We'll be honest: the best cap table template in the world actually isn’t a template. It’s Shareworks Startup Edition.
If you are dead set on using a “template”, this is one of the best here but…
Using a template is a mistake for most companies…
We’ll go over 4 major reasons why you shouldn’t use a template in just a moment (as well as mistakes that using a template can lead to), but these days there is really no reason to not use cap table management software from the very beginning.
Using a cap table management tool costs very little (startup edition is free if you have less than 20 shareholders) and you can get setup in just a few minutes.
More importantly, it will save you an enormous amount of time and help you avoid equity mistakes that can cost you and your company a lot of money.
Our solution allows you to:
- Automatically keep track of vesting schedules, terminated option holders and all things related to option management.
- Motivate employees by creating specific employee portals and updating them as their shares vest
- Eliminate unnecessary paperwork
- Electronically sign all equity grants and store them in a single repository for all equity-related documents, forms and records.
- Analyze and compare future rounds so you can make the best decisions around raising capital.
- Easily share your cap table with investors and keep them up-to-date.
- Look smart (and be smart) when it comes to term sheets. Plug the terms into the software and see how they affect your equity.
- Eliminate all the of time-consuming hassle of equity compliance–stock option expensing (ASC 718), common stock valuations (IRC 409A), 83b elections, securities regulation compliance, etc.
Our founder started the company after personally feeling the pain of working with Excel-based cap tables as a VC, as an entrepreneur, and as the founder of one of the country’s most successful 409A valuation firms. Spreadsheet templates and 1990’s era software programs just didn’t cut it.
Here are 4 major considerations you should think about (along with costly mistakes) when it comes to deciding how to manage your cap table.
#1 – Fund Raising Decisions
Term sheets are often complicated and you want to be smart when it comes to your cap table. Not only that but you want to look intelligent with your investors. It can be really difficult to fully grasp how a round will affect your equity in the months or years to come.
There are 2 things you especially need to look at:
- How does the round dilute your equity?
- How is cash distributed in different exit scenarios (waterfall analysis)?
Any basic template or cap table software will show you the percentage dilution from a new round, but that’s only part of the story. The reality is that your percentage ownership does not always equal your economic ownership.
Things like liquidation preferences, participation rights, valuation, and so forth can have a serious impact on your true ownership. All these factors affect how cash will be distributed when the company is sold.
Plenty of founders have lost out by accepting terms without fully analyzing the impact, or by agreeing to things they simply didn’t understand.
As an example, look at the founder of GetSatisfaction, Lane Becker. GetSatisfaction was acquired for $50 million and the founders got nothing.
The sad part is the founders had an opportunity to be acquired earlier for an undisclosed amount and turned it down. Over the next year they raised $10 million at a $50 million valuation. They lost control of the company, and when it was sold for $50 million they lost everything.
Had he known how the last term sheet would play out in a $50 million exit, he might have thought twice about accepting the offer. Or maybe he knew the impact, but he just wasn’t being realistic about the probable outcomes.
This kind of analysis is complex and difficult to do accurately. Fortunately, Shareworks Startup Edition was born out of a valuation services firm where we had to create thousands of these models. That translates into powerful insights and intelligence over using just a template. You’ll need this when it comes time to raise money.
#2 – Option Management
Keeping track of everyone’s options, documents, and vesting can be a beast to do manually. Throw in a terminated employee or two and things get complicated pretty fast. In fact, we’ve seen columns in cap table spreadsheets go all the way to ZZ before.
You have much more important things to do than get bogged down in the repetitive minutia of tracking down signatures, calculating vesting, or emailing records to employees.
Option management is one of the biggest and most compelling reasons to use startup edition. It generates documents, automates electronic signatures, and stores them in one place. Also it keeps documents up to date and in sync with your current cap table.
Another common cap table mistake is not cancelling shares after an employee is terminated. The software will notify you automatically to cancel the shares after the appropriate number of days have passed so you don’t have to worry about it.
#3 – Keeping Everybody Updated With Access Control and Continuity.
If you use a spreadsheet template for your cap table, keeping track of one official version is a nightmare. Investors, lawyers, accountants, shareholders and executives start keeping their own versions that inevitably get out of sync.
The last thing you want is to send out a cap table with mistakes or missing info to important investors and board members.
Additionally, you shouldn’t be spending your day responding to and sending emails with a new spreadsheet every time a stakeholder needs the latest cap table.
You need one official record of the company’s cap table. That way everyone is always on the same page, and there is no question as to what the ownership looks like.
Employees don’t have to email you to know how many shares they’ve vested and what’s available for exercise. They can just log in to their own portal to view their personal information and documents.
#4 – Your Cap Table is More Than Just a Spreadsheet
Yes, your cap table determines who gets what, but it’s not just a spreadsheet. Your cap table is really a collection of legal documents, agreements, and records that tell a story of how ownership has evolved.
When a team of lawyers starts pouring over your records, they’re going to use them to rebuild your cap table from the ground up. You better hope that the lawyers can verify the numbers that everyone has been using to make tax and investment decisions. You, your employees and your investors can lose money by working off of inaccurate or incomplete information.
Missing documents and records can also cause complications and holdups when your company exits or raises a new round. In the worst scenarios, you might end up with less equity than you thought, or you could go to court over some dispute. Nobody really wins in that situation.
A tool like Shareworks Startup Edition will let you ditch paper, generate documents, and keep everything stored in one place.
Hopefully this answers your questions and will help you avoid a few of the biggest equity pitfalls.
Give startup edition a shot. It’s free to try (and free forever if you have 20 shareholders or less). I think it will do a lot for your cap table management needs.