Cap Table Management: Top 10 Software for Startups in 2021 

December 14th, 2020

In early days of starting up, your cap table is often simple and can be managed on Excel. It’s free, it’s simple, it works. However, as your startup scales, you raise funding, hire people and grant equity options, keeping this information up-to-date and accurate can be a cumbersome task. Mistakes at this stage are costly and relying on professional legal help for each action can slow you down significantly. So here you are looking for a significant upgrade to your Excel cap table.

To help you choose the best system for your startup, we've collated a list of 2021's top 10 cap table management software programs.

Lets find you the best one for your needs!

5 Criteria Founders Should Consider When Choosing a Cap Table Tool

We’ve evaluated these tools based on 5 key criteria that early to late stage founders should keep in mind when choosing a cap table management system.

  • Ease of use. An equity management system should help you automate and streamline the complexity of the equity management process without a huge learning curve. The interface should be simple, intuitive, and save you time and money.
  • Cap Table Management. This is the core of it. A good system will enable you to centrally track and manage who holds equity and has the right to exercise equity in the future covering transactions like exercise of options, cancellations, conversions of debt to equity, transfers, and stock issuances with legal compliance.
  • 409A Valuations. A 409A is used to determine the value of a company’s common stock and set the strike price for issued options. 409A valuations should be done annually or each time the company has a material event like a new financing round, keeping you protected from costly audits and penalties.
  • Compliance. A key benefit from using an equity management system is to achieve compliance with relevant regulations and taxes without needing professional legal assistance at each step.
  • Growth and Exit Scenario Modeling. Planning for your next round or an exit event? A good system should help you model out different scenarios, assess the impact on stakeholders, and ultimately, help you choose the best path for your startup.

10 Best Cap Table Software for Founders in 2020

#1 Carta

  • Pricing: Based on stakeholder count, complexity, and plan; Annual Subscription
  • Best for: Large and Medium Businesses
  • Free Trial: Yes
  • 409A Valuation: Free in every paid plan
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web-based, iOS, Android
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy Features:

  • Offers support for all security types (issue preferred stock, restricted stock awards, restricted stock units, profits interests, warrants, convertible notes, and SAFEs, etc)
  • Provides real-time cap table updates and reports are auditor-ready with formulas
  • Has built-in checks (Rule 701, Rule 144, and ISO $100K limit) to ensure compliance when issuing equity
  • Provides ASC 718 reports and 409A valuations which are regularly audited by the “Big 4” accounting firms
  • Offers robust scenario modeling tools that pull data directly from the cap table making it effortless to plan for financing rounds and exits
  • Provides a streamlined process for option grants, board consents, and approvals that can be stored and encrypted for historical documents
  • Offers feature to send updates on financials, customer wins, and company performance through the investor updates portal

Pros:

  • A combination of intuitive and comprehensive which makes Carta ideal for both experienced and first time tech entrepreneurs
  • Easy to use, clean interface makes equity management process efficient and a big time saver
  • Ability to manage ESOPs and RSUs into a single place

Cons:

  • Comprehensive capabilities may not be of great value to smaller startups
  • Some of the features are a bit hidden and expensive

#2  Pulley

  • Pricing: Startup - Free, Growth - $7/stakeholder/mo, Scale - by quote
  • Best for: Small, Medium Businesses
  • Free Trial: Yes
  • 409 Valuation: Yes 
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy Features:

  • Manage and issue digital certificates to investors and employees
  • Provides 409A valuations in 5 days
  • Uses machine learning models that read documents to create cap tables, resulting in fewer data entry errors
  • Offers 15 minute onboarding
  • Provides modeling tools (with pre-money SAFEs, post-money SAFEs and factors in pro-ratas and discounts) which help founders model dilution in future rounds
  • Pulley works with accelerators like YCombinator to help their portfolio companies manage their cap table

Pros:

  • Free for early-stage companies regardless of size of funding amount raised

Cons:

  • N/A

#3 Captable.io

  • Pricing: Seed to Series A: $160/mo, Series B: $280/mo, Series C+: by quote
  • Best for: Small and Medium Businesses
  • Free Trial: Yes (free version/demo)
  • 409A Valuation: Yes
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web-based
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy Features:

  • Provides a fully-guided process that enables startup founders to set up their cap tables
  • Cap tables are free and can be securely shared with employees, co-founders, and investors
  • With the ‘Fast409A’ process, 409A valuation takes just an hour or less to submit and is delivered within days instead of weeks
  • Offers reliable round and exit modeling tools which allow founders to explore the effect of liquidation preferences
  • Access to ‘HiringPlan, a headcount-planning tool for startups with built-in marketing data
  • Access to ‘Runway, a cash planning tool to help companies understand, manage, and extend their cash runway
  • Access to ‘Disclosure which makes it easy for founders to provide the information and files that the investors are requesting and saves them from duplication of effort and wasted time

Pros:

  • Free tool that makes cap table creation and scenario modeling as easy as possible

Cons:

  • Captable.io doesn’t have tools to help companies streamline communication with their board and investors

#4 Ledgy

  • Pricing: Startup (Free), Premium (€2 / stakeholder / month), Enterprise (by quote); Annual Subscription
  • Best for: Small and Medium Businesses
  • Free Trial: Yes
  • 409A Valuation: Yes
  • Cap table management: Yes 
  • Supported Platform: Web-based
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy Features:

  • Best for companies/startups with high-growth ambitions and investors with multiple portfolios
  • The tool is deployed via the cloud so it can be accessed virtually anytime and anywhere, which is great for investors who are always on the go
  • Offers digital signing and signature workflows to sign shareholder agreements and convertible loans online
  • Allows reports and KPI sharing with investors
  • Offers flexible round modeling and ability to assess the impact of liquidation preferences with waterfall analysis and breakpoint charts
  • Cap tables with granular access levels allow owners to control and double-check the publishing of new transactions
  • Supports efficient implementation and management of employee participation plan, encompassing stock options, and vested stocks
  • Offers instant customizable PDF and excel exports

Pros:

  • Great tool for portfolio management and seamless communication with stakeholders
  • Single click access to information which is presented in an easy to understand, visual way
  • History on transactions, splits, valuations can be viewed together without tedious search
  • Support is always available

Cons:

  • Doesn't have the ability to automatically send pre-formatted update reports on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis
  • Logon procedure has been a little bit confusing for new users

#5 Certent Equity Compensation Management

  • Pricing: Quote-based
  • Best for: Medium and Large Businesses 
  • Free Trial: Free Demo
  • 409 Valuation: Yes
  • Cap Table Management: Yes 
  • Supported Platform: Web-based
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy Features:

  • Best for public and private companies from start-up to enterprise in all industries
  • Uses distribution waterfall with a high-impact graphical presentation to model and compare various term sheets and analyze capitalization outcomes
  • Offers comprehensive Equity Compensation Management that simplifies and streamlines all crucial aspects of stock administration and reporting including ASC 178 components (valuation, SEC disclosure, dilution, expensing, and corporate tax)
  • Features DisclosureNet which provides a comprehensive suite of accounting standards to increase the quality of and readability of the company’s filings
  • Offers bootcamps, customized training, and coaching curriculum to customers
  • Provides a team to simplify complex reporting concepts associated with XBRL and to manage all SEC and proxy requirements for Equity Financial Reporting
  • Computes Black-Scholes valuations automatically and offers built-in expected lives and historical forfeiture calculator
  • ERSP Management which reduces time spent in managing ESPP programs

Pros:

  • Linked to ADP and Bank of America Merrill Lynch that make the equity management process more seamless 
  • Ability to handle a number of award types, from stock options to RSA/RSUs to PSUs
  • Integration with vast network of brokers is helpful based on company needs
  • Support has been very knowledgeable on the software, tax, and accounting principles around equity management

Cons:

  • No functionality for viewing different tabs simultaneously without having to navigate away from other windows 
  • Users complain of a bland and basic UX 

#6 Shareworks by Morgan Stanley

  • Pricing: Quote-based
  • Best for: Small, Medium, Large Businesses
  • Free Trial: Free Demo
  • 409 Valuation: Yes
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web-based, Android, Apple

Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy features:

  • Best for businesses looking for control over their employee's equity plans
  • Available on app stores
  • Features Global Intelligence which is an easy-to-use online database of legal and international tax regulations and is updated regularly by a network of top global law firms
  • Enables private companies to run tender offers
  • Calculate stock compensation expense (ASC 718)
  • Allows lockdown to protect employees from trading during the blackout period and the ability to set up default release elections at vesting dates

Pros: 

  • Organized equity plan management makes work easy for admins
  • Employees get visibility into their stock value, vesting schedules, release option elections, etc. 
  • Employee legal and tax guides per country and award make legal and tax compliance easier to manage
  • Realtime dashboard shows current stock price at the top of the page allowing users to get quick glance updates

Cons: 

  • Limited functionality to run expense simulations based on different inputs
  • Potentially difficult to use if the user doesn’t have a financial background

#7 Gust Equity Management

  • Pricing: Quote-based
  • Best for: Small, Medium, Large Businesses
  • Free Trial: Yes
  • 409 Valuation: Yes 
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web-based
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy features:

  • Best for startups
  • Free software that offers a full suite of cap table management tools, modeling for rounds and exits, 409A valuations, and ASC718s
  • Main features include options and valuation management, private equity, and cap table management that enables users to see cap tables at any stage and share customized views with all stakeholders
  • Includes round modeling tools that make it easy to visualize the dilution impact on imminent equity
  • Provides audit-defensible 409A valuations within days

Pros: 

  • Easy, intuitive interface to manage the dispersal of equity internally instead of paying hefty hourly rates for a law firm to draft the documents 

Cons: 

  • Monetary exchanges for equity can’t be managed in the same system 
  • Some advanced capabilities not available that you may need as your startup grows

#8 EquityEffect

  • Pricing: Under 50 shareholders: Free, 50-249 shareholders: $99/mo, 250-750 shareholders: $399/mo 750+ shareholders: by quote
  • Best for: Small, Medium, and Large businesses
  • Free Trial: Yes
  • 409 Valuation: Yes 
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web-based
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy features:

  • Best for private companies, venture capital, private equity, and law firms
  • Offers cap table management that is designed to track and manage shares, convertible notes, warrants, options, and secondary transactions
  • Features include stock option planning, employee portal, and scenario modeling to evaluate term sheets and future funding rounds
  • Provides 409A valuation that is fully integrated and stored on EquityEffect, whether produced by partners or accounting firms
  • Users can set alerts and email notifications for ongoing maintenance

Pros: 

  • Simple navigation allows customers to understand and use the tool easily
  • Dashboard and cap table have useful graphics with quick rendering for easy to understand, quick updates

Cons: 

  • Users often run into bugs both in the UI/UX and core capabilities
  • No flexible reporting functionality
  • No forget password mechanism
  • Some users question the software’s reliability

#9 Capdesk

  • Pricing: Bronze - £50/mo, Silver - £100/mo, Gold - by quote
  • Best for: Small, Medium, Large businesses 
  • Free Trial: Yes 
  • 409A Valuation: Yes
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web-based
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy features:

  • Known for employee equity plan and reporting capabilities that have a quick set up and end-to-end functionality to share schemes and grants and deliver information to employees
  • Employee Share Management capability allows tracking of employee share options across jurisdictions, issuing of grants with electronic witness signatures, and giving employees access to their vesting schedule in real time
  • Board reporting feature where cap table and other information can be reported to the board
  • HMRC reports and Companies House filings (eg. EMI and CSOP Annual Return, SH01, SH02, SH06, CS01) can be produced and stored

Pros: 

  • Employee equity plan management capabilities are comprehensive and easy to use allowing one platform to issue shares, review/edit documents, and provide access to information to employees
  • Integration with DocuSign makes the online agreement process seamless
  • Processes of issuing certificates, exporting cap tables, adding new shareholders, etc. is easy

Cons: 

  • User have mentioned the UI is quirky and cumbersome at times
  • No capability for custom reports
  • Refreshing a template doesn’t always result in a new version of documents being created

#10 OPTRACK (now GEMSpm)

  • Pricing: Ramping Up: $90/mo, Scaling: $200/mo, Mature: $600/mo 
  • Best for: Small, Medium, Large Businesses
  • Free Trial: No
  • 409 Valuation: Yes 
  • Cap table: Yes
  • Supported Platform: Web
  • Scenario Modeling: Yes

Noteworthy features:

  • Designed by Computershare to streamline both private and public equity management
  • Easy processes to complete multifaceted financial reporting tasks and stay compliant
  • Detailed ownership reports and personalized views keeps stakeholders informed
  • Key capabilities include equity plan self-administration, financial reporting, cap table management, liability accounting, comprehensive internal reporting, document management, and detailed valuations
  • Automated expiry notification process
  • Provision for both ASC-718 and IFRS-2 standards where users have the choice of automatic Black Scholes calculations or manual calculations for accurate historical reporting

Pros: 

  • Strong, efficient capabilities for financial reporting
  • Great customer support with quick turnaround times

Cons: 

  • No free trial available

Choosing the Best Equity Management System as a Founder

It can be a challenging task to choose an equity management system for your startup. What you choose will depend on what you value more of the key criteria we discussed - ease of use, comprehensiveness of cap table management capabilities, 409A valuations, compliance stack, and scenario modeling capabilities. Choose a system that fits your needs today and enables your plans for the future.

We Can Help

Still confused? We can help. Write to us at hello@abstractops.com. We'll help you choose the right cap table system for your startup.

At AbstractOps, we help founders like you automate and streamline back office functions so you can focus on what matters.