Liquidation Preferences

As shareholders of startups, we all know how it’s supposed to work. We make an investment. The company grows. The company is acquired or goes public. Our initial investment yields a stupendous return.

Let’s do the math! Suppose we invest $25K at a $2.5M valuation. We own 1% of the company. A few years later, it is sold for $100M. We get 1% of $100M = $1M; a remarkable 40x our initial investment. Yay!

But, what if the company is sold for only $1M? Then, we get just 1% of $1M = $10K. Not so good, but it’s not like the math is any different. Right?

Well, that depends. Were there any liquidation preferences?

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