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It is an odd artifact of history that private markets have zero liquidity, public markets have hyper-liquidity, and there is nothing in between. This illiquidity in private markets has created three problems.

Employees live poorer

Startup employees take lower salaries in exchange for equity. Today, the only path to liquidity is IPO or acquisition for which 99% of startup employees never see. For the overwhelming majority of startup employees, the equity lottery ticket is never redeemed and their paper wealth never converts to real wealth.

For the lucky few employees to work for a company on the path to IPO, it can take so long (sometimes a decade or more), that pay cuts for equity are not worth it. Founders and venture investors don’t have this problem. Founders often negotiate personal liquidity into their financing rounds and investors are paid a generous 2% in annual fees for the lifetime of their fund. …

The recent press about Carta has been hard. For me, but more importantly for Carta employees. I have spent the last few weeks listening to a lot of the women at Carta and reflecting on the recent allegations and press. Below is what I’ve been thinking about.

I started my first company to work on the wealth inequality problem by building risk management software for retail investors. The idea came to me when I was working at an investment bank building portfolio management software for fixed income traders. The tools we built for the bank’s traders were far more sophisticated than anything regular investors had access to. …

Below is my note to employees about the recent events we are facing as a nation. I want to share my perspective here with you all as well.

Many of you that have worked with me for a long time know that I rarely, if ever, speak out on political or social issues. I have long believed in the separation of church and state when it comes to corporate agendas and social/political activism.

This is different. Our government’s response to the death of George Floyd and the subsequent civil unrest is disgraceful. The lack of acknowledgement, empathy, and desire to do better is hard to stomach. The unchecked brutality of police towards black citizens, the untreated ravaging of covid in black communities, the 40M unemployed and counting disproportionately made up of black men and women…. I was born in 1976 and have seen our government at its best and worst. …

Below is a memo I wrote to the company in February. Many ceos face similar challenges of keeping a growing, and in our case regulated, organization executing with the same relentless and risk-taking spirit of the early days.

I thought I’d share my memo for other ceos that are facing similar challenges. The good news is that it is fixable and three months later we at Carta have gotten much of our stride back.

A Bias to Action

Recently I’ve been in a number of meetings where it felt we lost our Bias to Action. Instead of helping to nurture and implement a new idea, teams discussed the ways it could go wrong. Some tried to convince others that it wasn’t a good idea. Others were just pessimistic, creating the same effect. …

Today we announced layoffs at Carta of 161 people. Below is the announcement I made to the company at our all hands this morning. I’m sharing in the hope that it will help other ceos as they think about their layoff programs. If you are a ceo planning a layoff and would like help thinking through it, feel free to reach out to me.

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked about the work we are doing around recession planning. I also said that layoffs were likely but I have been delaying any decisions around it for as long as possible. …

U.S. policymakers have moved quickly to approve up to $349 billion in loans for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). But the process of getting these loans to small businesses has been overwhelming for small businesses and for lenders.

Carta sits in a unique position to help.

Last weekend we built and tested a simplified application for small businesses and streamlined the lending process with our partner banks.

If you are a Carta customer applying for a PPP loan, you can access our simplified application process here. If you need help understanding how the program works, we’ve outlined it in more detail here.

Below is the end of year address that I shared with the company at the end of 2019.

The year of 2019
What a year. We went from $49M to $93M in ARR. We hired 421 employees ending the year with 860. We started two new business lines, CartaX and Financial products, and hit scale on our core business of cap tables and fund administration. We added our Waterloo office with 60 new employees. We raised $300M and became a unicorn.This was also a hard year. We had 115 employees leave. We didn’t grow as fast as we thought we would. Our product and engineering teams were mired in a quicksand of technical debt. And our delivery teams, including onboarding, support, valuations, and especially fund administration, were constantly scrambling and overworked keeping our customers happy and our business afloat. As I reflect over the last year and look ahead to the next, I want to share a few thoughts with you. …

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Carta is a fun company because the more problems we solve, the more problems we get to solve. Today we have more problems to solve than bandwidth to solve them. But we still want these problems to be solved.

Introducing Carta Ventures. Below are three startup ideas that we think can become important and big companies. We are looking for founding teams to build them. For the teams we decide to work with, we offer the following:

  1. We will lead or co-lead your seed round.
  2. You will get access to our public APIs and infrastructure.
  3. You will get free office space in our office. …

Below is an internal memo I shared with the company about an update to how we give offers at Carta.

I’d like to implement a First and Best Offer compensation framework where we:

  1. Give our best offer to each new candidate
  2. We pay employees the highest compensation we are willing to pay them

Why First and Best

There is plenty of data (see below) that says negotiating offer letters disadvantages women and URMs. And independent of academic studies, intuitively we know that negotiation rewards the aggressive over the earnest. …

Below is a memo I published to the company about why we don’t serve hard alcohol at company events. Every company and culture is different. This is one of our weird rules that I wanted to share more broadly to help others understand us and our strange ways.

I’m sure many are aware that I have a rule at Carta that we don’t provide or allow hard liquor at Carta and Carta employee events. I want to explain why we have this rule.

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It is possible to drink hard alcohol responsibly and many people do. It is also possible to drink beer and wine irresponsibly and unfortunately some people do. But the odds of irresponsible drinking go up dramatically when hard liquor is introduced. What starts as responsible drinking quickly turns into irresponsible drinking once somebody suggests “shots!” …


Henry Ward

CEO at Carta

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