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Valuing Young, Start-Up and Growth Companies: Estimation Issues and Valuation Challenges

Aswath Damodaran

New York University - Stern School of Business

June 12, 2009

Young companies are difficult to value for a number of reasons. Some are start-up and idea businesses, with little or no revenues and operating losses. Even those young companies that are profitable have short histories and most young firms are dependent upon private capital, initially owner savings and venture capital and private equity later on. As a result, many of the standard techniques we use to estimate cash flows, growth rates and discount rates either do not work or yield unrealistic numbers. In addition, the fact that most young companies do not survive has to be considered somewhere in the valuation. In this paper, we examine how best to value young companies. We use a combination of data on more mature companies in the business and the company’s own characteristics to forecast revenues, earnings and cash flows. We also establish processes for estimating discount rates for private capital and for adjusting the value today for the possibility of failure. In the process, we argue that the venture capital approach to valuation that is widely used now is flawed and should be replaced.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 67

Keywords: valuation, growth companies, venture capital approach

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Date posted: June 13, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Damodaran, Aswath, Valuing Young, Start-Up and Growth Companies: Estimation Issues and Valuation Challenges (June 12, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1418687 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1418687

Contact Information

Aswath Damodaran (Contact Author)
New York University - Stern School of Business ( email )
Stern School of Business
44 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012-1126
United States
212-998-0340 (Phone)
212-995-4233 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.damodaran.com
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