SaaS continues to be hot and shows no signs of slowing down. Of course, the strong gross margins, excellent recurring revenue, and overall predictable nature of the business model make it worthy of its praise. These same characteristics also provide the fundamentals for quickly assessing a rough valuation of the business as outlined in Premium SaaS Metrics Required for Premium Valuations.
After feedback and questions on that simple valuation, it’s clear there’s appetite for a slightly more complex formula whereby a couple additional variables are introduced.
The first variable to add: gross margin. As you can imagine, a SaaS company with 90% gross margins (extremely low cost of goods sold) is substantially more valuable than a SaaS company with 60% gross margins (high cost of goods sold for SaaS). A gross margin that’s 50% higher should be reflected in the valuation of two otherwise comparable SaaS businesses.
The second variable to add is much fuzzier: market sentiment. Sometimes SaaS is hot. Sometimes SaaS is white-hot. The fastest way to assess this market sentiment is through the public markets. Take the BVP Nasdaq Emerging Cloud Index and pull an easy-to-consume revenue multiple. That is, looking at all public SaaS companies, what’s the enterprise value divided by the revenue. This revenue multiple is the fastest way to gauge market sentiment. Today, that number is 12.6. Wow!
In the previous formula there was a generic 10x multiplier. This multiplier is better represented by the market sentiment.
Now, here’s the slightly expanded formula:
Market sentiment x
Annual recurring revenue x
Growth rate (use trailing twelve months) x
Net renewal rate x
Gross margin =
Let’s take a look at an example using today’s market sentiment multiple of 12.6.
$3M in ARR x
70% TTM growth x
100% net renewal rate x
80% gross margin =
Naturally, for an imperfect market with a limited set of buyers and sellers, this valuation formula is merely a directional number as each startup is unique. For entrepreneurs wanting to understand how to think about SaaS valuations, this basic five variable equation is immediately valuable.
One thought on “5 Variables for a Quick SaaS Valuation”
Hi David! I know this is a general guide, but I have a few questions for SaaS products that are commission based instead of subscription:
1. For Net renewal rate, should we be calculating revenue retention rate instead of the percentage of clients that stay with us? In our market, 80% of our revenue comes from 20% of our customers, so losing a small client impacts our recurring revenue far less than a big hitter.
2. And that NRR figure, should we be using trailing 12 months or base on last 30 days performance? For instance, let’s say we had a retention issue 6 months ago and retention rate was 90%, but we resolved the issue and now our retention is 95% for the last 3 months, do we use 95% or trailing 12 months which might be 92%?.
3. For gross margin, let’s say we have $500 in launch costs for a new customer, then 5% marginal cost for the lifetime of the customer. Do we use 95% and look at the long-term gross margin to maintain the client, or do we need to calculate something more complicated to average that $500 launch cost into the ongoing cost? We’re too young as a company to know the lifetime value of an average customer as well, so those are the two figures we have to work with.