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How to Win the Valuation Game

Rosalind Resnick

With the market for early-stage capital beginning to bounce back, I'm once again fielding calls from entrepreneurs wanting to know how much of their company to give away to investors to raise the money they need to launch their businesses or take them to the next level.

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to this question. An established business with sales, profits and cash flow may sell for five to 10 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. But it's a lot harder to put a price tag on an early-stage venture that consists of a business plan, a web site and the founder's hopes and dreams. As a result, negotiations between start-ups and prospective investors often turn into angry arm-wrestling matches that end with both sides walking away empty-handed.

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