How VC’s Determine % Ownership Thresholds

Jason and Brad at AsktheVC forwarded to me a question sent in by one of their readers. Their site is a great site for answering a broad array of questions regarding VC and entrepreneurship.

Question: What’s a completely generic range of equity a VC typically wants for a round 1 or round 2 investment?

Most VC’s will generally say they target 20-30% ownership in a company to “make it worth their time”. This means that if they invest $3m early on, they expect the post-money to be around $10-15m and if, in later rounds, they are investing $10m, they expect to have a $30-$50m post-$.

Often, however, VC’s will use the “percentage” threshold as a means by which to increase money into a round or to get the valuation down. I have seen a given VC say they need 25% ownership for deal (to get valuation down) and do a more competitively sought deal at 15% two weeks later. In the end, two things drive all of this. First, there are legitimate minimum investment amounts a firm needs to have per deal. A $500 million fund will never get its capital deployed by doing $2m and $3m deals. They need to put $7-10m to play early and $20m+ over the life of the investment. Second, the valuation (and hence % ownership) will be driven by attractiveness and competitiveness of the deal. In the end, it is really about valuation (assuming their investment appetite remains in a set range).