When I joined the startup I currently work for, I was offered a number of shares as part of my compensation. Unfortunately, I've been given no indication as to what they're actually worth with respect to the future valuation of the company, and the owners are keeping this information secret.

Is there any way to estimate the total outstanding shares to get a better feel for the potential future value of my shares? Is there any sort of typical range? Can I look at other indicators for clues?

Edit: This is a US company. The shares Incentive Stock Options.

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    Maybe obvious, but just knowing the outstanding shares would tell you nothing without knowing the value of the company, and the outstanding shares can change dramatically for startups as new shares are issued for new investors. – D Stanley Feb 18 '20 at 20:11
  • Country of employer? Rules may differ based on where you are working and where the employer is located. – Morrison Chang Feb 18 '20 at 20:47
  • You should also clarify what you mean by offered a number of shares: ISOs, NSQs, stock warrants, actual ownership shares (either as a high value employee or company officer)? Also if the company is a tech startup, rounds of funding is generally reported through various sites/outlets. Probably related Why is there a significant disparity between 409A valuation and fair market value – Morrison Chang Feb 18 '20 at 21:35

and the owners are keeping this information secret.

As per most security laws - depending on country - this is not legal. Any offer of shares must be accompanied by all relevant information. I would insist on a full prospectus.

Without the information you are obliged to have, you have no basis for any valuation.

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    Fully agreed. I would go further to state that the omission of this information is a red flag, either of ineptitude, lack of employee respect, or probably both. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Feb 18 '20 at 21:43
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    And if you actually have been granted the shares, you now have shareholder rights which I believe should include, among other things, receiving periodic reports which should include the total number of shares outstanding, revenue and expenses, and such. – Michael Feb 18 '20 at 21:50

In the U.S., a private corporation is formed with a state. So the stock classes and the number of authorized shares can be looked up with the state. In fact, depending on the state, the state might require that shareholder lists be publicly available. But Deleware, for instance, does not require publicly available shareholder lists of private corporations.

Also, financial-account paperwork has beneficial owners listed and requires updates.

Finally, if the company publicly offers stock, as a private corporation not trading on the stock market, then there is paperwork with both the state and the SEC. An offering of unregistered securities is found on a Form D notice while registered securities are found by the prospectus filing.

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