Best Free Beginner's Accounting and Financial Modeling Classes For a Startup Founder Learning Basic Accounting and Financial Modeling

Ten free beginner’s accounting and financial modeling classes that would be useful to a startup founder who wants to learn basic accounting and financial modeling are Skillshare’s Finance and Accounting for Startups and Entrepreneurs; AccountingCoach’s Learn Accounting for Free: For Students, Small Businesses, and Bookkeepers; Accounting for Management; Kauffman Founders School’s The Art of Startup Finance; Lynda’s Finance Foundations; U.S. Small Business Administration’s Introduction to Accounting, Santa Clara University’s Accounting and Cash Flow, Excellence in Financial Management’s Accounting Course, Kutztown University’s Online Finance Class, and TechStars’ Startup Financial Modeling. A deeper look into each course is below.

1. SkillShare

Name: Finance and Accounting for Startups and Entrepreneurs — Learn Accounting Easily!
Cost: Free with free trial
Overview: This free tutorial from Skillshare provides video lessons for startup founders and entrepreneurs who are looking for an introductory course to accounting. Its lessons include the following:

1. Introduction Course Info

2. Accounting 101 Terminology

3. Accounting 101 Debits and Credits

4. Accounting 101 Assets

5. Accounting 101 Liabilities

6. Accounting 101 Equity Section

7. Accounting 101 Expenses

8. Accounting 101 Revenue and COGS

9. Accounting for Fixed and Intangible Assets

10. Intro to Cost Accounting

11. Direct Labor

12. Direct Materials

13. Overhead and Indirect Costs

14 Inventory Accounting

15. Balance Sheet Preparation

16. Income Statement Preparation

17. Statement of Cash Flows

18. Statement of Equity Preparation

19. Balance Sheet Analysis

20. Income Statement Analysis

21. Statement of Cash Flow Analysis

22. How to Hire an Audit Firm

23. Audited Financials from the Auditor’s Perspective

24. Audit Process

25. Waterfall Report

26. Budget vs. Actual

27. Budget to Actual Review

28. Budgeting General Concepts

29. Budgeting and Forecasts Assumptions

30. Income Statement Forecasting

31. Balance Sheet Forecasting

32. Statement of Cash Flow Forecasting

33. Forecast Walkthrough

34. Raising Capital: Where to Begin

35. Valuation

36. Avenues to Potential Investors

37. Investment Process

38. Presenting to Investors

39. Term Sheets

40. Post Funding

41. Types of Exit Strategies

42. Mergers and Acquisitions

43. Management Buy Out

44. Secondary Markets

45. IPO Process

46. Costs of an IPO

47. Timeline of an IPO

48. What an IPO Means to the Company

49. What an IPO Means to Past Investors

50. Conclusion

What Stands Out About the Course: It is the most comprehensive free class for entrepreneurs and startup founders on accounting. It offers “all things business accounting and entrepreneurial finance related, A to Z.” In addition, students can message the instructor directly if they are confused about any part of the class or need additional information. The instructor is Chris Benjamin, MBA & CFO, who has over 20 years of finance and accounting experience. For the last 10 years, Benjamin has been working with growing companies as a CFO consultant.

Negatives: The only negative is that if a person has already used their free trial with Skillshare, they will have to pay for the course, which is $15/month.

2. AccountingCoach

Name: Learn Accounting for Free: For Students, Small Businesses, and Bookkeepers
Cost: Free
Overview: This is a completely free online course that is offered through AccountingCoach, a company that allows “students, bookkeepers, and small business owners to learn new accounting skills or to increase their present knowledge.” Although this is not geared directly toward entrepreneurs and startup founders, it does provide comprehensive instruction of accounting principles. Its lessons include the following:

1. Accounting Basics

2. Debits and Credits

3. Chart of Accounts

4. Bookkeeping

5. Accounting Equation

6. Accounting Principles

7. Financial Accounting

8. Adjusting Entries

9. Financial Statements

10. Balance Sheet

11. Income Statement

12. Cash Flow Statement

13. Financial Ratios

14. Bank Reconciliation

15. Accounts Receivable and Bad Debts Expense

16. Accounts Payable

17. Inventory and Cost of Goods Sold

18. Depreciation

19. Payroll Accounting

20. Bonds Payable

21. Stockholders’ Equity

22. Present Value of a Single Amount

23. Present Value of an Ordinary Annuity

24. Future Value of a Single Amount

25. Nonprofit Accounting

26. Break-even Point

27. Improving Profits

28. Evaluating Business Investments

29. Manufacturing Overhead

30. Nonmanufacturing Overhead

31. Activity Based Costing

32. Standard Costing

33. Accounting Careers

What Stands Out About the Course: This course was specifically created to help small businesses and other people gain an understanding of accounting without paying tuition. It does have “pro” options that people can pay for, but the free version includes all the necessary lessons to give an entrepreneur or startup founder a solid understanding of financial concepts as they relate to business.

Negatives: The only negative is that it is not specifically geared to startup founders, so there are some lessons missing that other courses may have.

3. Accounting for Management

Name: Accounting for Management
Cost: Free
Overview: This website is dedicated to teaching financial and managerial accounting for free. It provides lessons, exercises, problems, and calculators to help entrepreneurs and startup founders (among others) navigate financial and accounting minefields. Lessons include the following:

1. Introduction to Financial Accounting

2. Accounting Principles and Concepts

3. Accounting Cycle

4. Accounting for Accounts Receivable

5. Cash Book

6. Financial Assets

7. Accounting for Marketable Securities

8. Depreciation, Impairments, and Depletion

9. Capital and Revenue Items

10. Accounting for Non-Trading Concerns

11. Statement of Cash Flows

12. Stockholder’s Equity

13. Financial Statement Analysis

14. Classifications of Cost

15. Job-Order Costing System

16. Inventory and Material Cost Control

17. Cost Volume and Profit Relationships

18. Variable and Absorption Costing

19. Inventory Costing Methods

20. Standard Costing and Variance Analysis

21. Capital Budgeting Techniques

22. Service Department Costing

What Stands Out About this Course: The exercises, problems, and quizzes sections of this website provide practical hands-on experience dealing with financial situations that may arise. These are unique to this course and can be accessed at any time, even without completing the lessons.

Negatives: This course is not necessarily geared toward startup founders, but as it is recommended as a course for entrepreneurs, it does have value in teaching basic accounting concepts for management, which would include startup founders.

4. Kauffman Founders School

Name: The Art of Startup Finance
Cost: Free
Overview: Bill Reichert, a “seasoned venture capitalist,” has put together this course that is designed to provide entrepreneurs with “critical knowledge that will help [them] go beyond the numbers and use finance as a tool to help [them] manage your company.” Courses include the following:

1. The Startup Finance Pyramid

2. Financial Foundations: Your Balance Sheet

3. Financial Foundations: Your Capitalization Table

4. Financial Processes: Your Income Statement

5. Financial Processes: Your Cash Flow

6. Business Processes: Your Business Model Formula

7. Financial Budgeting: Your Operating Budget

8. Financial Budgeting: Your Longterm Forecast

9. Financial Monitoring: Your Performance Metrics

What Stands Out About this Course: It is completely designed for startup founders who need a basic understanding of accounting concepts for a startup company. It doesn’t have as many lessons as the others noted here, which means it could be handy for busy startup founders who don’t have a lot of time to take classes. It is also taught by a venture capitalist, who understands the startup world.

Negatives: This course is not nearly as comprehensive as the others mentioned here and it might not be as basic as necessary, although it does include introductory lessons.

5. Lynda

Name: Finance Foundations
Cost: Free with free trial
Overview: Brigham Young University professors Jim and Earl Kay Stice, offer a “comprehensive overview of finance, and touch on everything from reading a balance sheet to understanding derivatives and securities.” Lessons include the following:

1. Introducing Finance

2. Finance Inside of Companies

3. Finance Outside of Companies

4. Introducing Financial Statements

5. Overview of Financial Statements

6. The Balance Sheet

7. The Income Statement

8. The Statement of Cash Flows

9. Widely Used Ratios

10. Forecasting Financial Statements

11. Introducing Short-Term Financial Management

12. The Operating Cycle

13. Cash Management

14. Managing Receivables and Inventory

15. Obtaining Short-Term Financing

16. Internal Controls

17. Introducing Risk and Return

18. What is Risk?

19. Why We Don’t Like Risk

20. Reducing Risk Through Diversification

21. Risk-Free Rate

22. Equity Risk Premium

23. Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)

24. Introducing Long-Term Financing

25. Does Capital Structure Matter?

26. Cost of Capital

27. Weighted Average Cost of Capital

28. Introducing Securities Markets

29. The Difference Between a Stock and Bond

30. Stock and Bond Markets

31. IPOs: Microsoft and Facebook

32. Can You Pick Stocks in the Stock Market?

33. Introducing Financial Institutions

34. Traditional Banks

35. Investment Banks

36. Investment Funds

37. Insurance Companies

38. Introducing Capital Budgeting

39. Capital Budgeting Overview

40. The Importance of the Time Value of Money

41. Personal Financial Planning

42. Reviewing Corporate Finance

What Stands Out About this Course: This course is for the true beginner. It covers even the most basic concepts that many other courses assume a student will already know (example: Introducing Financial Institutions). This course would be ideal for someone who truly has no idea about any financial aspect of running a company.

Negatives: This course may be too basic and it includes an entire section on personal finances, which may not be relevant to a startup founder.

6. U.S. Small Business Administration

Name: Introduction to Accounting
Cost: Free
Overview: This course is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and provides an “overview of accounting, including concepts and terminology.” Lessons include the following:

1. What is Accounting?

2. Bookkeeping

3. Income and Expenses

4. Balance Sheet

5. Income Statement

6. Cash Flow Statement

7. Finding the Right Accounting Resources

What Stands Out About this Course: It is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration so it is definitely geared toward entrepreneurs and startup founders. It is only 30 minutes long, so it is ideal for busy startup founders who want a quick and basic look at accounting concepts.

Negatives: It is not nearly as comprehensive as most of the other offerings here. This would be a great place to start, but it might need to be supplemented by other resources.

7. Santa Clara University’s Myownbusiness Institute

Name: Accounting and Cash Flow
Cost: Free
Overview: This is the 11th session in course entitled “Starting a Business,” but it can be taken individually without having to take or pass any other session. It covers basic accounting and cash flow control and talks about “the advantages of hiring an accountant.Lessons include:

1. Gain the Knowledge

2. Select an Accountant

3. Methods of Accounting

4. Keeping Separate Business Records

5. Tax Liability Issues

6. Financial and Technical Assistance

7. Internal Controls

8. Quarterly Returns

9. Bank Account Reconciliation

10. Employee Benefits Policy

11. Do Your Own Bookkeeping

12. The Balance Sheet

13. The Income Statement

14. Cash Flow Control

15. Accounting and Cash Flow Punch List

16. Top 10 Dos and Don’ts

17. Frequently Asked Business Accounting Questions

18. Business Plan

What Stands Out About this Course: This is a course that is geared toward people starting a business; therefore, it would be a good place to begin for startup founders. It does not go into depth on any one topic, but it does give the student a basic understanding of accounting for small businesses.

Negatives: This course is not as comprehensive as others listed here. In addition, it seems to encourage the use of a professional accountant rather than founders learning how to manage their money themselves.

8. Excellence in Financial Management

Name: Accounting Course
Cost: Free
Overview: This is a page of accounting and financial management courses and content developed by Matt H. Evans, a financial expert who created the Excellence in Financial Management website to help “financial professionals such as Chief Financial Officers, Financial Managers, and Business Analyst resolve specific issues.” In addition, he created accounting and financial management content “with the goal of helping educate anyone on how accounting and finance work within the business world.” Lessons on this website include the following:

1. Basic Accounting Concepts

2. Accounting Transactions

3. Compiling the Financial Statements

4. Accounting Principles and Controls

5. Accounting for Inventories and Fixed Assets

6. Reading Financials

7. Horizontal and Vertical Analysis

8. Ratio Analysis

9. Key Financial Indicators

10. Concepts in Finance

11. Overview of Forecasting

12. Advanced Ratio Models

13. Financial Planning and Forecasting

14. Managing Working Capital

15. Short-Term Financing

16. Intermediate and Long-Term Financing

17. Risk Identification

18. Risk Analysis

19. Risk Response and Control

20. Major Frameworks

21. A Framework for Modeling

22. Unified Modeling Language

23. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)

24. Two More Approaches

What Stands Out About this Course: This course was created by a financial expert who has made a career of advising CFOs and other business leaders on financial matters. It has information on financial modeling, which most courses do not include, so this is likely a very helpful resource for startup founders. In addition, there are dozens of other articles about accounting best practices, as well as links to workshop presentations and Excel spreadsheets.

Negatives: This course might take a deeper look than a beginner would need. It covers a significant number of topics that delve deep into the financial matters of startups and other businesses.

9. Kutztown University’s Small business development center

Name: Online Finance Class
Cost: Free, with valid email address
Overview: Kutztown University offers 44 online learning programs for free, making it “one of the largest collections of free, on-demand entrepreneurial training resources in the United States.” The Kutztown Small Business Development Center allows entrepreneurs, small business owners and start-up businesses access to free content that will help them learn or brush up on business concepts, access up-to-date content 24/7, and train on “hundreds of current business issues.” Lessons in the “Finance” course include the following:

1. Accounting 101: The Fundamentals

2. Preparing a Balance Sheet

3. Assessing Your Company’s Financial Needs

4. Preparing a Cash Budget

5. Managing Your Cash Flow

6. Creating a Loan Package

7. Creating Financial Projections

8. Analyzing Your Financial Ratios

9. Creating a Profit and Loss Statement

10. Valuing a Business

11. Finding Money to Start a Business

12. Finding and Attracting an Investor

13. Partners and Investors

14. Pricing Your Products and Services

15. Running a Profitable Company

What Stands Out About this Course: This course is from an accredited university, which lends it more credibility than many others on this list. It is specifically geared toward startup founders and entrepreneurs, so it likely includes targeted content that other courses that are more generic in nature do not.

Negatives: This course requires students to sign up for the Kutztown Small Business Development Center newsletter and the developers ask students to take a satisfaction survey to improve content. However, students can unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time after taking the course.

10. Techstars

Name: Startup Financial Modeling
Cost: Free
Overview: This is a series of lessons that resulted from a conversation Will Little had with Troy Henikoff, the former TechStars Chicago Accelerator Managing Director, about the best way for founders to build a financial model. It stems from the belief that “founders need to take the time necessary to build their models from scratch.” This course covers:

1. Part 1: The Why and What of Financial Modeling

2. Assumptions

3. Income Statement and Custom Detail Tabs

4. Cash Flow, Balance Sheet, and Keeping the Model Updated

What Stands Out About This Course: It is one of the few free online or offline classes about financial modeling. Most courses on financial modeling cost upwards of $200.

Negatives: This course is probably not as comprehensive as those that have a tuition fee.


While all accounting and financial modeling courses listed here cater to beginners with little-to-no knowledge of accounting concepts, the most comprehensive courses that would be useful to a startup founder who wants to learn basic accounting and financial modeling are the Excellence in Financial Management Accounting Course because it includes accounting principles as well as information on financial modeling, and Skillshare’s Finance and Accounting for Startups and Entrepreneurs because it takes students through the entire accounting process starting from the very beginning. However, all courses listed here would be beneficial to a startup founder depending on the time they have available to take classes and the exact information they need to know.

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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