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Cap Tables 101: The Foundation of Startup Investment

Cap Tables 101: The Foundation of Startup Investment

Behind every startup that has raised funding lies a fundamental financial structure known as the Capitalization Table, or Cap Table. Cap Tables serve as a tool for understanding a company’s ownership structure, equity distribution, and valuation. In this blog, we’ll delve into the intricacies of Cap Tables to help show their significance in the startup ecosystem.

What is a Cap Table?

A Cap Table is a ledger that meticulously documents the equity ownership of a company. It provides a detailed breakdown of who owns what percentage of the company and can be considered instrumental in illustrating the distribution of ownership among founders, investors, and employees.

Key Components of a Cap Table:

1. Shareholders:

One component of any Cap Table is the list of shareholders who hold equity in the company. Shareholders may include founders, employees, early investors, venture capitalists, angel investors, institutional investors, and strategic partners. Each shareholder’s information typically includes their name, the number of shares they own, and the percentage of ownership they hold.

2. Investment Rounds:

A Cap Table may record the various funding rounds a company undergoes to raise capital. Each round, such as seed, Series A, B, C, and subsequent rounds, represents an influx of capital into the company. The Cap Table documents the funding amount raised in each round, the valuation of the company at that stage, and any changes in ownership structure resulting from the investment.

3. Types of Securities:

Different types of securities or shares issued by a company can be a component of a Cap Table. These securities can include common stock, preferred stock, convertible notes, stock options, warrants, and other instruments. Each type of security has distinct rights, such as voting rights, dividends, liquidation preferences, and conversion features, impacting the hierarchy of ownership and the distribution of proceeds during exit events.

4. Ownership Percentages:

Ownership percentages detail the proportion of the company owned by each shareholder. This component can be important for assessing the distribution of equity among stakeholders. Ownership percentages are calculated based on the number of shares owned by an individual or entity divided by the total number of outstanding shares of the company.

5. Vesting Schedules and Employee Stock Options:

Cap Tables often include vesting schedules for employee stock options. Vesting schedules define the timeline and conditions under which employees or team members earn the right to exercise their stock options. These schedules can help incentivize employees to stay with the company for a specified period, contributing to its growth and success.

6. Convertible Securities:

Another element within Cap Tables is convertible securities, such as convertible notes or Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE). These instruments can represent agreements that may convert into equity at a later stage, impacting the company’s ownership structure and dilution of existing shareholders upon conversion.

7. Outstanding Equity Awards:

Cap Tables also can account for outstanding equity awards granted to employees, advisors, or consultants through stock options, restricted stock units (RSUs), or other equity incentive plans. These awards can be helpful for attracting and retaining talent, and their inclusion in the Cap Table can aid in calculating the potential dilution upon their exercise or vesting.

8. Post-Money Valuation:

The Cap Table may reflect the company’s post-money valuation after each funding round. This valuation represents the company’s value after considering the investment received, providing insights into the company’s worth and its growth trajectory over time.

Basic Cap Table Example

The following cap table represents a startup that has raised $500M in total funding across 3 funding rounds: Seed, Series A, and Series B. Assuming each round offered preferred shares as the security offered, this is what a potential cap table could look like. Please note, not all cap tables are the same and can vary depending on the information provided by the company.

Seed Round:

Total Investment Amount: $1 million

Type of Shares: Preferred Stock

Series A Round:

Total Investment Amount: $2.5 million

Type of Shares: Preferred Stock

Series B Round:

Total Investment Amount: $1.5 million

Type of Shares: Preferred Stock

Total Investment: $5,000,000

Final Thoughts

Cap Tables can be an indispensable tool for stakeholders navigating the complex landscape of startup finances. They can serve as a compass, guiding founders, investors, and employees through the journey of equity ownership, valuation, and decision-making within a growing company.

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The information presented here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be, nor should it be construed or used as, comprehensive offering documentation for any security, investment, tax or legal advice, a recommendation, or an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, an interest, directly or indirectly, in any company. Investing in both early-stage and later-stage companies carries a high degree of risk. A loss of an investor’s entire investment is possible, and no profit may be realized. Investors should be aware that these types of investments are illiquid and should anticipate holding until an exit occurs.