Tech

EquityBee raises $20M to help startup employees actually afford their stock options

EquityBee, a stock option marketplace startup, has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding.

Group 11 led the financing, which also included participation from Oren Zeev Ventures, Battery Ventures and ICON Continuity Fund. It brings the company’s total raised to over $28 million since its 2018 inception.

EquityBee CEO and co-founder Oren Barzilai says his company’s mission is to help educate startup employees on the meaning of their stock options, as well as provide them with funds to be able to purchase them.

“I have seen many of my friends and colleagues negotiate a $500 salary increase, but completely disregard their stock options package, from lack of knowledge due to the whole field of startup stock options being opaque,” said Barzilai, who also founded Tapingo, which was acquired by Grubhub in 2018 for $150 million. “As a founder I saw my team members who helped build the company not take part in our success because they left prematurely and didn’t exercise their stock options.”

The way it works is fairly straightforward. EquityBee provides capital to startup employees so they can purchase stock options. The employees get money to cover the cost of exercising their stock options and the taxes. The investors who helped provide the funding so they could do that get a return, or a share of the profit, if there’s “a liquidity event.” EquityBee makes money by charging an upfront fee from the investor on the investment day, as well as any carried interest upon a successful exit or IPO.

Barzilai said that many employees don’t realize they have about 90 days to exercise options before they expire once they leave a company. And even if they do, they may not always have the money to exercise them. That’s where EquityBee wants to help.

The company was originally founded in Israel before launching in the U.S. market, and moved its headquarters to Silicon Valley in February 2020. Since then, it’s funded employees from “hundreds” of companies, including Airbnb, Palantir, DoorDash and Unity, with capital provided by family offices, funds and high-net individuals. Its investor community is made up of 8,000 funds, family offices and high-net worth individuals.

2020 was a good year for EquityBee, according to Barzilai, who says it grew by more than 560% the amount of money it raised to fund employee stock options. It also saw a 360% increase in the number of individual employees funded through its platform.

Looking ahead, the 33-person company plans to use the money toward hiring and expanding product offerings.

Dovi Frances, founding partner of Group 11, said it doubled down on EquityBee after backing the company in its $6.6 million funding round in February 2020 because it’s impressed by what it described as the company’s “perfect product market fit” and triple-digit growth.

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann led the company’s $1.5 million seed round in September of 2018.

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