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The Rule of 40: The Golden Metric for VC-Backed Startups

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Demystifying the Rule of 40, its significance for tech founders and investors, and how Redbud VC empowers founders to master this pivotal metric.

In the world of tech startups, the quest for growth is all-consuming. However, growth without profitability can be a dangerous path, as many failed startups can attest. The Rule of 40 emerges as a valuable metric to guide founders toward balanced, sustainable growth. In this article, we'll explore the Rule of 40, why it's essential for tech founders and investors, and how to calculate it. We'll also discuss how Redbud VC supports founders in navigating the Rule of 40.

The Rule of 40 is a simple formula designed to assess the growth and profitability of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and subscription-based companies. It states that a company's growth rate (in percentage) plus its profit margin (also in percentage) should equal or exceed 40%. For example, if a company has a 30% growth rate and a 10% profit margin, then the company meets the Rule of 40 (30 + 10 = 40) (source: Forbes).

For tech founders, the Rule of 40 serves as a benchmark to assess their startup's progress and make strategic decisions. Founders can use this metric to allocate resources effectively and pursue growth without sacrificing profitability, ensuring long-term success (source: SaaS Capital).

For early-stage investors, the Rule of 40 helps identify promising startups with a healthy balance between growth and profitability. By focusing on companies that meet or exceed the Rule of 40, investors can mitigate risk and improve the odds of backing successful ventures (source: OpenView).

Brad Feld, a renowned venture capitalist, emphasizes the importance of the Rule of 40 in startups: "The Rule of 40 is a powerful tool that helps entrepreneurs and investors evaluate the trade-offs between growth and profitability in a company. Striking the right balance is essential for long-term success, and the Rule of 40 can be a valuable guide on this journey." (source: Feld Thoughts)

To calculate the Rule of 40, add a company's growth rate (year-over-year revenue growth) and profit margin (operating profit as a percentage of revenue). Investors typically use the last twelve months (LTM) of financial data for these calculations (source: OpenView). Keep in mind that the Rule of 40 isn't universally applicable, and individual circumstances may warrant a different analysis.

Redbud VC is an early-stage venture capital fund and studio investing in tech founders who are strengthened by struggle. Our team of dedicated operators, with experience building billion-dollar companies, removes unnecessary barriers, allowing founders to focus on what truly matters. Our unique approach, rooted in the dedication of unicorn founders and our presence in the heart of Missouri, sets us apart from other venture capital firms.

Redbud VC empowers founders to achieve the Rule of 40 by:

  1. Providing strategic guidance on growth strategies and financial management.

  2. Connecting founders with industry experts and mentors who have successfully navigated the Rule of 40 in their own ventures.

  3. Offering access to our extensive network of resources, including financial modeling tools and go-to-market strategies.

The Rule of 40 is a critical metric for tech founders and early-stage investors alike, as it offers a balanced approach to growth and profitability. At Redbud VC, we are committed to helping founders master the Rule of 40, ensuring they can build successful, sustainable companies that thrive in the long run. With sites on the right metrics, you can plan, execute, and benchmark your performance.


Redbud VC is an early-stage venture capital fund and studio investing monetary and social capital in early-stage tech founders.

Reach out to Brett Calhoun, Managing Director & GP at Redbud VC, at to learn about Redbud, and subscribe to our newsletter here.


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