Starting a company

Key Financial Metrics Every Startup Founder Should Monitor

Key takeaways

  • Learn about Financial Metrics.
  • Understand the Importance of Financial metrics.
  • Know CLV to CAC Ratio.
  • Understand Break-Even Point, Churn Rate and Revenue and Revenue Growth.
  • Learn Return On Investment (ROI), Return on Assets(ROA), and Return on Capital Employed (ROCE). 
  • Know Burn Rate and Runway.
  • Understand Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). 

Financial metrics are crucial for startup founders because they offer quantitative indicators that shed light on a company's performance, expansion, and overall success. Various business aspects, such as revenue generation, customer engagement, user acquisition, and operational efficiency, can be better understood by looking at these metrics. By monitoring the right metrics, business owners can make data-driven decisions that propel their startup and understand what works and doesn't.

Importance of Financial Metrics in Startups

Financial metrics are crucial in assessing the health and performance of a startup. They help managers and financial specialists analyze the business and measure progress toward strategic goals. Financial metrics are high-level measures of profits, revenue, expenses, or other financial outcomes that specifically focus on relationships derived from accounting data. In contrast, established companies tend to focus on different financial metrics. For example, they may use metrics such as return on investment (ROI), return on assets (ROA), and return on capital employed (ROCE). 

According to Forbes, every startup founder should know 9 basic financial and analytics metrics. These metrics include:

  • Customer Lifetime Value (LTV): The revenue a customer can generate for your startup over the lifetime of their membership.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The money spent acquiring a new customer.
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR): The amount of revenue that a startup expects to receive every month.
  • Gross Margin: The difference between revenue and the cost of goods sold.
  • Churn Rate: The percentage of customers who stop using a product or service.
  • Burn Rate: The rate at which a startup is spending its capital.
  • Runway: The amount of time a startup has before it runs out of money.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): A measure of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Cash Flow: The amount of cash that a startup has on hand.

These metrics can help startups understand their business better and make informed decisions. By tracking these metrics, startups can identify areas for improvement and optimize their operations. It’s important to note that these metrics can change as the startup grows, and new metrics may become more relevant.

Role of financial metrics in assessing startup health and performance

Financial metrics are essential when evaluating a startup's performance and overall health. The following four crucial financial indicators can assist you in assessing the financial stability of your startup:

  • Liquidity: This metric examines how well your startup can pay its current debts. You determine it by dividing your current liabilities by your existing assets. A high liquidity ratio shows your startup has sufficient cash or readily convertible assets to pay off its debts.
  • Solvency: This metric examines how well your startup can pay its long-term debts. It is calculated by taking the total of your liabilities and dividing it by your asset total. A high solvency ratio shows that your startup has sufficient assets to pay off its debts over time.
  • Profitability: This metric examines the capacity of your startup to turn a profit. It is calculated by dividing the net income by the total revenue. A high profitability ratio shows that your business is making money and is stable financially.
  • Operational efficiency: This metric evaluates how well your startup can profit from its activities. It is calculated by dividing your total assets by your revenue. 

How these metrics differ from those in established companies

Business metrics are quantifiable measures used to track business processes to judge the performance level of a business . The right business metrics will not only help you achieve your business goals, but will also identify areas that are meeting (or exceeding) expectations while pinpointing those that are falling short.

The metrics used by established companies may differ based on their industry, size, and goals. However, some of the most common metrics that businesses track include sales revenue, net profit margin, gross margin, sales growth year-to-date, cost of customer acquisition, customer loyalty and retention, net promoter score, and qualified leads per month.

It’s important to note that the ideal combination of key performance indicators (KPIs) will depend largely on the individual business’ needs. Therefore, it’s essential to choose the metrics that matter most to your business and track them meticulously to maximize the business’s chances of success

Revenue and Revenue Growth: Significance of tracking revenue

Revenue tracking is an essential component of any business. It means monitoring the funds received from sales, investments, and other sources. It is a metric used to measure the percentage increase in revenue over a given period. A positive revenue growth rate indicates that a business is expanding and earning more money. Whereas, a negative rate indicates that a business is contracting and earning less money. A business that is expanding quickly and has an advantage over its competitors may be indicated by a high rate of revenue growth. However, a slow rate of revenue growth could indicate problems for the company, and it might be required to reconsider its strategy in order to remain competitive.

Understanding revenue growth rate and its impact on strategy.

The revenue growth rate is a critical driver of corporate performance. According to a study by McKinsey, an extra five percentage points of revenue per year correlates with an additional three to four percentage points of total shareholder returns (TSR). To achieve robust and consistent revenue growth, business leaders must follow a holistic growth blueprint consisting of three core elements:

  • A bold aspiration and accompanying mindset
  • The right enablers embedded in the organization
  • Clear pathways in the form of a coherent set of growth initiatives

McKinsey suggests ten imperatives that should guide organizations seeking to outgrow and outearn their peers:

  • Put competitive advantage first.
  • Start with a winning, scalable formula.
  • Prioritize profitable, fast-growing markets.
  • It’s not enough to go with the flow, you need to outgrow your peers.
  • Focus on growth in your core industry, you can’t win without it.
  • Look beyond the core.
  • Turbocharge your core.
  • Don’t be a laggard.
  • Make the trend your friend.

Burn Rate and Runway

Burn rate is the rate at which a company spends its cash reserves to finance its operations before generating positive cash flow from operations. It is usually measured in terms of monthly cash outflows. You can reduce your burn rate by lowering non-essential spending, improving operations, or raising revenue. You can boost your cash balance by obtaining funding from investors, expanding sales, or enhancing cash flow management. Runway is the amount of time a company can continue operating before it runs out of cash. It is usually measured in terms of months.

The burn rate is a metric that measures how quickly a business uses up its cash reserve when losses are expected to occur. The Gross Burn Rate and Net Burn Rate are the two ways of calculating it. 

  • The total of all operating costs, such as rent, salaries, and other overhead, is known as the gross burn rate and is usually determined monthly. 
  • The net burn rate of a company is calculated by subtracting its operating expenses from its revenue. It is measured monthly and shows how much cash a business needs to operate for a while.

Importance of knowing your startup's runway and managing cash flow effectively.

Managing cash flow is one of the most critical aspects of running a startup. It is essential to keep track of your startup’s runway, which is the amount of time you have before you run out of cash. Knowing your runway helps you plan your finances and make informed decisions about your business’s future.

According to a guide by Finmark, managing cash flow is the number one priority and one of the top challenges for early-stage businesses. The guide covers eight cash flow management strategies for your business to avoid going to zero. Proper cash flow management means knowing what to do with your cash balance when you have positive cash flow and being prepared for negative cash flow.

To extend your startup’s runway, consider reducing your burn rate, boosting your cash balance, or doing both. You can lower non-essential spending, improve operations, or raise revenue to lower the burn rate. Consider obtaining funding from investors, expanding sales, or enhancing cash flow management to grow your cash balance.

Gross Margin and Profitability

The percentage of revenue that exceeds the cost of goods sold (COGS) is known as the gross margin, and it is a financial metric. It is calculated by subtracting COGS from total revenue and dividing the result by total revenue. The higher the gross margin, the more efficient a company is at producing its goods and services.

A high gross margin indicates that a company is able to generate more profit from each unit of sale, which can be used to pay other costs or satisfy debt obligations. A low gross margin, on the other hand, suggests that a company is struggling to generate profits from its sales and may need to cut labor costs or source cheaper suppliers.

It is important to note that while gross margin focuses on revenue and COGS, the net profit margin takes all of a business’s expenses into account.

The pathway to profitability and its relevance for startups.

The path to profitability (P2P) is a clearly defined route to profitability that is often described in a business plan. It is used to assess whether a startup should receive funding since the ultimate goal of any investment is to recognize a return. The P2P is typically interwoven throughout a company’s business plan, with elements in various sections of the marketing strategy, strategic planning, and financial projections. The actual numbers are contained in the projected financial statements, such as the income statement and the statement of cash flows.

By laying out a path to profitability, a startup can attract investors looking for a clear indication that their investment will generate returns in the future. Additionally, a precise, fleshed-out path to profitability helps startups focus on achieving their goals and objectives, even during times of uncertainty or unexpected challenges.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is a crucial metric for businesses, particularly in the realm of marketing and sales. It represents the average cost incurred to acquire a new customer. The process of calculating CAC involves adding up all of the costs associated with marketing, sales, and any other customer acquisition-related activities and dividing that total by the total number of new customers acquired over a given period. 

Why does CAC matter?

  • Financial Sustainability: If the cost of acquiring a customer is too high, it can erode profit margins and hinder the company's ability to grow sustainably.
  • Resource Allocation: It helps decide where to invest in marketing and sales efforts and which channels are most cost-effective for customer acquisition.
  • Performance Evaluation: It provides a baseline to measure the success of marketing campaigns and sales efforts.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): If CAC is significantly higher than CLV, it indicates that a business is not getting a good return on its customer acquisition investment.

Strategies to Optimize and Reduce CAC

  • Targeted Marketing: Tailoring your marketing efforts to specific audiences reduces wasteful spending on irrelevant leads.
  • Referral Programs: Encourage existing customers to refer friends and family. Word-of-mouth referrals often have lower acquisition costs and higher conversion rates.
  • Content Marketing: Invest in content that educates, engages, and attracts potential customers. High-quality content can organically draw in leads and reduce reliance on paid advertising.
  • Social Media Advertising: Utilize social media platforms for highly targeted advertising. The ability to narrow down your audience based on demographics and interests can help reduce CAC.
  • Customer Retention: It's generally cheaper to keep an existing customer than acquire a new one. Investing in customer satisfaction and loyalty programs can indirectly reduce CAC.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) 

Understanding CLV and its critical role in assessing long-term viability. 

A customer's total revenue or profit over their relationship with your business is measured by a metric called customer lifetime value, or CLV. Due to its ability to forecast future revenue and long-term business success, it is a vital parameter to measure. Monitoring CLV enables you to win back past customers and foster loyalty that carries over into future purchases. You can calculate CLV by concentrating on sales revenue and gradually increasing it to account for indirect contributions like word-of-mouth effects and referrals.

Methods To Enhance CLV Within a Startup. 

The following actions can assist you in improving CLV in a startup:

  • Provide the best customer service: Make sure you offer top-notch customer support and are accessible to answer any queries they might have.
  • Upsell and cross-sell: Give your customers extra products or services to enhance their experience with your brand.
  • Establish a loyalty scheme: This will entice clients to visit your business again. Offer discounts, rewards, or first access to new products and services as inducements.
  • Pay attention to your customers: Pay attention to what customers are saying and implement their recommendations to improve your products.

CLV to CAC Ratio 

Importance of the CLV to CAC ratio in understanding customer value. 

  • The CLV to CAC ratio is a metric that helps businesses understand the value of their customers. 
  • It is calculated by dividing the customer lifetime value (CLV) by the customer acquisition cost (CAC).
  • The CLV is the total amount of money a customer is expected to spend on a business over their lifetime, while the CAC is the cost of acquiring a new customer.
  • The CLV to CAC ratio is important because it helps businesses determine whether they are spending too much or too little on customer acquisition. 
  • A high CLV to CAC ratio indicates that a business is generating more revenue from its customers than it is spending on acquiring them, which is a good sign. On the other hand, a low ratio indicates that a business is spending more on acquiring customers than generating revenue from them, which is not sustainable in the long run.

Ideal Ratios and what they reveal about business health. 

  • A ratio of 3:1 is generally considered ideal, which means that the total value of the customer should be three times more than the cost to acquire them.
  • A CLV: CAC ratio of 1:1 means that a customer pays you precisely what you paid to acquire them. 
  • If your CLV to CAC ratio is less than 1:1, it's time to look closely at your business model and make changes.
  • Examining the four primary pillars of financial health—liquidity, solvency, profitability, and operating efficiency—is important. But out of the four, a company's profitability may be the best indicator of its health.

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)

An explanation of MRR and ARR, with special reference to subscription-based and SaaS models, has been listed below:

  • Monthly Recurring Revenue, or MRR for short, is the total money made from subscription sales during a given month. ARR, or annual recurring revenue, is the total amount received from subscriptions over a year.
  • Businesses with high churn rates can benefit from MRR because it gives a more realistic view of the monthly revenue generated. 
  • Businesses with low churn rates can benefit from ARR because it gives a more realistic view of revenue generated over an extended period of time.
  • Tracking these indicators to determine income in a steady state. 
  • Multiplying your total monthly subscribers by your average revenue per user will yield your MRR. 
  • To determine the ARR, Start by deducting the revenue lost due to cancellations and downgrades from the total subscription revenue for the year. Next, add the recurring revenue from extras and upgrades. 
  • It also considers other discounts and loss of customers. Another way to calculate it is to multiply your MRR by 12.

Churn Rate 

The churn rate is the percentage of customers who stop using a product or service over a given period. Tracking churn rate is essential for customer retention because it helps businesses understand why customers are leaving and how to improve their products or services.

Churn analysis helps you understand the problems that make your customers stop using your product. Analyzing customer churn is important for getting a picture of the overall health of your product and customer base because it shows you how people are behaving in your app.

Here are some strategies to mitigate churn and its impact on growth.

  • Identify the root cause of churn: Understanding why customers are leaving your business is important. By identifying the root cause of churn, you can take steps to address the issue and prevent future churn.
  • Improve customer experience: Providing excellent customer service and support can help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Consider offering personalized support, responding to customer inquiries promptly, and providing self-service options.
  • Offer incentives: Providing discounts, free trials, or exclusive content can help retain customers and encourage them to continue using your product or service.
  • Monitor customer feedback: Monitoring customer feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and address customer concerns before they lead to churn.
  • Implement a customer loyalty program: Offering a loyalty program can help incentivize customers to continue using your product or service. Consider offering rewards such as discounts, exclusive content, or early access to new features.
  • Provide value-added services: Offering additional services or features that complement your product or service can help increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Consider offering training, consulting, or other value-added services.
  • Focus on customer success: By focusing on customer success, you can help ensure that your customers achieve their goals and get the most out of your product or service. Consider offering training, consulting, or other resources to help customers succeed.

Break-Even Point

In business and finance, there's a term called the break-even point. The production level at which total revenue and total costs are equal is referred to as this. Stated differently, it is the point at which a company's revenue equals its expenses. The revenue per unit less the variable costs per unit 1 and the total fixed costs related to production can be divided to determine the break-even point. Fixed costs are expenses that remain constant regardless of the quantity sold.

Calculating the break-even point and its strategic significance. 

The break-even point is calculated using the following formula:

Break-even point = Fixed Cost / (Price per unit - Variable cost) = Fixed Cost / Gross Profit Margin


  • Fixed cost refers to the cost incurred in a business unit, which doesn't depend upon the volume of production. For example, rent, loans, insurance premiums, etc., comes under fixed cost.
  • Variable cost is the cost to produce one unit of product.

Once the break-even point is determined, businesses can create a strategy for the future. Suppose a business's profitability is determined by the success of one or more products. In that case, the break-even point for each product provides a timeline for the company, which can help implement a better overall financial strategy that fits the projected costs and profits.

Capital Efficiency and Return on Investment (ROI) 

Another profitability ratio that measures how well a company uses its capital is Return on Investment (ROI). ROI looks at earnings compared to capital invested to determine how efficiently a firm uses capital to generate profits.To balance funding, investments, and returns for sustainable growth, it's essential to consider the following:

  • Capital efficiency: This refers to how effectively a company is using its capital to generate profits. A company with high capital efficiency can generate more profits with less capital investment.
  • ROI: This measures the efficiency of an investment or compares the efficiency of a number of different investments. A higher ROI indicates greater monetary benefits received.
  • ROCE: This measures how well a company is generating profits from its capital as it is put to use 


In summary, crucial financial metrics serve as a startup's compass, directing it toward success. The founders and management rely on these metrics—which include revenue, profit margin, burn rate, cash flow, customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLV), gross margin, and runway to help them make well-informed decisions, spot financial inefficiencies, win over investors, manage resource allocation, and monitor financial objectives. These metrics also give startups the clarity and insight to make wise decisions and plot a course for long-term success. Not only is routine monitoring advised, but it's essential to a startup's survival and success.

Note: Our content is for general information purposes only. Levy does not provide legal, accounting, or certified expert advice. Consult a lawyer, CPA, or other professional for such services.

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