Aswath Damodaran – Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business Columbia University Press (January 10, 2017)

How can a company that has never turned a profit have a multibillion dollar valuation? Why do some start-ups attract large investments while others do not? Aswath Damodaran, finance professor and experienced investor, argues that the power of story drives corporate value, adding substance to numbers and persuading even cautious investors to take risks. In business, there are the storytellers who spin compelling narratives and the number-crunchers who construct meaningful models and accounts. Both are essential to success, but only by combining the two, Damodaran argues, can a business deliver and sustain value.

 Narrative and Numbers

Through a range of case studies, Narrative and Numbers describes how storytellers can better incorporate and narrate numbers and how number-crunchers can calculate more imaginative models that withstand scrutiny. Damodaran considers Uber’s debut and how narrative is key to understanding different valuations. He investigates why Twitter and Facebook were valued in the billions of dollars at their public offerings, and why one (Twitter) has stagnated while the other (Facebook) has grown. Damodaran also looks at more established business models such as Apple and Amazon to demonstrate how a company’s history can both enrich and constrain its narrative. And through Vale, a global Brazil-based mining company, he shows the influence of external narrative, and how country, commodity, and currency can shape a company’s story. Narrative and Numbers reveals the benefits, challenges, and pitfalls of weaving narratives around numbers and how one can best test a story’s plausibility.

Editorial Reviews
Review

Damodaran’s success in combining storytelling with traditional financial analysis and valuation is unprecedented. The book has the potential to be a cornerstone of both traditional valuation and business “pitching” as it shows how individuals from each world can benefit from co-opting tools from the other. The author takes us on his personal journey into the realization that numbers need a narrative in order to make them persuasive.
(Paul Johnson, Nicusa Investment Advisors)

Professor Damodaran’s point-counterpoint case studies make valuation a good read. Self-critical in his contemporary examples, he wisely cautions the reader that quality valuation requires both the right and the left side of one’s brain?the number cruncher and the storyteller.
(Thomas E. Copeland, University of San Diego)

Damodaran, instructor to many on valuation, clearly demonstrates that quantitative valuation formulas are not sufficient: they must be applied with a more qualitative narrative about the business. But qualitative analysis has its dangers, not the least that we insert our own biases into the narrative. Damodaran nicely weaves stories into the more formal quantitative analysis, with check and balances that yield a more confident valuation.
(Stephen Penman, author, Accounting for Value)

Narrative and Numbers