Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cap Tables for Startups

Capitalization tables (referred to in the industry as “cap tables”) are not difficult to grasp. But first-time entrepreneurs are often caught off-guard when they are asked to produce a cap table by a prospective investor (or his lawyer) doing diligence on the company.

In this post, we’ll talk about cap tables, their purpose, and what should be included in a cap table both for internal and external viewing.

1. Purpose of a Cap Table.

A cap table is, first and foremost, an essential internal document of any corporation. It sets out ownership of the corporation, in terms of the numbers of shares (by class and series) and in terms of percentages that those shares translate into. Ownership percentages matter (1) any time a vote of the equity holders is required, (2) for calculation of dividends, and (3) in the event of a sale or liquidation of the company, where they are used to calculate distribution of proceeds.

In addition, a cap table is one of the first documents that a company will be asked to produce in diligence. Prospective investors will request a cap table because they need to understand what the shares they purchase represent in terms of percent ownership of the company. This goes back to voting control and to upside in a sale of the company. Investors (or their analysts) will run waterfall analyses using different potential valuations of the company on a sale to make sure the investment has a realistic chance of being a lucrative one. (Click here for more information about waterfall analysis.) The cap table with waterfall analysis (or with numbers based on future financing rounds) is usually referred to as a pro forma cap table.

2. Structure of a Cap Table.

A cap table is most frequently maintained in Excel, and is structured in several tabs. The first tab is a Cap Summary and looks something like this:



When speaking to prospective investors prior to a signed term sheet, a cap table request can be legitimately satisfied with a PDF of this tab alone. As you can see, the cap summary provides enough detail to enable investors to create pro formas and run waterfall analyses, without giving away potentially confidential or at the very least sensitive ownership information.

The full cap table kept by the company would have additional tabs for each of the issued classes and series of stock (e.g., Common Stock, Series A Preferred Stock, Series B Preferred Stock), a tab for the stock plan, and a tab for outstanding promissory notes with interest calculations, if any. Such tabs would break-down the ownership of the shares by stockholder, include vesting provisions for stock subject to vesting, and list stock certificate numbers and dates of issuance.

Most importantly, these tabs would have percent ownership calculations on a by-class, by-series and on a fully-diluted basis. This becomes especially important when a particular decision of the company requires the consent of the shares comprising at least 50% of the Common Stock, 55% of the Series A Preferred and Series B Preferred voting together as a class, 66 2/3% of the Series A Preferred, and 50% of the Series B Preferred. Having stock ownership laid out in a well-organized, easy-to-understand manner, allows an easy identification of the minimum necessary stockholders necessary to secure the required vote.

Happy company-making to all!

Inna

White Summers  Inna Efimchik at White Summers Caffee & James LLP, specializes in assisting emerging technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond, providing incorporation, financing, and licensing services as well as general corporate counseling.

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2 comments:

  1. Great post! I have to agree that the cap tables are vital for start ups! It is essential for those who are looking to invest! I had help creating mine for my start up from my london virtual office provider. It has really helped attract further investment.

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