Interesting article about the expanding usage in the 1990s of the term “business model”. http://qz.com/71489/until-the-nineties-business-models-werent-a-thing/
My theory is that the phrase became popular as the availability of venture capital grew, and, those responsible for investing it sought to filter deal flow.
Through the 1980’s, “strategy” was used to describe business activity and the deployment of assets. However, the blossoming of all-things-electronic—computer and consumer electronics—demonstrated that conditions were ripe for brand new businesses. “Model” is a lighter word; it can be articulated before committing to activity and assets.
As the supply of potential deals expanded, and, the fleeting nature of success in the nascent technology sector was repeatedly demonstrated, VCs needed two things. Theories about the kinds of businesses that were likely to find success, and, a quick way to test theories as they shift through deals.
Hence, there were “elevator pitches” about how to find success in rapidly changing markets. Untested business strategies were better described as models.
In Hollywood, studios are pitched “high concept” and, when one bites, “it’s a movie”.
In Silicon Valley, business model became the equivalent of the high concept; appealing models produced funded companies.