{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "I’m in the process of negotiating compensation with a hyper growth startup in SF. I would be their first legal hire. The company wants me to come in at senior counsel position. As part of comp, they are granting stock options. Is there a market standard for how many options I should ask for? How do I benchmark here? Any thoughts suggestions would be greatly appreciated!", "post_id": "5fb6baadac44a70024dd8076", "reply_count": 17, "vote_count": 3, "bowl_id": "5dc50686129b3e0021a249b4", "bowl_name": "In-House Counsel" }

I’m in the process of negotiating compensation with a hyper growth startup in SF. I would be their first legal hire. The company wants me to come in at senior counsel position. As part of comp, they are granting stock options. Is there a market standard for how many options I should ask for? How do I benchmark here? Any thoughts suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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It depends on the valuation and what you personally think the gamble is worth. I've been offered both 1000 shares and 250,000. If you get in early with a large offer and a low strike price, you may be able to cash out significantly in a few years. Or you may not make anything at all. I would also be somewhat wary of being the first and solo legal hire with a senior counsel title, especially if you have less than 10 years of practice. Sounds like a company that wants a GC without having to pay the price of one. You'll also be in a rough spot risk-wise, since a high growth start-up is generally going to want to take riskier positions and will look to you to bless that, or will override your advice, and maybe throw you under the bus when it backfires.

likesmarthelpful

Pretty much a perfect answer. Be analytical. Think about the present value of what is being presented to you. Understand how they value their package. Remember, they’re going to interpret their value in the manner best for them.

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Please PM me. It is very important you report to the Board or the CEO. This is a very high risk position.

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I'd value them at zero or close to it. It is a long shot for most companies to have a significant liquidity event (sale or IPO) and without that equity is worthless.

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It’s not entirely binary. A lot of this depends on the company, the industry, the investor base. An IPO is not the only prospective source of liquidity. I worked at a company where every departing executive whose equity incentives had vested that wanted to sell found a buyer. It may not have been top dollar, but it was liquidity and in most cases, they made more or less what they would have had they taken all cash comp from the beginning. This is not necessarily the norm, but it’s not unheard of either. Of course you shouldn’t bet the farm on it. Remember, in many of the best scenarios, realizing a dime of it is years away. The cash component must be enough on its own.

And BTW, this was me 18 mos ago. What is their plan for scaling legal?

Oh, one other thing I wanted to point out is that stock options are options to PURCHASE, meaning for there to be any future value to you, you have to buy them. This is unfortunately not immediately obvious to a lot of people. When the time comes, you'll need to have some liquidity available to use on them. This can be challenging, especially if there is no real market on which to sell them to realize some of their increase in value (doesn't do you much good to spend 10 grand on shares that are now valued at 40 grand if there's nowhere to sell them). Most people exercise and hold for some time, because there is little actual market and because of the time necessary to qualify for capital gains rather than income tax.

Good point, GC. How common do you think that is? I've only seen cashless exercise happen once, and not built into the equity incentive plan - it was part of a share buy back to create liquidity for long-time option holders who hadn't seen any reward on those grants yet. (Context- I've been in house for my whole career, so I've only seen what I've personally helped to carry out.)

Thanks for the input. The company has raised so far $75M in two rounds. This role would be reporting to VP of corp dev. The primary responsibility is to focus on helping negotiate sell-side commercial contracts and build out a commercial legal function. It is not meant to be a GC role. The reporting structure is a bit odd and while I would certainly prefer to be “GC”, I’m not opposed to starting with build out the commerical legal function first. However, I will be an individual contributor at the beginning so who knows what sort of resources and future headcount I can get in order to successfully build out this function. I just don’t want to start a position that is doomed for failure. I can’t tell if this is that sort of role.

CLO1 is very wise. This. This. This.

I gave done well on options and such once, and have a bit if a stack of worthless options and shares. Think of shares and such as gravey and keep your eyes on getting enough cash. So many variables, so who knows what such things are worth at any point in time.

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