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First Chicago Method

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Title: First Chicago Method  
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Subject: Cash flow, Valuation (finance), Venture capital, Corporate finance
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First Chicago Method

The First Chicago Method or Venture Capital Method is a context specific business valuation approach used by venture capital and private equity investors that combines elements of both a multiples-based valuation and a discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation approach.[1]

The First Chicago Method was first developed and consequently named for First Chicago Corporation Venture Capital, the predecessor of private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners and GTCR.[2]


The First Chicago Method takes account of payouts to the holder of specific investments in a company through the holding period under various scenarios; see Quantifying uncertainty under Corporate finance. Most often this methodology will involve the construction of:

  • An "upside case" or "best-case scenario" (often, the business plan submitted)
  • A "base case"
  • A "downside" or "worst-case scenario."

Once these have been constructed, the valuation proceeds as follows.[3]


The method is used particularly in the valuation of growth companies which often do not have historical financial results that can be used for meaningful comparable company analysis. Multiplying actual financial results against a comparable valuation multiple often yields a value for the company that is objectively too low given the prospects for the business.

Often the First Chicago Method may be preferable to a Discounted Cash Flow taken alone. This is because such income-based business value assessment may lack the support generally observable in the market place. Indeed, professionally performed business appraisals go further and use a set of methods under all three approaches to business valuation.[4]

Variations of the First Chicago Method are employed in a number of markets, including the private equity secondary market where investors project outcomes for portfolios of private equity investments under various scenarios.

External links and references


  1. ^ Kauffman Foundation article on The First Chicago Method. Kauffman Foundation.
  2. ^ "How to value your deal like an investor?". Global Entrepreneurship Institute. December 2007.
  3. ^ See, for example, Schumann (2006).
  4. ^ Business valuation using the Market, Income and Asset Approaches. ValuAdder


  • Ann-Kristin Achleitner and Eva Lutz. (2008). First Chicago Method: Alternative Approach to Valuing Innovative Start-Ups in the Context of Venture Capital, Social Science Research Network Accepted Paper Series.
  • James L. Plummer. (1997). A Primer on Venture Capital Financial Calculations, 23rd Annual Venture Capital Institute.
  • C.P. Schumann (2006). Improving Certainty in Valuations using the Discounted Cash Flow Method, Valuation Strategies Magazine, September/October 2006.
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