With WeWork finding completely ready to commence its pre-IPO street show, I’ve been pondering a good deal about original general public offerings. The firm, which presents shared workspace, has been valued at up to $47 billion irrespective of the fact that it shed $1.nine billion previous calendar year. To last, every single program demands buy. But, in today’s IPO market place, there is no reliable, defensible basis for valuing companies.

Any asset is well worth what one particular person will promote it for and what another man or woman will pay back for it. This is termed a current market. If there are 10 people in a group who try to eat apples, the rate of individuals apples is just a operate of what those 10 men and women will pay out on normal, regardless of whether it’s $100 per apple or 10 cents. It is not up to me or any person to assign a relative worth to an apple.

However, there are significant distinctions involving apples and firms. There are imperfect but sensible valuation metrics that give just one self esteem in valuing a corporation. The impetus is that investments in corporations have a purpose: to get a return.

Let’s say the income flow a enterprise generates is the most realistic proxy for its worth and that a specified corporation generates $100 per calendar year in hard cash earnings. Let’s also say an trader in that company needs a 10% return. In this example, the trader might be willing to pay very around $one,000 for the enterprise ($100 divided by 10%). If the company has one,000 shares exceptional, the price of each and every share is $one ($one,000 valuation for the company divided by the variety of organization shares). This is a crude valuation barometer, but it makes sense.

Now, if the previously mentioned valuation methodology is not the just one to use, what other a single would be reasonable? The more we move absent from cash circulation evaluation, the much more we move towards arbitrary methodologies. But, offered a marketplace wherever virtually each and every firm likely public is shedding cash, let us go to a secondary, less beneficial metric: measuring the ratio concerning the profits of a enterprise and its valuation. Let’s contact this the valuation to sales ratio. (I am not thrilled with this one due to the fact product sales really do not necessarily tie to cash move). If a organization is valued at $1 billion and its gross sales are $100 million, its valuation to income ratio is 10 — for each and every $1 of product sales the firm is creating, it is purporting $10 truly worth of benefit.

Let’s now discuss about some firms that have gone community lately. The initially corporation we’ll glance at is Past Meat. Because the corporation does not have earnings, we have to go to valuing it by seeking at revenue. The 12 months prior to going community, its sales were $88 million, and its web losses have been $30 million. It went community at a valuation of $one.47 billion. Its valuation to product sales ratio was therefore 17 (valuation/revenue). Now, given that its IPO, its valuation to gross sales ratio is 107.

WeWork’s most new valuation in the private markets, $47 billion, is around 26 occasions revenue, even although it is shedding much more cash than it is building in annual revenue. In the great previous times of five many years in the past, even if you were losing cash, it was awesome if your losses at the base have been not higher than your complete earnings on the prime. News broke yesterday that the business is contemplating substantially dropping its IPO valuation to all-around $20 billion, which would make its valuation to sales ratio 11.

Another organization to go general public this calendar year is Slack. In 2018, Slack’s web losses have been $140 million and it went community at a valuation of $16 billion. Profits ended up $401 million. Its valuation to income ratio was therefore all around 40.

What does all this mean? As a back-check on funds stream and valuation to product sales ratios, let’s turn to historic markers. When Google went general public, not only was it successful, but its valuation to product sales ratio was 24. When Fb went general public, it was also financially rewarding, and its product sales multiple was 28. So, the valuation to gross sales ratios ended up higher, but both equally organizations were being truly building funds, not a little footnote. I comprehend it would seem like ancient background, but when Microsoft went general public in 1986, it was rewarding, and its product sales a number of was six. So Slack started off investing at about six occasions the relative worth of Microsoft.

I’ve never heard a convincing argument that puts the worth of a enterprise further than upcoming predicted dollars flows. It’s not just that the organizations are losing money and investing at very significant sales multiples. It is that there is no approved, dependable, and steady way to benefit tech IPOs. I did not long ago hear a counterargument from Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital on a podcast. Smart dude. He basically manufactured an indirect argument for superior charges by expressing these companies are vying to be the chief in the sector, the value of which is immensely superior and maybe much more than we can now determine. My argument to this is that it will maintain about as extended as a bull sector.

There are two choices. The initially is that I’m incorrect or am missing some new way to price technologies corporations. The second likelihood is that I’m right, and that the know-how corporations likely general public these days are vastly overpriced. The actuality that WeWork is now conversing about slashing its valuation in 50 percent when it IPOs signifies I’m proper. Even though fifty percent of $47 billion is probably even now too high.

[VentureBeat regularly publishes guest posts from experts who can provide unique and useful perspectives to our readers on news, trends, emerging technologies, and other areas of interest related to tech innovation.]

Brian Hamilton is founder of the HamiltonIPO.com and the Brian Hamilton Basis. You can follow him @brianhamiltonnc.