Additional Notes on Early-Stage Startup Valuation

English: Diagram of the typical financing cycl...
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In my recent post on how an early-stage investor values a startup, I talk about how market comparables were the closest guide to how early-stage investors value a startup vs. any other methodology. However, I feel like I left one question unaddressed. Namely, why are there valuation discrepancies for comparable companies across the world (more specifically at investment stage rather than exit stage)?

The answer has to do with liquidity of deals, the localized risks for investors, and the supply of investors.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are various factors that can come into how an investor values a startup, but using market comparables from deals done in the USA doesn’t always incorporate all the risks that are prevalent in the specific geography where the company and investor in question operates. Furthermore, the availability of capital in any geography will also affect how an investor gauges his own risk/reward ratio when pricing deals.

I’m going to talk about this point abstractly and without incorporating the argument of the global nature of internet-based businesses (they do have some localization risk still, but less so). So, for example, startup exits for investors in certain developing economies will happen less often than say, in Silicon Valley. This has to do not only with the number of companies coming out of the country, but the universe of potential buyers for these companies in that geography.

This affects that risk an investor takes, as he is less likely to get that 10x that I mentioned in my previous post. Therefore an investor seeks a ‘discount’ to take on a deal in order to have a portfolio of deals where there is the possibility that one will be able to exit in spite of whatever market conditions exist locally. Add to that the fact that the investor may be one of very few investors, and therefore can command this discount more forcefully than if more competition existed (once enough investors exist, market pricing becomes more stable and in parity with other larger markets).

Think of it this way… If you’ve been on tourist holidays to resorts abroad, you’ll have noticed that things that are generally cheap(er) back home are notably more expensive at the resort store. This higher cost is due not only because of the transport cost to the resort, but also the cost of holding them there in inventory without knowing if anyone traveling to the resort will buy them. If the seller doesn’t include a higher premium on these items, he will not break even considering the high scrap-age risk he must take on inventory not-bought, and if there aren’t any other stores around, the store doesn’t have to compete on price either, but can continue to seek profit under the circumstances.

So, the point of this post is only to highlight why in certain parts of the world financing can be more difficult to get, but also why it can be priced differently than equivalent deals elsewhere.


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  1. Porter’s 5 forces model is a useful reflection to understand why a business located in one city is more or less valuable than another city…

    Reduce threat of new entrants – Innovate faster than anyone else, hire the best programmers…
    Reduce competitive rivalry – ??
    Reduce “substitute-ability” – ??
    Reduce bargaining power of customer – build strong brand, be difficult to copy.
    Reduce bargaining power of suppliers – Have a cushion of savings, build links to Silicon Valley…

    Some quick ideas… thanks for the post