentacle of an octopus works independently but is connected to the main body.

Example: Oyo

Octopus business model
OYO’s Octopus business model

OYO is the Airbnb for Asia which operates in everything from Hotel, Co-working, Co-living, Vacation homes, etc

20. Transactional business model

The revenue is generated by directly selling an item or a service to a customer.

Widely used by e-commerce sites or any other product you purchase online.

Ex GymShark, Goli.

Transactional business model
Transactional business model

Would you like to get a detailed copy of these business models?

Buy my latest e-book on 31 Startup business models(300+ pages)🚀

Click here to Buy

21. Peer-to-peer (P2P) Business Model

In a P2P business model, two individuals interact to buy and sell goods and services directly with each other without a third party or using a platform.

Example: OLX

Peer-to-peer (P2P) Business Model
OLX Business Model

22. P2P Lending as a business model

In the Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending business model one private individual (“P2P Lender”) lends/invests or borrows money from another private individual (“P2P Borrower”).

Example: Kabbage

P2P Lending as a business model
P2P Lending as a business model

This is also known as“social lending” as it lets individuals lend and borrow money directly from each other without the use of an official financial institution as an intermediary.

23. Brokerage business model

Brokerage businesses usually charge a commission or fee to one or both parties in exchange for services rendered.

Examples: Robinhood, Coinbase, and ebay

Brokerage business model
Brokerage business model

Brokerage businesses are common in the Real estate, Finance, and Online Marketplace and usually operate on the following Model

Brokerage business model
Types of brokerage business model
  1. Buy/sell match model –They match buy and sell transactions and take a commission on that
    Examples:- Financial brokers, Insurance brokers, etc
  2. Classified-advertiser model — these brokers charge a fee to an advertiser based on the time, location, size, or nature of an advertisement. Example:- Craiglist

24. Drop shipping Business model

Dropshipping is an e-commerce retail model that allows stores to sell products without keeping any physical inventory.

Drop shipping Business model
Drop shipping Business model

When a customer makes an order fulfill the order from a third-party supplier and logistic partners.

The Key Elements of the Dropshipping Business Model
- Retailer — Product portfolio and customer experience
- The fulfiller — Managing, shipping, and fulfilling orders
- The customer — purchases the order

Advantages of drop shipping

  • Less capital is required (Low overhead-No Inventory or warehousing)
  • Easy to get started (Less than $100)
  • Flexible working location
  • Easier to test new product

25. Space as a Service Business Model

It is based on the idea of a shared economy that provides millennials with the flexibility of living or working out of shared spaces without the headache of ownership or lease.

Example: WeWork, Airbnb

Space as a Service Business Model
WeWork business model

Companies like WeWork act as a middle layer between Real estate, legal compliances, maintenance, and repair for business.

Space as a Service Business Model

26. 3rd party logistic (3PL) business model

In the 3PL business model, the business outsources its products’ distribution, warehousing, and fulfillment to an external logistics company that carries out these processes on its behalf.

Example: Fulfilment by Amazon, Ship Bob, etc.

3rd party logistic (3PL) business model
Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

3PL partners handle both inbound and Outbound with warehousing, fulfillment, and returns of certain goods for a fee.

Inbound logistics refers to purchasing and arranging the transportation of products from suppliers to your warehouse.

Outbound logistics refers to the flow of items through a company’s production line, warehouse, and ultimately to the customer.

3rd party logistic (3PL) business model
Inbound and outbound in 3PL

27. Last Mile delivery as a business model

Last-mile delivery consists of the set of activities in a supply chain that will bring the service and product to the final customer.

Examples: Gojek, Postmates, Rappi, etc

Last Mile delivery as a business model
gojek business model

Last-mile is also intertwined with on-demand and usually has a peak cycle, especially in the evening.

28. Affiliate business model

Affiliate marketing is a revenue-earning strategy of promoting other companies' products and charging commissions for every sale.

Examples: Amazon, Skillshare, Hubspot, etc

Affiliate business model
Affiliate business model

I am sure your favorite youtube is using these short amazon links to get 5% out of every sale that comes from these links.

affiliate link from a youtube video.

Advantages of using the Affiliate business model

  • It enables many independent marketers to market on its behalf and earns a success fee or commission.
  • Bring Transparency to the system as the influencers are provided with a unique tracking link and an online dashboard to see their earnings.
  • Get access to promotional materials and learn about the latest deals.

29. The virtual goods business model

This is also known as the in-app purchase where you were required to make in-app purchases for an intangible product.

Examples: Candy Crush, Roblox, PubG, etc

virtual goods business model

A consumable product is like purchasing currency in a game that’ll run out in due time.
A non-consumable product is one in which a user can purchase a permanent benefit without the need of buying it again and again.

30. Cloud Kitchen Business Models

Also known as Ghost Kitchens, Dark Kitchens, Black Box Kitchens, etc

A restaurant that sells meals exclusively through delivery channels.

These restaurants offer no physical dine-in experience and instead cater only to customers eating meals at home.

Example -NextBite, Faaso’s

Cloud Kitchen Business Models
Cloud kitchen business model

31. Crowdsourcing Business model

Crowdsourcing = Crowd acts as a source for a specific platform.

In a crowdsourcing business model, you voluntarily get help from people all over the world, without having to hire them as regular employees.

Crowdsourcing Business model
Crowdsourcing Business model

Types of Crowdsourcing Platforms

  1. Open-Source Software
    Allows developers to access the software source code to modify or improve it.
    Example:- Linux operating systems and Firefox browsers.
  2. Crowdfunding — Crowdfunding would be basically, with no expectations example- The oculus headset.

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Would you like to get a detailed copy of these business models?

Buy my latest e-book on 31 Startup business models(300+ pages)🚀

Click here to Buy

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