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What determines a company’s valuation?
In its most basic sense, valuation can be calculated by multiplying the shares outstanding by the price per share. The thing is that company valuation is more of an art than a science due to the mix of qualitative and quantitative factors that go into it.
Value of company = Shares outstanding * Price per Share
1. Stage of the company
- Early-stage valuation is impacted by factors such as entrepreneur experience, the perception of overall opportunity, and the amount being raised.
- Later-stage valuation heavily relies on financial performance and projections.
2. Funding competition
There is a positive correlation between the number of investors who want to fund a company and the valuation of such a company.
3. Leadership team experience
Because there’s a perceived negative correlation between more experienced entrepreneurs and risk, valuations of companies with more experienced leadership teams will be higher. Note: personal biases will play a role here.
4. Size and trendiness of the market
Your market size (for example, TAM, SAM, SOM) and the growing demand of a company’s market will also have a positive correlation with valuation.
5. An investor’s entry point
Some investors have a valuation investment range. For example, an investor might only invest in companies that are valued at US$10 million or less.
6. Financials and other numbers
There is a direct correlation between how well a company’s financials and numbers stack up (against its given industry and competitor benchmarks) with the company’s valuation.
7. Economic climate
There is a tentative positive correlation between the stockmarket’s performance and the valuation of a company. That’s to say that if the stock market is performing well, valuations will be higher and vice versa.
Basically, if many investors perceive a given company to be less of a risk and more of an investment opportunity (aka shows signs of a successful exit) — due to its strong leadership, market size/trendiness, and numbers — the valuation of a company is likely to be higher than lower. It makes sense, no?
What are some methods that investors use to value companies?
Investors may calculate valuation by assessing:
- Comparables: the valuation of other companies with a similar profile
- Multipliers: industry revenue/EBITDA/EBIT multipliers
- Formulas, such as: pre-money valuation = ($1M x #of engineers) - ($1M x # of MBAs) and Net Present Value (discounted cash flows)
- Venture Capital/Leveraged Buyout Method
- Monte Carlo Simulation
- Book Value
- Replacement Cost
Tools used in value calculation include CBInsights, Crunchbase, Google.
Disclaimer: There is no one valuation method without flaws.
Related: You might be interested in checking out Contxto’s Database complete with Company, Investor, Founder, and Accelerator info.
Is it mandatory to calculate a company’s value to fundraise?
Valuation in fundraising has several benefits. At a basic level, founders will know exactly how much of the company they’ve sold and they’ll also have a cleaner cap table. Valuation will also make life easier for everyone involved — investors and founders.
That said, companies don’t need to value their companies in order to fundraise, at the start. There are multiple fundraising vehicles that allow for a postponed valuation to take place in a future and larger fundraising. Such mentioned vehicles include, but are not limited to, the:
- Convertible Note — Investors give companies money in exchange for an opportunity to buy the stock at a discount in a future financing round. Until then, the “investment” is considered debt that pays interest. For a deep dive on convertible notes and how they work, take a look at Convertible Note | Examples and How It Works by SeedInvest.
- KISS (Keep It Simple Security) by 500 Startups. There is a debt and an equity version. Raad Ahmed does a good job of simply explaining both on Quora:
KISS equity securities have an 18-month maturity date and an automatic conversion into equity at the next round of financing if US$1 million is raised. KISS equity securities do not have an interest rate though, which makes them attractive to founders.
3. SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) by Y Combinator. A SAFE is neither debt nor equity, has no maturity date or accruing interest. For more details, take a look at Complete Guide to SAFEs by The Dorm Room Fund.
Should companies aim for the highest valuation they should get?
No. Because a too-good-to-be-true kind of deal is likely to hurt everyone involved in the next round. If you have a high valuation in one round, then fail to hit the right milestones and end up having to raise at a lower valuation, that’s going to dilute your original shareholders. If that happens, it’s possible that they block new financing. No founder wants that — it’s already hard to run a company and fundraise.
Also, if a company raises at higher valuations, the company’s investors will expect a bigger exit and will block a sell if they are not happy with a selling price.
If you have any questions, please tweet me @lolitataub.
This post was originally published in the author’s blog.