Product Hunt Daily Digest
January 18th, 2022

The truth about unicorn companies

Today’s Daily Digest was crafted by us and sponsored by our friends at Forge.

We surpassed 900 unicorns last year, with a cumulative valuation nearing $3 trillion. Such milestones typically call for celebration, but the occasion can be muddled for employees.

Financial experts warn us: equity is higher risk than typical cash income. Nonetheless, risk-averse and bullish talent is lured to startups by the potential of a huge cash-out when their companies go public. Going further, one survey notes that 92% of startup employees have taken a personal financial risk to own the stock options they were offered. Former Airbnb employee, Gabriel Cole, told the NYT that he had spent his life savings to buy his stock in 2015.

The standard employee stock vesting period is 4 years. So what happens when a company takes even longer to IPO? After all, the median age at which companies make their public debut increased from 4 years to 12 years between 2009 and 2020 as more founders choose to stay private for longer.

In the case of Airbnb, it meant frustration. A staff letter to the founders helped push the company to IPO in 2020, after 12 years private.

All of these trends have led to a boom in secondary markets for private equity. Companies like Forge are making it easy for founders to give their employees the option to sell their shares while the company is still private. That gives employees liquidity, so they can free up some cash to do things like buy a home, and it supports founders who aren’t in a rush to IPO.

It also helps founders attract talent, which is crucial with so many workers looking to jump ship. Those risk-averse people who lean towards a higher salary and liquid stock grants from public tech giants may be more willing to join a scrappy team knowing their assets won’t be locked up for 12 years.

Though pre-IPO liquidity was possible pre-Forge, it was difficult. When Airbnb employees needed liquidity, they took their own path, jumping through legal hoops with the help of brokers to sell off shares. Knowing if they were getting a good price for their stock was tricky with no visibility into demand or current pricing. Forge’s marketplace simplifies the process and is designed around market-based pricing so employees get for their shares what the market is willing to pay.

Today’s launch precedes the company’s own public trading debut early this year. Forge emerged as the largest player in its space, with rival multinational banks trying to play catchup. Companies on the platform include the buzzy neobank, Chime, which announced a $750 million Series G in August and is targeting March for an IPO.

Founders and employees can browse startups on the platform and get started on the site.👇

To Forge Global

Framer is launching a new product to add to your no-code arsenal: Framer Sites Beta. It lets you design your own page on a blank canvas that’s ready to be published in seconds.

The beta version covers over 30 integrations, including Figma. That means you won’t have to rebuild your designs or use complicated workflows.

The team is looking for your feedback, so go craft your page and report back.

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