The Unusual Relationship Between Revenue and Valuation Over Time

David Cummings on Startups

People love to think of a startup’s valuation as readily determinable by a valuation expert based on agreed upon financial formulas. In reality, a startup is only worth what an acquirer is willing to pay. This is true because equity in a startup is an illiquid security that is very difficult to turn into cash, especially in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, valuations are set all the time based on things like public market comparables, multiples of profit (a typical company is worth 4-6x profit), combination of growth rate plus revenue, and other factors.

For startups, there’s an even a more unusual relationship between revenue and valuation over time as there’s no-to-little operating history, no-to-little revenue, and no profits. Here are a few data points over time:

  • Month 1 – With a fresh idea and unlimited potential, the startup is actually worth more than when it starts…

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