How Do Startups Value Their Companies?


Startups are often faced with the decision to either raise money or grow their company organically. Raising money, however, means giving up a percentage of equity in your company for each investment. On the other hand, growing businesses without taking on any outside investments are complex because entrepreneurs need funding to get started and keep growing their companies.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re looking to raise money for your startup, you might be wondering how much your company is worth. 

Startups use various methods to value their companies, such as market valuation, liquidation preferences, and discounted cash flow.

  1. Startup Market Valuation is usually defined as the value of an asset (equity or debt) multiplied by the percentage share that one investor owns, also referred to as “ownership” or “shareholding.” 
  1. Startup liquidation preferences are meant to determine the order in which investors/shareholders are repaid. This arrangement allows investors to get back some or all of their investments should the company be liquidated.
  1. Startup discounted cash flow is a valuation technique used by investors to reflect the actual value of a company. Cash-flow projections, therefore, need to be taken into consideration before forecasting the growth trajectory and determining its attractiveness. 

In a way, the value of a company is more than just one metric. For example, companies who have patents can often see more value in their product once it’s patented. They may also offer temporary discounts to get a jump start on marketing

A company with an experienced or talented team benefits from this since people work better together and produce optimal output for themselves and those around them. 

The value will always be subjective to the buyer – so it’s best to know exactly what they want and then give that back as fast as you can!

Look no further than these seven reasons as to what value startup investors look for:

  1. A well-researched business model that is founded in value and will stand the test of time with changing trends in consumer preferences and technology diversification while at the same time keeping risks low. 
  1. The appropriate time and place for the startup product to win out – startups that solve problems in the healthcare industry will need to address a problem like EHR adoption, whereas consumer apps can treat any issue.
  1. The domain experts needed – it’s no use creating an app to track donations when another competitor already has over $50m in funding.
  1. Technology – any innovation in the technology space is bound to be interesting. Sometimes this could be a technical solution to an existing problem; sometimes it’ll be an entirely new product that nobody has seen before because it’s groundbreaking or adventurous. The important thing that investors look for is not just whether the business model will work, but also whether they can feel excited about backing something innovative and potentially game-changing.
  1. Market size – startups need money to grow their research and development or marketing fund upfront, then hope that they eventually turn a profit as their company scales up through customer acquisition and loyalty-building activities over time. 
  1. The winning team. You’d want a well-rounded team with experience in both medicine and technology for your healthcare startup, or all three of programming expertise and marketing skills for your consumer app.
  1. Compounding growth – Investors want startups to be solving problems for markets with colossal upside and high marginal return on investment (or “return per dollar spent”). A promising startup has a compounding growth pattern in either new customers added or customer acquisition cost per customer decreasing over time. 

Startups need to understand that they have many options when it comes to valuing their company.

The key is to find the right combination for your startup based on what you want in return and how much risk you’re willing to take.

How Do Investors Value Startups?

Having an idea for a business is one thing, but having the know-how to get it off the ground and turn that idea into something tangible is another. A lot of people have ideas, but not everyone has what it takes to see things through.  

It’s easy to sit back and think about all the successful companies out there, like Facebook or Google, but they didn’t just appear overnight; instead, each company went through its development process before becoming what we know them as today.

It depends on the type of investor. Investors usually use some metric to compare an investment opportunity with others in their portfolio. 

Some investors may want more information about the company to meet with them before making a decision; some will create an order sheet for all of the companies they are considering investing in, while others have different strategies for evaluating which startups are worth their time and money.

Let us look at five ways investors value startups:

  1. What is the company’s story? Startups are all about characters. Who are these people, what has inspired them to start this company, where did they go to school, who will their customers be? A person’s character reveals their future success in business. Investors ask themselves if the entrepreneur has the right background and educational foundation for this venture.
  1. Growth Potential – Investors with this mindset will focus more on recent funding rounds and the traction of a startup’s product. They’ll be looking for firms with an established market share, revenue forecasts, and proven metrics or a track record of success among their customers or industry peers. 
  1. Market-Based Valuation – the company will only be worth whatever the last valuation in the market was. This is even true when companies are in large fluctuations of business models or revenue streams. The caveat to this method is that if a company has engaged in illegal activity, their valuation can’t associate with them. However, they may still have value to another corporation under either complete acquisition or asset transfer depending on what intellectual property was obtained when purchasing an interest in the company.
  1. They use Metrics like the P/E ratio to examine how much the market values your company. Common estimates for ratios are 10x-25x earnings or 30x-50x free cash flow (FCF). 
  1. Book Value Method – according to Investopedia, this method relies on taking all tangible assets divided by net liabilities to arrive at book value per share and then dividing that number by common stock outstanding to get book value for each share of ordinary. 

Startups are a great investment opportunity for those who want to experience the thrill of seeing one company grow from nothing. You can make money by investing in startups through an equity crowdfunding platform like Wefunder, and you’ll be able to see your portfolio’s progress as it grows.

How To Value A Startup For Seed Funding

When a startup business starts, it can be challenging to think about how much it is worth. Yet, this valuation of the company is essential for many reasons, and it helps determine what type of investor you will approach and if they are willing to invest or not.

Additionally, valuing your startup at its proper value will help attract the right investors that are interested in your product or service and provide you with enough funding to get started properly. 

A startup is worth its future revenue and profit. Evaluations of startups and valuing what they will contribute to society tend to be based on the entrepreneur’s ability to convert an idea into a viable business, generating profitable revenues and creating value for customers. 

If this much is true, it becomes easy to see why we take value primarily by looking at quantitative measures such as people’s buying patterns or using traditional financial models that account for risk-adjusted cash flows.

The following steps below should help guide you through determining the correct value for your new venture! 

  1. The company should perform a pre-money valuation. This is a fancy way of saying take your total money and raise from it what your equity stake will be. 
  1. The startup needs to look at their expenses during these early days which typically include payroll and rent or other contract payments. Any costs you incur in starting up a new business accrue toward the beginning of the fiscal year, but turn into profits later on.
  1. Who will receive proceeds from an investment? The founders may hold on to some shares for extended periods of time before they sell them or give them away as gifts to friends or family members that also want to be shareholders in this new venture with them.

The decision to invest in a startup is essential, and it’s worth doing your research. Understanding what type of business you want, how much funding will be needed, the valuation process, the types of investors available for seed investments are all excellent questions to ask before making that final investment decision.

How To Value A Startup Without Revenue

Startups are risky ventures, and it’s hard to predict what will happen next. But one of the most important things entrepreneurs can do is anticipate their potential exit strategy, which includes determining how much a startup should be worth for an investor to buy it out.  

Some people use revenue as a measure of value. Still, many other factors determine how much a company is worth – especially if they’re not generating any income yet!

Startups should be valued as speculation, and the entrepreneur is providing access to potential profits in the future, not present revenue. Company valuations usually only become profitable when they sell and go public or raise more money at a higher valuation. 

Companies that fail can easily languish for years with losses before selling or going bankrupt and disintegrating its value quickly earning it the nickname “walking dead.”

Margin is the critical metric in determining value because historically, it has been profitable for early-stage companies to lose money to grow exponentially. 

If a company is currently losing money but growing fast, then you must determine how much margin they will be able to generate in the future when their growth slows down. This will depend on factors like launching new software that reduces cost or improving production efficiencies over time through better practices and machinery upgrades that cause costs per unit of output to decrease.

Remember, startups are not just businesses with ideas, and they’re people too! So treat them accordingly by focusing on the positive aspects of their business and acknowledging that they will face challenges in the future. 

It’s okay to be more cautious when determining an appropriate valuation for a startup without revenue streams. Still, it is essential to maintain optimism about what this company may accomplish in the long term.

What Is A Reasonable Revenue Multiple For Valuation?

Many factors determine the appropriate valuation for your company, but one of the most important is revenue. A good rule of thumb is to look at what similar companies have gone through regarding funding rounds and valuation rates. The more you can bring in as a company; the higher your value will be! 

The revenue multiple is the best way to determine if you are over – or undervaluing an investment. 

A top revenue multiple rules of thumb for valuing a company is to take the latest annual revenues, add them to any deferred revenue for this year and divide by common shares outstanding.

This measure determines a valuation in dollars per share considering a company’s performance over the last twelve months to give investors estimates on today’s income generated from buying stock in that company. 

Knowing whether or not their money will increase with the purchase is an integral part of decision-making before buying any stocks. If they want to assess future earnings potential, they must look at factors like sales growth rates and margins and how efficiently it uses its capital. 

A revenue multiple measures how much money the company makes in sales for every dollar invested. 

The higher this number, the better it will be for you and your business when acquiring equity through an investment or acquisition. 

If you find that there are companies with high multiples but low revenue per share (RPPS), these stocks may not be as good of investments because they don’t make enough money to justify their market value; instead, look at stores with high RPPS and medium-low multiplies so that they have both qualities necessary for investors looking to acquire them.


A startup valuation is not an easy process, and it requires a lot of time, effort, and money. But with the proper guidance from experts in this field, you can come up with a fair value for your company that will help attract investors while also fitting within your budget. 

As you can see in our article, there are several different ways to value your company when seeking seed funding.

The best thing about these tips is they apply to any business, so feel free to use them no matter what industry you operate in.

Quick Answers To Frequently Asked Questions

What is a venture capital pre money valuation?

A pre-money valuation is the amount of capital a venture capitalist will provide for investment. Typically, the lower the number, the more dilution there’s likely to be.

Define startup funding stage post money valuation method

An investment round of financing where the startup is valued at some amount over the total capital invested by all shareholders in that round. This valuation may not mean that the company needs or expects to be worth this amount, but it simply incorporates expectations on behalf of all investors.

Startup valuation methods vs traditional valuation methods

The traditional way to value a company is on the basis of its’ historic revenues and profits. The modern method, however, is to put a valuation based on what that company’s future earnings may be worth. This is known as prospective or “forward-looking” discounting and takes into account projected growth rates, cost offsets and margins expected in future years. Keep in mind that this modeling can be subject to errors such as an unexpected product line failure or business change which might lower the value of your own company significantly.

Difference between an angel investor and venture capitalist

An angel investor is an individual who, instead of going through a financial intermediary such as a bank, deals directly with the entrepreneur.

Venture capitalists invest in start-ups and distressed companies that have high growth potential. They first buy a small equity stake and later increase their investment on favorable terms, such as more shares or a bigger say on company decisions–if they think the business has promise. In contrast, an angel investor provides early funding but generally lacks control of how it is invested or managed after its initial round after which the business goes to venture capitalists if they are successful for some time down the line.

What do potential investors look for in pre revenue startups?

It depends on what type of investor they are. Angel investors look for a company with a rock-solid team that has proved themselves in the past and knows they’ll continue to deliver. Institutional investors may be more interested in companies with significant traction and revenue potential.

Does an early stage startup need intangible assets?

It’s not unusual for an entrepreneur to follow very particular intangible assets as a way of making their company more appealing to their customers. All of those intangibles, from design to slogans, can play a key role in the success of a startup as long as the owner stays true to themselves.

Difference between business valuation and company valuation?

Company Valuation is the process of estimating a company’s business value. Oftentimes, this will include revenue estimation, growth percentage, or capital requirements.

Business Valuation is a process by which the potential investor develops a “gut feeling” for what might be the underlying value of an asset in order to estimate the possible return on investment from that asset. This often includes evaluating where it stands in relation to similar companies in its area and how well it has done so far.

Does a startup owner receive startup equity?

The founders of a startup are typically given equity in the company. Ideally, company equity would be evaluated by looking at the input of each founder into the company.

Difference between comparable companies and pre revenue companies?

Anyone who has had to work on a team knows that people often end up making unfair comparisons. One of the most important steps you can take is your introduction, where you state what makes your company different and why potential investors should care about that difference.

Can startup businesses benefit from valuation multiples?

Yes, startup businesses can benefit from valuation multiples. Many business owners do not understand the idea of equity dilution or how it works with valuation multiples, but that does not mean that they are wrong to use them. Valuation factors are not used in calculating the company’s net worth; they are used to try to assign an arbitrary value for the company as a way of estimating what share price might be best for investors.

Difference between a startup company and private company

The difference between a startup company and a private company is that a startup company is always in the process of trying to grow its revenue, while a private company is not. Unprofitable companies cannot last for more than 5 years in the best-case scenario, which means by definition that all startups become privately owned at some point.

How can a tech company benefit from revenue multiples?

From the basis of profit margin, things seem to be looking up for tech companies. The profit margins for tech products are seen as more promising than that of other industries.

Does a silicon valley address increase corporate valuation?

Silicon Valley addresses are renowned for their explosive growth in recent years. Silicon Valley is one of the top spots to live since there are so many businesses, which makes it an ideal place for networking. The more connections you have with people, the more likely it is that your business will bloom. It sounds strange-living somewhere just because it’s good for business-but the statistics tell a compelling story of success after success of entrepreneurs who live here. Let Silicon Valley prove itself to you by giving your startup the best chance of growing into something big!

What are future cash flow convertible notes?

Future cash flow convertible notes are a hybrid of debt and equity financing that provide a company with the potential of two exits, one more traditional (IPO) and one less traditional (private exit). The concept is to give investors shares in lieu of all or part of the cash to be received.

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Wasim Jabbar

Hi, I'm Wasim - a startup founder and proud dad of two sons. With 15 years of experience building startups, I'd like to share my secret to achieving business success - quality marketing leads. Signup today to gain access to over 52 million leads worldwide.

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