This guest blog post is written by Neil Lewis, an International Coach working with Technology Startup and Scaleup leaders in Manchester, London, Valencia and across Europe. I run Media Modo and we develop tools and workshops as well as deliver group and one to one coaching. 

I’ve known Neil for many years and Neil was part of the original Techcelerate Network and during those days dabbed with running an accelerator in Manchester among other entrepreneurial ventures. 


Tools and support for tech entrepreneurs have come on leaps and bounds since I built my first company back in 1999.

Along with Lean Startup methodology, a core part of that toolkit has been the Business Model Canvas developed by Steve Blank and Alex Osterwalder.



But – something very important was missing, something really essential from this first set of tools… especially in startup and scaleup phases.

The original canvas does not capture the purpose, the energy or the passion of the Founders that stand behind their business and what I have found on my own entrepreneurial journey is that whilst time and money are always finite, purpose is unlimited and that is why it’s a startup’s secret sauce.



Why does Purpose matter?

Two key reasons: Vision and Stamina

Firstly, as a startup or scaleup you are making promises about what you *will* deliver and what you *can* deliver in the future and you need a variety of people; customers, partners, investors, supporters… to come alongside you and ‘buy into’ your vision.

Even if you already have a functioning product, your supporters still have to ‘buy your vision’. And to be convincing, you have to show why your team is built for this vision, why it is in your DNA, why it is your purpose.

Secondly, by connecting your startup or scaleup to your purpose, you are telling your supporters that you have the stamina to follow through – that you are determined to make it work and that you have the energy and passion to overcome the barriers and challenges that you will inevitably face.

And this inner drive that so effectively engages with startup and scaleup supporters, does not come from better business model engineering but by discovering your purpose and passion and learning to express that purpose with greater clarity and increased impact.

As the classic business model canvas fails to capture that raw emotional connection, we lose sight of a crucial part of what makes your business attractive, what makes it unique and why it should be supported and championed.

That is why my organisation – Media Modo – took the canvas concept to the next level and we call it The Breakthrough Canvas



You might say the purpose of The Breakthrough Canvas is to ensure that as a startup or scaleup, that you will be ‘unique’!

There are already lots of copycat businesses out there – so be different, be unique, be you and be uncopiable, unmatchable!

And, because The Breakthrough Canvas is emotionally powerful for your team, your team will have a powerful desire to take action, which can inspire others to become supporters – customers, team members, investors and so on and so forth.


Download The Breakthrough Canvas



Pivot in – not Pivot out!

How The Breakthrough Canvas helps you and your team will depend on the questions you are asking and the challenges that you face.

A typical conundrum that startups face is whether to pivot or not. In this example, The Breakthrough Canvas has helped entrepreneurs switch from ‘pivoting out’ to ‘pivoting in’. For instance, a media team found that their sector – gig reviews and student media – was awash with people willing to write for free.

Their question began as – “how do we change our business to find a sustainable economic model? Do we write marketing copy or website blogs because they pay more money?”

Following a session using The Breakthrough Canvas and refocussing on what this team really loved to do, we discovered a new model – working alongside the student media editorial teams at their high pressure publication dates to provide last minute reviews, editorials and editing.

This switch of focus happened when we changed the question from ‘who will pay us for our words’ to ‘what are we exceptionally good at (because it’s our purpose – our ‘why’) and who works in that space that we can add value to’.

By asking the ‘purpose’ question first, they pivoted inwards and deeper, rather than pivoting outwards and into the headwinds of a lot of competition where they would have been ‘good’ but not standout exceptional.



How can this help Me?

Firstly, download The Breakthrough Canvas and begin to resolve the questions by yourself or with your team.

To take this further, find a course online or in person where a coach can take you through the canvas as this will help you uncover deeper and more powerful answers.

However, to gain maximum value which comes from deeper insights, find someone who you trust and ask them to ‘hold up a mirror’ so you can not only see yourself/yourselves – but see how others perceive you too.

This person holding the mirror – your coach – can help you identify insights faster that will enable you to breakthrough quicker – for example, instead of being held back with the thought that ‘I can’t get started until I have my website’ you can see that ‘until I know who my customer is, how do I even know that I need a website?’.

Or, perhaps you feel held back by a fellow founder/ partner who holds half the company equity but isn’t fully committed to the project? Your coach can help you honestly address the value and emotional commitment that each partner brings to the team such that the partnership is strengthened and equity better shared.

Whichever route or routes you choose, The Breakthrough Canvas is an exceptional tool and in the right hands it can powerfully guide you to gain greater stamina and develop a more powerful vision which will ultimately lead to greater success.