How to value your startup (pre-revenue)

Startup valuation may feel like a black art, but you can add some science to it if you understand the different methods

There are various ways of calculating the value of your startup when seeking financing. None are perfect and it is best to use a few methods to reach an estimate. This post describes a few of them.

It is important to remember that “value is in the eye of the beholder” and it is almost certain that potential investors will see things differently to you (the entrepreneur). One of the most frequently used methods of valuation by angel investors is called the benchmark or Scorecard Valuation Method (sometimes also called the Bill Payne method) and is well described by Bill Payne in his article.

The two broad steps are:

  1. Get an idea of what are the rough pre-money valuations of previous deals in the region where you are seeking finance.
  2. To increase or decrease that average based on a weighted scoring that considers the keMap for valuation of new venturesy factors that can make a new business successful.
    These factors vary somewhat from investor to investor, as does the weighting. But the main elements are:
  • Management team
  • Size of opportunity
  • Underlying product, technology or solution
  • Competitive environment
  • Strength of partnerships or distribution channels
  • The likely need for further rounds of investments pre breakeven point

For details of how to apply this and find a scorecard template, view Bill Payne’s article here.

For an even better insight, read the article “peeling the onion” which takes Bill’s method and adds a little more insight. It also adds a really useful spreadsheet valuation tool based on this method.

If you are seeking an independent valuation of your venture, there is a service at Value your Venture

Note: if you want to increase your chances of getting funding and a reasonable valuation, then Mashauri’s acceleration programmes can help get you there. Go to our home page and click the button indicating where you are in the process to receive recommendations on how to move forward.

Although the method above gives an excellent basis to a valuation, it is useful to try out a few other methods too as you will get some alternative numbers and more importantly get a better understanding of the underlying factors that drive the valuation.

Here are the other principle methods used (click on the name for more information):

  • The risk factor summation method (a more sophisticated version of the Bill Payne method described above)
  • The venture capital method which is based on what a VC would pay given their desired return and exit estimate.
  • Discounted cash flow based on risk-adjusting future cash flows. This works better for established companies than pre-revenue startups (and in fact is the basis of valuation of listed companies). The link offers a fairly detailed video.
  • Comparable transactions method which looks at a number of comparable transactions and their key ratios; and then applies them to your venture
  • The Berkus method, a very simple, back-of-the cigarette box method, allocating value based on the key risks of a business.

Additional resources:

Get an independent valuation from Mashauri for your startup at Valuation Now

The guys at GroundFlr are doing a good job at matching investors with startups.Why not have a look?

Our friend Mark Stewart is developing a model to help founders visualise the impact of various investment terms on valuation at

Equidam is also a really useful source of ideas about valuation and has a tool where you can get a valuation for your venture based on a number of methods.

Although at Mashauri we do not (yet) offer funding to our entrepreneurs, we do support them in preparation and seeking funding when necessary.

If you are not yet ready for funding but want to get there in a hurry, then you should get into Mashauri’s acceleration programme. 

Or contact me at for more details.