So, what are the current multiples for your sector?

We had our neighbours over for dinner last night. The husband is the Founder of a very successful startup. The conversation was how most such conversations are - veering from one random topic to another totally unrelated topic. It was fun. Until we sat for dinner.

The husband, knowing I am Co-Founder of NephroPlus, suddenly asked, "So, what are the current multiples for your sector?"

The ground below my feet disappeared and I was hurtled down an abyss as I felt droplets of sweat appearing on my almost bald head.

Why, you wonder.

Some background first.

Vikram and I have a very clear division of roles. I look after Clinical, Quality, IT and so on. He looks after everything related to money. As CEO, he also is in touch with what I do. But I steer clear from all the numbers stuff. Revenue, EBITDA, ARPU, IRR and what have you.

However, as Co-Founder, people expect me to know all these numbers. Over the years, I have found myself thoroughly embarrassed when people ask me about these numbers. I sheepishly say I don't know. They probably think I don't want to reveal the numbers. Because how can a Co-Founder not know these basic numbers?

I am so bad that I don't even know the order of magnitude of some of the numbers. Like if it is around 100s, 1000s or 100000s.

I belie my half Gujarati genes in this respect. We Gujjus are known to be very good with finances and numbers. That part of my dad's genetic make-up never found their way to my genes. Unfortunately. My surname shouts "Gujju" and that worsens the impact of my ignorance on financial matters.

After a few such incidents, I came up with a solution. I have a Note file on my laptop and phone where I keep the most important numbers. Before any such meeting where I might be asked these questions, I read up those numbers and be ready for the questions that might get thrown at me.

I was prepared last night. I went through my cheatsheet. Startup Founder meant some question is definitely going to come. I didn't take any chances. But alas!

The question thrown at me was completely out of the syllabus. Sector multiple? Jeez, I was having a hard time remembering my own company numbers and here this guy was, talking about sector multiples.

That's when the abyss happened. I had to give the sheepish answer, "I don't honestly know. I look after the Clinical aspects of the company. Vikram does all the financial stuff." I can bet the last of the remaining hair on my head that the husband said to himself in his head, "What can be confidential about a sector multiple? Don't tell if you don't want to!" or something to that effect.

Well, that was that. I might need to expand my cheatsheet. But where will this stop? I remembered Shocked Pikachu when this happened: