Raising money inevitably dilutes the stakes of company investors, employees and founders, but the idea is that a growing valuation results in a net positive, as it increases the value of everyone’s now-smaller slice of the pie. That’s how we end up with billionaire founders like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.
So what does that dilution actually look like for founders/founding teams as they move through their capital raises? How much should founders expect to own after raising over $50 million? Hint: It’s not a lot. To get cold hard data, we turned to the results of J.Thelander Consulting’s private company option pool and ownership survey, which includes responses from 380 private venture-backed companies in the US.
One key thing to know is that when it comes to capital requirements and valuation multiples, no two industries are the same. As a result, founders see different levels of dilution depending on their industry. So instead of showing all companies lumped together, we had J.Thelander Consulting break it out by biotech, medical devices and tech.
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While it’s a widely known fact that founders see their ownership stakes decrease as they raise capital, it’s always surprising to see by how much. It also matters if the founder stays in an operating role within the company because they should have additional equity for that role, as well (yes—in addition to their equity as founder).
If all goes well and the company’s value increases, this is a win-win situation, but in the case that things don’t go well, the economics can turn against founders fairly quickly. This is why it’s important for founders to really understand the equity percentages as they take on venture capital, because it does matter in the long run.
Click here to participate in the Thelander-PitchBook 2017 Private Company Compensation Survey.
Article by Adley Bowden, PitchBook