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Understanding How Dilution Affects You At A Startup

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Everybody knows that when you raise money at a startup your ownership percentage of the company goes down. The goal is to have the value of the startup go up by enough that you own a smaller percentage of a much larger business and therefore your total personal value goes up.

The simplest way to think about this is: If you own 20% of a $2 million company your stake is worth $400,000. If you raise a new round of venture capital (say $2.5 million at a $7.5 million pre-money valuation, which is a $10 million post-money) you get diluted by 25% (2.5m / 10m). So you own 15% of the new company but that 15% is now worth $1.5 million or a gain of $1.1 million.

But understanding how you’re likely to get diluted over time is a more difficult concept. And figuring out how much your equity may be worth over the course of a 5-year stint at a startup is even more complicated.

I’ve had to simplify a bit, but to make it easier to understand I’ve teamed up with Jess Bachman at Visual.ly.

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