Proven Revenue Streams for Tech Startups in a Competitive Market

Tech startups

The tech startup is facing a scramble to develop the next big thing. In the middle of this chaos for ideas a very important question often gets sidelined—how will we make money? Do you know that generating revenue in a crowded market is a big challenge for tech startups?  

In this industry, the competition is fierce, customer acquisition costs are high, and the pressure to stand out is immense. In such an environment, choosing the right revenue model is not just about short-term gains; it’s about long-term survival.  

The model you select will determine how you attract customers, price your product or service, and, ultimately, fuel the growth of your startup. Selecting the wrong model can lead to a slow burn, making it difficult to scale and achieve sustainable success.

So, before diving headfirst into the market, take a step back and consider: what revenue model will propel your tech startup toward long-term victory?

The Traditional Revenue Models

Traditional revenue models offer a clear path to monetization for tech startups. In this model, the focus is on selling a product or service outright, generating revenue with each transaction. Let’s discuss the two subcategories of product sales—one-time purchases and perpetual licenses.

Product Sales

One-Time Purchases – This is the bread and butter of traditional sales. You develop a product, and set a price, and customers pay that price to own and use it. Examples include software applications, hardware devices, and downloadable content.


  • One-time purchases are a simple and well-understood model. Minimal setup is required, making it ideal for startups looking for a quick path to market.
  • For physical products like hardware devices, the cost of production can be significantly lower than the selling price, leading to high-profit margins. 


  • Attracting new customers can be expensive, especially in a competitive market. Marketing campaigns, sales commissions, and advertising all eat into your profits.
  • One-time purchases are a transactional model. Once a customer buys your product, they’re unlikely to generate further revenue unless you offer additional features, upgrades, or consumable items. 

Perpetual Licenses – This model grants users the right to use your software indefinitely for a one-time fee.  Perpetual licenses are often used for enterprise software solutions or high-value products.

Advantages – Similar to one-time purchases, perpetual licenses are relatively straightforward to implement. They can also generate a larger upfront revenue stream compared to subscription models.

Disadvantages – The rise of cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) has lessened the appeal of perpetual licenses. Customers may be hesitant to pay a large upfront cost, especially for software that can be accessed on a subscription basis. 

Additionally, perpetual licenses can make it difficult to capture revenue from future updates and improvements to the software.

The Service Based Revenue 

Tech startups focusing on expertise and solutions and service-based revenue models offer a compelling alternative.  In this model, revenue is generated by offering services to clients using your team’s skills and knowledge to solve their problems. There are two main subcategories within this model—project-based services and managed services.

Project-Based Services

This model involves tackling specific, well-defined projects for clients. These projects can range from developing a custom software application to implementing a new cybersecurity solution.


  • Project-based services offer the potential for high-profit margins, especially if you can command premium rates for your expertise.
  • Delivering successful projects can foster strong client relationships, leading to repeat business and referrals. This can make a more predictable revenue stream diminish with time.


  • Project-based services rely heavily on your team’s skills and experience. Therefore, you have to look for ways to retain top talent, as project work can be demanding on your resources.
  • The success of this model hinges on a steady stream of new projects. Between projects, there may be periods of low revenue, making cash flow management a critical concern.

Managed Services

Here, you provide ongoing support and maintenance for a client’s technology infrastructure or systems. Managed services can be offered on a subscription basis, recurring basis, or pay-as-you-go model.


  • Managed services offer the benefit of predictable, recurring revenue. This makes it easier to forecast cash flow and plan for future growth.
  • The ongoing nature of managed services fosters deeper client relationships as you become a trusted advisor and partner in their technological success.


  • Managed services rely on clients committing to your service for an extended period. 
  • As your client base grows, managing and delivering services efficiently can become difficult. Scaling your team and resources to meet demand requires careful planning and investment.

The Subscription-Based Revenue Models

The subscription-based model has become a dominant force in the tech startup structure. This model focuses on providing ongoing access to your product or service in exchange for recurring payments from customers. 

Subscription models offer several advantages over traditional one-time purchases, including predictable revenue streams and deeper customer engagement. Here, we’ll delve into the Freemium model, a popular variation within the subscription space.

Freemium Model

The freemium model offers a tiered approach to access. A basic set of features is available for free, attracting a large user base and allowing them to experience the core value proposition. 

For example, companies like Ethereum Code offer Premium features, offering greater functionality, convenience, or storage capacity, which are then available for a subscription fee. This model is used for software applications, online services, and media platforms.


  • The free tier acts as a powerful magnet, attracting a large user base with minimal upfront cost. This allows you to quickly gain market share and brand recognition.
  • By providing a taste of the full experience, you can entice free users to upgrade to a paid subscription for premium features.


  • The free tier needs to be compelling enough to attract users but not so good that it cannibalizes sales of the premium version. The premium features must offer a clear and significant benefit to justify the upgrade cost.
  • A major challenge with the freemium model is converting free users into paying customers. The value proposition of the premium features needs to be strong enough to overcome user inertia and convince them to pay for additional functionality.

The Tiered Subscriptions

The tiered subscription model offers a flexible approach to attracting and retaining customers.  Here, you provide different subscription levels, each with a distinct set of features and functionalities priced accordingly. This covers the customer needs and budgets, maximizing your potential revenue base.

Let’s suppose a software application with a tiered subscription model. The basic tier might offer core features, while higher tiers progressively unlock additional functionality, storage space, or advanced analytics. This model is commonly used for cloud storage services, streaming platforms, and SaaS applications.


Tiered subscriptions allow you to address a broader market. Customers with limited needs can opt for the basic tier, while those requiring advanced features can choose a higher tier.  This caters to budget constraints and ensures you don’t scare away potential customers with a single, high-priced offering.

You can extract greater value from your customer base by offering a range of tiers.  Customers with higher needs and budgets will pay more for premium features, increasing your overall revenue per user.


The key to success with tiered subscriptions is striking the right balance. Tiers must be clearly differentiated and offer a meaningful increase in value as you move up the pricing ladder. Confusing or poorly designed tiers can lead to customer frustration and hinder adoption.

The End

For your business to thrive you need a revenue model as the first step for any tech startup.  By carefully considering your target market, product offering, and competitive landscape, you can select a model that fuels growth and positions your business for long-term success.  

Remember, the tech industry is full of innovation, and so, too, can be your revenue strategy.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with different models or even combine them to create a robust and adaptable approach that maximizes your earning potential.

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