We at Founder Solutions (www.FounderSolutions.com) were figuring out the way to compute startup idea valuation to be used by our innovative algorithm for our upcoming PieChopper tool which allows startup founders to divide equity fairly. To put a price tag for your startup idea is very difficult and probably much more difficult than putting valuation to your startup before funding round as for valuing your company, you might have knowledge of some tangibles, investments, team expertize, pilot, sales forecast etc.
So how to value your ideas in numbers? You might need to do it so that it can be taken into account as an investment or contribution in some way to your startup and possibly will want some equity incentive based on that.
Our first assumption was to give “equity premium” to the founder who came up with the original idea in agreement with the other founders. Initially, it looked justifiable as the founders will get some credit for coming up with the idea which resulted in the startup to be founded in first place and get some agreed share of equity as a result. But as we did our user tests with real world founders, it became more and more clear the premium might sound justifiable initially but won’t be fair in the long run. For example, if a founder asks 5% of the equity premium for his idea. He will be reserving 5% of the equity irrespective of other contributions by him or his other co-founders. If the idea founder invests 1000€ but his co-founders are investing 50,000€ and doing most of the work in the startup, it won’t be fair to reserve 5% equity irrespective. Needless to say that the idea initially during the founding stage would be unproven and most probably will go through multiple iterations before it gets market adoption.
The second scenario we considered was to ask founders about the tangible value of the idea based on the possible IP (Intellectual Property) it brings. But that consideration was met with our own criticism after giving some more thought as most ideas can’t be translated into IP like patents etc. Also, even if they do, it won’t be possible to accurately measure the value of the generated IP.
Finally, we came up with the conclusion to solve the problem by:
- Asking the relative contribution to the idea between the founders as multiple founders could very well input to the implemented idea.
- Asking the value of the idea in monetary terms from each founder and then using the average value of the idea for equity calculations. This will allow negate the over valuation by the original idea founder and possibly result in a fair agreement with constructive discussion about the value of the idea.
Our equity-split algorithm then uses the input from above two questions to decide the idea valuation and internally uses to compute equity distribution between the founders. What do you think about the idea valuation and the idea contribution in terms of equity split?
Note: You could register to get early-access to our PieChopper tool by registering at www.FounderSolutions.com