An In-Depth Exploration of Venture Capital Formulas

Venture Capital (VC) provides essential support to startups, early-stage, and emergent firms believed to harbor significant growth potential. Much like a cryptographer decoding intricate ciphers, venture capitalists navigate a labyrinth of financial formulas and calculations to discern promising investments and monitor their burgeoning portfolios.

Understanding these calculations is crucial in evaluating the financial viability of potential investments and estimating the projected IRR. This article explores key venture capital formulas, enabling venture capitalists to decrypt the secrets of successful investments.

Valuation Before and After Investment: The Pre and Post-Money Perspective

A fundamental step in any venture capital investment journey involves determining the valuation of the target company. Two critical stages of this valuation include the pre-money and post-money assessments. Pre-money valuation is the company’s estimated worth before it receives an influx of capital from a new investment round. Post-money valuation, on the other hand, takes into account the pre-money valuation along with the fresh capital infused from the investment round.

This valuation process is vital, as it dictates the ownership stake an investor will obtain in exchange for their investment. The formula, in its simplicity, is:

Pre-money Valuation + Investment = Post-money Valuation

Evaluating Ownership: The Percentage Perspective

Ownership percentage, calculated by dividing the investor’s stake by the post-money valuation, reflects the proportion of the company the investor will command post-investment. This formula equips the investor with a clear understanding of their stake, vital for strategic decision-making.

The formula manifests as:

Investment / Post-money Valuation = Ownership Percentage

Quantifying Each Share: The Price Per Share Perspective

Price per share is a crucial metric in determining how many shares an investor will receive in exchange for their capital. The calculation involves dividing the pre-money valuation by the total number of outstanding shares before the investment.

The formula simplifies to:

Pre-money Valuation / Number of Outstanding Shares = Price Per Share

Understanding Dilution: The Ownership Perspective

Dilution is a term that echoes concern among existing shareholders. It refers to the decrease in ownership percentage triggered by the issuance of new shares. Understanding dilution helps existing shareholders grasp the extent to which their stake will shrink following a new investment round.

There is a formula to calculate dilution, but dilution is typically presented as a concept rather than a specific numeric calculation because it involves multiple variables such as the amount of investment, pre-money valuation, and the total number of shares after the new investment.

That said, the basic idea of dilution can be understood using the following equation:

Dilution = (Old Number of Shares – New Number of Shares) / Old Number of Shares

Here, the ‘Old Number of Shares’ refers to the total number of shares before the new investment or round of funding, and the ‘New Number of Shares’ refers to the total number of shares after the investment has been made.

Return on Investment (ROI): The Profitability Perspective

ROI serves as a mirror reflecting the profitability of an investment. It is arrived at by subtracting the initial value of the investment from its final value (which could be an estimate if the investment hasn’t been liquidated yet) and dividing the result by the initial value of the investment.

The formula expresses as:

(Final Value – Initial Value) / Initial Value = ROI

Internal Rate of Return (IRR): The Profitability Projection Perspective

IRR is a potent financial metric employed in capital budgeting to estimate the profitability of potential investments. It is the discount rate that nullifies the net present value (NPV) of all cash flows (both positive and negative) from a specific project or investment. Venture capitalists use IRR to estimate a project’s projected growth rate.

The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) doesn’t have a simple formula like the ones for other metrics. This is because it’s the discount rate that makes the Net Present Value (NPV) of all cash flows from a particular project equal to zero, and NPV itself is a sum that involves exponents.

The general form of the equation is as follows:

0 = NPV = ∑ [ CFt / (1+IRR)^t ]


CFt represents the net cash inflow during the period t

t is the time in years

IRR is the internal rate of return

This equation essentially states that the net present value (NPV) of future cash flows, when discounted at the IRR, should be equal to zero. If we consider that the initial outlay (cost) for a project occurs at time 0, the equation becomes:

-Initial Investment + ∑ [ CFt / (1+IRR)^t ] = 0

Since this is a polynomial equation, there is no simple algebraic formula for IRR. The IRR is typically calculated using numerical methods, like the Newton-Raphson or bisection methods, or by using specialized financial calculators or software packages such as Microsoft Excel, which has a built-in function (IRR) for this purpose.

The IRR provides the expected return of the investment, given the projected future cash flows. It can be used to compare different investment opportunities – the higher the IRR, the more desirable the project. 

However, it’s important to use IRR in conjunction with other financial metrics to make informed investment decisions, as IRR relies heavily on projected cash flows and doesn’t take into account the size of the project or potential changes over the project’s lifecycle.

Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate): The Investment Return Perspective

Typically used in real estate investment scenarios, the cap rate estimates an investor’s potential return on their investment. It is calculated by dividing the Net Operating Income (NOI) by the current market value of the asset.

The formula is expressed as:

Net Operating Income / Current Market Value = Cap Rate

Cash-on-Cash Return: The Cash Income Perspective

The Cash-on-Cash Return calculation helps investors understand the cash income earned on the cash invested in a property. It is computed by dividing the annual dollar income by the total dollar investment.

The formula, in its simplicity, is:

Annual Dollar Income / Total Dollar Investment = Cash-on-Cash Return

Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA)

EBITDA is a vital metric used by VCs to scrutinize a company’s operational efficiency before financing and accounting decisions’ impact. EBITDA illuminates the raw earnings of a company from its core business operations, allowing investors to compare profitability across companies and industries.

The formula is calculated as:

EBITDA = Net Income + Interest + Taxes + Depreciation + Amortization


Net Income is the company’s total earnings (or profit).

Interest is the amount of interest paid on debts.

Taxes refers to the company’s income tax expense.

Depreciation is a non-cash expense that reduces the value of an asset as a result of wear and tear, age, or obsolescence.

Amortization is a non-cash expense that reduces the value of an intangible asset over time.

The EBITDA metric is commonly used by investors to get a clearer picture of a company’s operational performance. It removes the effects of financing and accounting decisions (interest and taxes), as well as the wear and tear on capital assets (depreciation and amortization). This allows investors to focus purely on the performance of the core business operations. 

EBITDA is particularly useful when comparing the performance of companies within the same industry, but it should not be used in isolation as it doesn’t consider changes in working capital and can sometimes hide potential financial problems.

Venture Capital Method (VC Method)

The VC Method serves as a spotlight illuminating the potential value of a firm. It begins by projecting the firm’s exit value, typically using an expected exit multiple on Year N earnings (such as EBITDA). The expected return on investment is then utilized to discount the exit value back to the present, providing the estimated post-money valuation.

The formula manifests as:

Post-money Valuation = Exit Value / (1 + Rate of Return) ^ Number of Years

Liquidation Preference

Liquidation preference is more of a clause than a formula, but its implications significantly impact the return for each investor during a liquidity event. It outlines the hierarchy of payout distribution in the event of a company’s liquidation.


Venture capital calculations play a foundational role in investment evaluations and portfolio management, providing crucial insights into potential and actual returns. They play a crucial role in venture capital due diligence, assisting in evaluating the financial viability of potential investments and estimating projected ROI.

An emerging tool in this process, Edda (formerly Kushim), is revolutionizing the venture capital landscape. Edda simplifies the complexities of these calculations and provides predictive analytics to better forecast the potential success of various investments. The exact calculations and metrics preferred can vary depending on the firm, the stage of investment, and each deal’s specific terms, affecting the VC deal flow.

Tools like Edda are an essential part of any VC tech stack, effectively equipping VCs to make more informed decisions.


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