Valuing a Pre-Revenue Startup

Last week an entrepreneur reached out for help on an estimated valuation for his pre-revenue startup. After building a prototype and getting some non-paying early testers, he’s looking to raise an angel round and wanted thoughts on what’s normal in the market. I asked a number of questions and offered up a few ideas:

  • Base Valuation – Pre-money valuations are usually $1-$2 million for a startup with a prototype and a handful of users. Typical funding rounds are for $300-$500k whereby the entrepreneur sells around 20-25% of the business.
  • Management Team Premium – If it’s an experienced management team or highly-regarded prior employer, there’s a large increase in pre-money valuation to $3-$4 million. Investors view an experienced management team as more likely to be successful and pay up for it.
  • Half the Next Round Valuation – Figure out the milestones for this round (e.g. revenue targets), and estimate the corresponding valuation for the next round with those milestones. Then, with the expected next round valuation, divide it in half to value this round. Investors want to believe that they can double their money on paper in 18 months, and see a clear path to get there.

Pre-revenue valuations are always subjective and come down to how eager either side wants to get a deal done. There’s no exact number but these are good guidelines for normal deals.

What else? What are some other ideas for valuing a pre-revenue startup?

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