How do co-founders actually split equity?

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How co-founders split equity in their company is one of the first major decisions in the life of a startup. Figuring out the right allocation for each co-founder can be a messy, difficult process—but avoiding this tough conversation is a recipe for grievances and recriminations in the future. 

Unfortunately, most co-founders go into this crucial discussion with little to no context. What is the split distribution across all startups? Do many co-founders simply stick with an equal division of equity? How does the industry you’re in affect this decision?

The Carta research team investigated the equity allocations from 7,764 companies and 18,228 founders to provide useful benchmarks to early-stage founding teams. All companies in this data set were founded on or after January 1, 2019.

Key highlights

  • Equal split? Think again. Only 41% of two-founder teams split equity equally—and that percentage falls drastically for three-, four-, and five-founder teams.
  • Industry plays a major role. Founding teams tend to vary in size depending on the industry they’re in. For instance, nearly 60% of biotech startups have three or more founders.
  • First among (co)-founders. Across all sizes of founding team, there is typically a “lead” founder who receives an outsize proportion of company equity. Often, this founder becomes the CEO and head decision maker for the business.

In the full report, we show you exactly how founding teams of your size have split equity recently. Download the report and walk into your upcoming cofounder conversations with confidence.


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DISCLOSURE: This communication is on behalf of eShares Inc., d/b/a Carta Inc. (“Carta”).  This communication is for informational purposes only, and contains general information only.  Carta is not, by means of this communication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services.  This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business or interests.  Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business or interests, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.  This communication is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Carta does not assume any liability for reliance on the information provided herein. ©2021 eShares Inc., d/b/a Carta Inc. (“Carta”). All rights reserved. Reproduction prohibited.

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