As an Investor your financial returns will be driven by the following factors:
- Initial Valuation (% of company you own)
- Subsequent dilution (factor of both future funding amounts and the structure of future deals – do new investors have a preference return ranking ahead of yours?)
- Time to Exit
- Exit Value
Most founders / investors spend lots of time on item 1 – and almost no time considering 2, 3 or 4.
In determining your financial return the % you have of the company at EXIT is much more important than the % you have at round one. Yet so many investors spend enormous amounts of time focused of getting that initial valuation ‘right’, and no time considering the company’s future funding needs, their ability to contribute to those needs and their resulting dilution.
There is no point in having what looks like a large % at exit, if the other investors have a preference over you. I have seen an exit at $475 million – with the angels getting zero as a result of the preferences.
Don’t let those unicorn valuations fool you. The reality is in the detail of the last finding round terms (which will not be disclosed). Frankly you can claim whatever stupidly high valuation you want – if I have a 3x preference that I will take off the exit table before anyone else gets a penny.