By Harness WealthFinances — April 29, 2020

Selling Your Startup Shares: Comparison of Secondary Stock Marketplaces

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If you are still deciding whether or not to pursue selling your stock, you may find starting with this article helpful: Cashing Out Startup Shares: Calculating Potential Value and Costs

If you are ready to do so, and need guidance on which platform to use to execute on next steps, we’ve explained several specific options and their tradeoffs below.

Platforms and Marketplaces: EquityZen vs. Forge vs. SharesPost vs. CartaX

These well-known trading platforms and marketplaces for private securities allow individual and institutional investors to have access to private stock, and consequently provide secondary liquidity options to private companies and their employees. These are generally available to both companies and individual shareholders:

PlatformCan be used byScaleSecurities SupportedFees to the SellerMinimum Sale Size
EquityZenIndividual shareholders, private funds, individual investors80K+ shareholders & investors, 200+ companiesVested shares5% upon sale charged to the seller; can be reduced for larger sales$175K, but shares can be pooled with another shareholder of the same company should individual holdings not meet the minimum required
ForgePrivate companies, individual shareholders, private funds, and individual investors$2.6B+ transaction volume since inception, 200+ institutional investorsVested shares and forward contractsOne-time commission, typically around 5%~$100K; can’t be pooled
SharesPostPrivate companies, individual shareholders, private funds, and individual investors$4.5B+ transaction volume since inception, 300+ private companies traded on the platformVested shares and forward contractsBaseline fee of  5% to the seller for transactions greater than $100,000; For transactions less than $100,000, SharesPost’s fee is a flat $5,000~$100K; can’t be pooled
CartaXNot available currently, to be launched in 2020

 

Sale to an Insider: Board Member, Founder, Existing Investor, Fellow Employee, etc.

In some cases, though fairly uncommon, an employee may have luck selling stock privately to an individual who wishes to increase their ownership.

Available Only to Companies (Not Individual Shareholders)

Private equity funds that specialize in purchasing secondary preferred and common stock to provide secondary liquidity to companies and their shareholders:

General Considerations

Regardless of which specific platform you use to sell, we highly recommend the following:

Work with a tax advisor to avoid tax surprises. Two key examples:

Confirm whether company cooperation is needed for a private sale of shares; potentially work with a legal advisor if you’re not sure. Due to the right of first refusal process and other potential agreements, easiest and most time-efficient way to obtain liquidity might be to participate in a company sponsored secondary round or secure financing that complies with transfer restrictions. However, many large later stage companies have experience working with secondary marketplaces like Sharespost, EquityZen, and Forge.

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