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Under the Hood: Key Performance Indicators VCs Look for in Tech Startups

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

For tech startup founders seeking venture capital, understanding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is akin to learning a new language. KPIs are crucial, they act as the pulse of a startup's health, performance, and future potential. They give VCs the quantitative data needed to make informed decisions about the scalability and long-term profitability of your venture.

John Doerr, in his seminal book, "Measure What Matters," underlines this importance, asserting that these metrics aren't merely numbers; they're the tangible heartbeat of your business. In his words, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." But with so many metrics, which KPIs should tech startups prioritize?

  1. LTV/CAC and AOV/CAC: These ratios pit customer acquisition cost (CAC) against either the lifetime value (LTV) or average order value (AOV) of a customer. They give insights into the economic viability of your customer acquisition strategy.

  2. Weekly and Monthly Growth: VCs are keen on seeing steady growth rates. It's an indicator of market acceptance and scalability potential.

  3. Net Retention: A high net retention rate signifies that your product/service is not only retaining its user base but also expanding within it.

  4. WAU/MAU: The Weekly Active Users to Monthly Active Users ratio sheds light on user engagement and the 'stickiness' of your product.

  5. Improving CAC and Margins Through Scale: As your startup scales, your CAC should decrease and margins should improve, demonstrating operational efficiency.

  6. CAC Recovery Timeline: This indicates how swiftly your startup recoups its CAC, a vital aspect of cash flow management.

  7. Rule of 40: We detailed this in our article, "The Rule of 40: The Golden Metric for VC-Backed Startups". It's a balancing act between growth and profitability.

  8. ROI to Customers: It's crucial to quantify how much value (time/money savings) your product/service delivers to the customer.

  9. Sales Cycle: A shorter sales cycle could mean a clearer value proposition or a more efficient sales process.

  10. Time Per Interaction with the Product: This KPI measures the length and quality of user interaction with your product. More time spent can indicate higher engagement, and potentially, user satisfaction. However, it's crucial to balance this with the purpose of your product - if your product is designed for efficiency and speed, shorter interaction times might be more desirable.

Different sectors and business models will prioritize certain KPIs over others. A SaaS company might focus more on net retention, while a marketplace startup could value the WAU/MAU ratio. Similarly, a productivity tool might look closely at time per interaction.

Nevertheless, while growth and building a robust user base are vital, having a viable business model where customers are willing to pay for your product or service is paramount. At Redbud VC, we can guide founders through navigating and tracking these KPIs. However, remember that your north star should always be delighting your customers – a commitment directly reflected in your KPIs.

KPIs are more than mere statistics; they're narratives told through numbers. They unveil truths about your customers, your product, and your future. The key lies in understanding, interpreting, and improving these narratives to transform your startup into a resounding success story.


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