Benchmarking the assumptions and outputs of financial models is a difficult problem when modeling privately-held, growing companies where data can be sparse and hard to apply to your specific situation. Answering questions like "what should my gross margin be?", "how much should I spend on marketing?", "how much should I plan on revenues growing?" are difficult to answer without knowing the strategy (e.g. Saas or Ecommerce? growth or profit?), stage of development (e.g. pre- or post-market fit? Seed or Series B stage? $1mm in ARR or $20mm in ARR?), capital structure (e.g. venture-financed or bootstrapped?) and specific context behind the business.
Early-stage companies looking to benchmark their projections need to pay attention to those concerns, and use benchmark and comparable company data as directional signs, not absolute answers. Meaning, if a data source says that the average CAC payback period for a SaaS business is N, you have to contextualize that data point to your own situation, and understand whether your metrics should be different or not. You have to find the right comparison set for where you are and for where you want to go.
On the topic of using data in your assumptions, How to Create Assumptions
- KeyBanc Private SaaS Company Survey Results is a great resource for data points on private SaaS companies (also here's the 2021 survey results)
- Finmark's Metric Benchmarks Report 2022 shares benchmark data for VC-backed SaaS startups at different stages. Using data from Bessemer, KeyBanc, Openview, SaaS Capital, and others, it helps founders gauge how their metrics compare to similar-sized companies and contextualize the data with analysis and key findings to apply to your company.
- RevOps B2B SaaS Benchmark Report for more data on private SaaS companies
- Public Comps for metrics from public SaaS companies
- Meritech Capital's Benchmarking page for public company ratios and S-1 analyses
- Opex Engine for data and reports (paid)
For modeling venture funds, I typically refer people to:
- Pitchbook – NVCA Venture Monitor, updated quarterly with data and insights
- CB Insights State of Venture, updated quarterly with data and insights
Questions on assumptions or benchmarks for your specific situation, contact me anytime.