The first question a seller asks us as a website broker when looking to sell their online business is, “What is it worth?”.
So in 2012, we started analysing all online business transactions that we could find for the previous year and presented it in a report to help online business owners sell your website. Each year, we analyse the previous year’s sales to come up with industry averages. Fast forward to today and this article represents an analysis of sales data between 2012 & 2016.
You will see the term multiple a lot in this article. We calculate the profit for the business using SDE (Sellers discretionary earnings) using this formula:
The profit of your business is calculated as =
Total Sale – Cost of Goods Sold – Expenses + Owners Wage
What is also discussed and needs explaining is when it says a multiple of 2.44X. What his means is the amount paid for the business is a value of 2.44 times the profit. For example, a business that is doing $300,000 in profit per year sold for at 2.44X means ($300,000*2.44=$732,000) So $732,000 was the selling price. This works in reverse as well. If a business sold for $723,000 at 2.44X then (2.44=$732,000/2.4X means the profit was $300,000).
What are the market trends?
What is also discussed and needs explaining is when it says a multiple of 2.44X. What his means is the amount paid for the business is a value of 2.44 times the profit.
A business that is doing $300,000 in profit per year sold for at 2.44X means ($300,000*2.44=$732,000) So $732,000 was the selling price. This works in reverse as well. If a business sold for $723,000 at 2.44X then (2.44=$732,000/2.4X means the profit was $300,000).
We Analyzed 947 Businesses From 6 Business Models
For this report, we analysed 947 businesses sold between 2012 and 2016. The graphs breaks down what percentage of the total deals each businessmodel represented.
Below is how we categorised each business model:
- Advertising – a website monetized through ads or affiliate offers
- App – a mobile app, monetized through paid downloads, membershipor advertising
- Ecommerce – traditional e-commerce stores, drop-shipping anddigital products
- Lead Generation – websites monetized through selling leads
- Service – websites monetized through providing a service
- Software – SAAS (software as a service) and any other software application based business
Where Can You Sell Your Online Business?
Small Websites (Under $100K) – Sell yourself
Smaller business and micro-businesses are usually best sold privately by the owner through forums or classified websites.To sell your small business, check out Flippa
Medium Websites (Under $50m) – Sell with a broker
Medium sized businesses making between $250,000 and $20m in profit are best sold through brokers who help with finding buyers, negotiating and structuring the deal, we recommend Digital Exits
Large Websites (Over $50m) – Sell with an investment bank
Larger businesses making over $20m in yearly profit are best sold through investment banks or merger and acquisition companies. To sell your large business, check out Founders
What We Found From Our Analysis
This graph represents a snapshot of the total data. It will give you a better understanding of where your business sits in comparison to all the businesses analysed. The average multiple for all businesses sold was 1.29. The sum of transactions between 2012 and 2016 is $437 million giving us 5 years worth of data. I believe this represents only 10-15% of the overall market of traded web businesses.
What Is The Average Multiple Per Business Model?
Now we have 5 years worth of data we can see how the average multiple has changed yearly.
Here are my thoughts on why there is a differentiation between each business model:
Advertising – Demands a low multiple because it doesn’t create much value and you also don’t control the customer. Essentially, advertising websites drive people to their website with the goal to send them away to another source.
App – Personally, I struggle to see the value in app-based businesses. We have yet to sell an app business in the 5 years we have been in business. I think the barrier to entry is too low and the ability to acquire customers is extremely hard.
Ecommerce – A consistent performer with a large volume of businesses selling. It is, in my opinion, the easiest business to understand and train a new buyer on. There is also the challenge of differentiation if you have a commodity product and it is only through a brand that you can combat this.
Lead Generation – A surprising performer over recent years. As more competition comes online it has been harder to generate leads for businesses and thus the higher demand for leads.
Service – Again, a consistent performer and also easy to understand business. The main value in a service based business is the book of clients which if can be transferred easily and they stay on as clients can lead to a decent return for a buyer.
Software – Still a very highly demanded business model and the biggest winner in 2016. There seems to be a large gap between low 6 figure valuations and million dollar valuations for software businesses. I think the market is finally starting to wake up to the value of recurring businesses and pay the multiples that they deserve. We did a podcast on this if you are interested in hearing it.
Are Smaller Or Larger Businesses Worth More?
We can see from the last five years the consistent trend of multiple at each price point. The larger your business the higher multiple you can demand. For example, in 2015 the average multiple for a business that sold between 0-$250,000 was 1.9X. However, if your business was worth $4m the multiple was 3.8X.
How to interpret this graph: If your business is generating:
- 0-$125k per year in annual profit = valuation range of 0-$250,000
- $125k-$200k per year in annual profit = valuation range of $250,000-$500,000
- $200k-$$380k per year in annual profit = valuation range of $500,000-$1,000,000
- $380k-$650k per year in annual profit = valuation range of $1,000,000-$2,000,000
- $650k-$2m per year in annual profit = valuation range of $2,000,000-$7,000,000
This will give you a pretty accurate range of where you business sits in the valuation spectrum.
How many transactions occurred at each price point?
This graph represents the total number of transactions that occurred in each price range. For example in 2016, there were 142 transactions in the $0 – $250k range. Subsequently, there were 33 transactions in the $250k – $500k range.
This data represents the volume of transactions at each price point. Obviously, there is less supply of businesses at a higher valuation range.
What do the multiples look like on a scatter graph?
To get a true appreciation of averages you need to look at the dataset as a whole. This scatter graph represents each transaction and what multiple it sold at of profit.
You can see the variation in multiples from 1.52X to 3.19X earnings. What you do notice is the majority of transactions falling in the 1.52X to 2.24X valuation range. This data backs up the premise that all small businesses sell for 2-3 times earnings.