Guide to Understanding the Burn Multiple in Business

December 27, 2023

Guide to Understanding the Burn Multiple in Business

Guide to Understanding the Burn Multiple in Business

When evaluating the financial performance of a company, it's vital to delve into various metrics that offer a comprehensive view. One such metric gaining prominence, especially in the startup and investment landscape, is the Burn Multiple. This guide aims to clarify what the Burn Multiple of cash flow is, its significance, and how to calculate and interpret it.

What is the Burn Multiple?

The Burn Multiple is a financial metric designed to assess the efficiency of a company's spending in relation to its revenue growth. It provides insights into how sustainable a company's growth is in the context of its cash burn rate. The formula for calculating the Burn Multiple is as follows:

Burn Multiple = (Net Burn / Revenue)


  • Net Burn is the rate at which a company is using or losing its cash.
  • Revenue is the total income generated by the company.

Why is the Burn Multiple Important?

Understanding the definition of the Burn Multiple is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Financial Health Check: It serves as a financial health check by indicating how well a company manages its expenses relative to its revenue.
  2. Investor Confidence: Investors often scrutinize the Burn Multiple to assess the sustainability of a company's growth. A favorable Burn Multiple can boost investor confidence.
  3. Operational Efficiency: The Burn Multiple reflects the efficiency of a company's operations, shedding light on its ability to balance growth and expenditure.

How to Calculate the Burn Multiple

Before calculating the Burn Multiple, gather the following information:

  1. Net Burn: Calculate the net burn rate by subtracting the total cash inflows from the total cash outflows over a specific period.
  2. Revenue: Determine the total revenue generated by the company during the same period.

Apply the formula:

Burn Multiple = (Net Burn / Revenue)

Interpreting the Burn Multiple

Interpreting the Burn Multiple involves understanding the relationship between a company's spending and its revenue:

  • A positive Burn Multiple (greater than 0) signifies that the company is generating more revenue than it's burning, indicating financial sustainability.
  • A negative Burn Multiple (less than 0) suggests that the company's expenses exceed its revenue, warranting a closer look at its financial strategy.

The more a company burns to achieve a unit of growth, the higher the burn multiple. More efficient growth results in a lower burn multiple (closer to 0).

A "good" burn multiple looks different at different stages of growth. Contextualize your burn multiple within your growth stage and use benchmark data to understand where you stand compared to your peers.

How to Improve Your Burn Multiple

If your burn multiple isn’t where you need it to be, consider the following strategies:

  1. Lower CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost): Collaborate with marketing and sales teams to evaluate CAC and enhance sales productivity.
  2. Improve Margins: Focus on operational efficiency by optimizing gross margins and controlling costs.
  3. Make Revenue Forecasting Agile: Conduct more frequent scenario planning to understand how different strategies impact revenue growth and burn.

Considerations and Best Practices

  1. Consistency in Measurement: Ensure consistent timeframes and methodologies when calculating the Burn Multiple for accurate assessments.
  2. Benchmarking: Compare your Burn Multiple with industry benchmarks to understand your company's financial standing relative to peers.
  3. Monitoring Trends: Assess the Burn Multiple over multiple periods to identify trends and evaluate the company's ability to sustain a healthy balance.

In conclusion, while the Burn Multiple is a valuable metric, it should be part of a broader analysis. Combining it with other financial metrics, such as the Rule of 40, provides a comprehensive understanding of a company's financial well-being, aiding informed decision-making for investors, stakeholders, and business leaders.

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