How many? Part the First

Jam at the Floating Market
Uploaded on December 2, 2006 by Stuck in Customs

Something that makes an appearance fairly early in a business plan is the addressable market size. This is usually the point where after some mumbo-jumbo you’d end up with something like “…and thus we only need 1% to secure $100m turnover.”

Mark Davies has a good post on the subject from a VC perspective but I thought I’d add some examples from real life. The first benefits from solid data, the second is more speculative.

An enterprise I’m working with have a new game for the education sector (and several others but for the purposes of this example I’m concentrating on the education sector). Education is great (as are most public sectors) because there’s so much great data out there to use. Tt doesn’t mean they’re any easier to sell into but that’s another post.

So this enterprise happens to be in Canada, and one of their markets is Quebec. Helpfully for me, the Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec has most of the data I need. With a bit of digging (and guess work, some of the better data is in French) you can find the 9 English School Boards, and 17 French School Boards. Between them there are 512,515 students in Secondary education (enrolled for Academic Year 2007/2008). Which is nice and big.

Trouble is, we’re not selling to all those students. We’re actually only interested (at the moment) in two of their 5 years at Secondary School, so we need to divide that number by 2/5 to get a more accurate number (371,739) which is still nice and big.

The next bit needs a bit more knowledge about the fundamental business model. The game is sold to a school, or school board, on a tired license model. The more licenses you buy, the cheaper the per student price. So one addressable market is to sell a single license to the whole of Quebec, ka-ching!

However, more likely is that we’ll sell to each school board separately (or even each school). Again, data is our friend here as we can find the enrolled student numbers for each School Board. Time to fire up Excel.

Quebec English Board Central Québec School Board Eastern Shores School Board Eastern Townships School Board English Montreal School Board Lester B. Pearson School Board
Secondary 1,905 653 2,704 10,978 11,842
SecI & SecV 762 261 1,082 4,391 4,737

And so on…

Now I can apply our tiered pricing model to each School Board and see what our ‘true’ addressable market is for Quebec. Of course these numbers include special schools that might not purchase a license; equally, it doesn’t include the private school sector which hopefully will.

I could drill down to individual schools (I have the list of schools, sizes, locations, who the Principal is and contact info) but we don’t really want to cold call each school and try to sell them each a separate license as we’re in bootstrap mode and the cost-benefit just isn’t there. Early conversations have indicated that School Boards are the most likely point of purchase so that’s enough detail.

This means I can say with high confidence that our addressable market for Public Schools in Quebec is $350,250. Shake rinse and repeat for the other Provinces and Territories in Canada and (for this business model) the Public Sector education market is $3,415,300.

How confident are you of the numbers behind your addressable market forecast?

What do you do if you don’t have those numbers? Stay tuned for my next post.

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