The Three Levels of an IPO. Which Are You In? What Ought to You Be Doing Now?


If you happen to work—or labored—at a personal firm, possibly you suppose IPO planning is simply what you do within the few months earlier than and after the IPO.

After years of working with folks earlier than, throughout, and after an IPO, I’ve taken to dividing the IPO “journey” into three phases: 

  1. Years earlier than the IPO
  2. Instantly main as much as the IPO and one to 2 years after
  3. For the remainder of your life

In case you are conscious of those phases, and which stage you’re in, you possibly can extra successfully focus your time, vitality, and feelings as a substitute of you being extra….blllaaarrrhhhhggg. (That’s my finest description of the way it feels to be overwhelmed by ignorance and nervousness and an excessive amount of to be taught and do and no sense of focus. How’d I do?)

Your IPO is a transition. One in all many you’ll undergo. 

I really feel compelled to notice, lest you get tunnel imaginative and prescient round “the IPO” particularly: An IPO generally is a massive monetary occasion. And, essentially, it’s “simply” yet another transition in your life. 

As people, at just about all ages, we’re always going by way of transitions, massive and small: get married, change jobs, retire, have kids, transfer, have well being issues, inherit cash, and many others. That’s life! The work of navigating all these transitions is what good monetary planning is all about.

Let’s focus on every stage of the IPO journey by way of:

  • What defines the stage?
    That is merely my framework, and it helped me perceive the IPO journey higher. Hopefully it is going to aid you, too. Different cheap frameworks doubtless exist.
  • How liquid is your organization inventory at this stage?
    Put merely, how straightforward is it to show your organization inventory into money? May you purchase bananas along with your firm inventory cash tomorrow? The much less liquid your organization inventory, the less decisions you’ve gotten. Which could be each good (fewer choices!) and unhealthy (you should retain the danger of getting a lot of your potential wealth in your organization inventory).
  • How complicated is that this stage, and how much complexity is there?
    The extra complicated, the extra like you might be to be wired about it and to Do Nothing for concern of doing the fallacious factor.
  • What are the most effective practices at this stage?
    If you happen to’re so inclined, you possibly can skip straight to this half.

Stage 1: Years earlier than the IPO

Your organization hasn’t filed to go IPO. You hope it is going to occur within the subsequent one, two, or few years, however in the event you’re sincere with your self, you don’t actually know when and if it’ll occur.

Liquidity: Most likely none.

You doubtless don’t have any strategy to flip your organization inventory into cash at this level.

If you happen to’re fortunate, possibly you may get liquidity (flip your inventory into money) by way of:

  1. Taking part in a young provide out of your firm 
  2. Promoting inventory by way of a personal secondary market like ForgeGlobal or EquityZen

Often, although, you’ve gotten a number of potential wealth, however no precise wealth by way of your organization inventory. That is what you signed up for, proper?

Complexity degree: Some

If in case you have double-trigger RSUs, there’s actually nothing to be performed about your organization inventory. Chill and loosen up, man! That inventory received’t grow to be yours till a “liquidity occasion,” like an IPO or your organization getting acquired. 

In one case, we’ve seen a (very massive) non-public firm totally vest a shopper’s double-trigger RSUs whereas the corporate was nonetheless non-public, as a part of a young provide, to permit its workers to promote a few of their firm inventory for money. This was very cool…and actually distinctive in our shopper expertise.

If in case you have inventory choices, then sure, you’ve gotten a choice to make: train or maintain the choices? At this early-ish stage in your organization’s existence, there’s most likely a lot of uncertainty in its future and so any cash you place into your organization inventory is a big gamble (i.e., it’s best to depend on shedding it…all).  

How do you make this determination? There are such a lot of issues.

Greatest Practices at This Stage

  1. Self work.
    Begin exploring and clarifying for your self What Is Necessary to You? Who’re you, deep down?

    It’s this understanding—who you might be and what you worth—that may aid you make the gnarly technical choices when the IPO occurs.

    However that is understanding that doesn’t simply spring into existence, totally fashioned, like Athena from Zeus’s head. It’s a journey. One which by no means ends, in truth, and the extra time you give it, the higher your understanding of your self can be.

  2. Get the remainder of your monetary life so as.
    Why? In order that if/when the IPO occurs, you received’t even be worrying about whether or not you’ve gotten ample life insurance coverage, or how a lot to avoid wasting to your 401(okay) or learn how to make investments your 401(okay) or how it’s essential to get your will and powers of lawyer drafted.
  3. Determine whether or not or to not train exercisable choices (together with early exercising choices, if that’s obtainable).

This stage begins along with your firm submitting their S-1 to formally announce their intention to go public, goes by way of the precise IPO, after which lasts for a 12 months or two after.

Why does this stage final for therefore lengthy after the IPO occasion itself? As a result of the direct impacts of the IPO proceed for no less than a 12 months after the IPO. It’s a must to modify to the various new monetary realities of working in a public firm. 

Liquidity: Lastly!

That is what you’ve been ready for, for years! If you happen to’re nonetheless working on the firm, you’ll solely be capable to promote inventory throughout buying and selling home windows (and in the event you’re a muckety muck within the firm, you is perhaps topic to much more stringent restrictions). 

Complexity degree: Excessive technical complexity

That is an intensely technically complicated stage.

Main as much as the IPO and the IPO itself

It’s a must to perceive:

  • When will the IPO occur?
    When your organization information its S-1, that doc will doubtless give some notion of when the corporate will IPO, however you’ll doubtless be taught the precise day solely a pair days prematurely. So that you’ll wish to get your preparatory work performed nicely prematurely!
  • How the IPO will work?
    When will double-trigger RSUs vest? When will you be allowed to promote shares? Are there any restrictions on what number of shares you possibly can promote throughout these instances? Are you able to select how a lot tax is withheld when your double-trigger RSUs vest?
  • Which monetary establishment goes to manage the IPO? (Schwab? Constancy? Morgan Stanley?) How does their internet interface work? (My guess = Not nicely.)

Within the 12 months or two after the IPO

Now you might be working at a public firm and/or have inventory in a public firm. There are such a lot of main implications of this assertion.

  • Your RSUs are actually taxable after they vest. And also you doubtless owe estimated taxes.
  • Possibly now you’ve gotten entry to an ESPP.
  • You may promote your organization inventory simply now! What number of shares and when are you going to promote? What are the taxes and the way will you pay them?
  • You now are topic to buying and selling home windows. That’s, you possibly can solely promote the corporate inventory (in the event you’re nonetheless working on the firm) for just a few weeks out of each quarter.
  • Your tax return (and the way a lot you owe in taxes) for the 12 months of IPO goes to be bonkers.
  • Possibly you’re motivated to present to charity. How do you determine how a lot?
  • Exercising choices is totally different as a result of now you can train and promote, not simply train and maintain.

There may be clearly lots of technical work to be performed right here. A lot that the emotional work may get squeezed out a bit. However it’s best to know that one of many greatest challenges of this transition begins now: your identification begins to shift from “I’m not rich” to “I’m rich.” 

That shift brings with all of it new emotions, behaviors, obligations, and prospects. If our shoppers are any indication, this can be a bizarre and thrilling and discomfiting change. How are you going to work by way of that evolution? Will you even be you anymore?

Greatest Practices at This Stage

  1. Self work.
    If you happen to haven’t already frolicked determining who you might be and what you need, please put aside a while to speak by way of that with mates, your accomplice, a monetary planner, and many others. The clearer you might be on this, the simpler and higher your technical monetary choices can be.
  2. Find out how the IPO will work.
  3. Create and execute a method for all of the features of your fairness compensation:
    Know that this technique received’t survive the IPO intact. As the primary few months or 12 months unfolds, it’s okay to revise the technique if issues unfold approach in another way than anticipated. However having one thing you possibly can adapt is approach higher than making an attempt to construct the airplane whereas flying it.
  4. Be ready for chaos.
    We realized lots of classes whereas serving to a number of shoppers by way of the Airbnb IPO (which was, in our opinion, a really profitable and well-run IPO in most regards).
  5. Rent a CPA who is aware of how IPOs and fairness comp work.
    Significantly folks, do not DIY this mom. I can’t say something categorically, however you might be Very Probably To Remorse not having a superb CPA in your aspect. And don’t low cost out on it both.
  6. Construct an funding portfolio, suited to your objectives and your threat tolerance, that may stand the check of time.
    You’ve gotten actual cash now. Probably for the primary time, or possibly you simply grew current wealth a lot larger. Which means it’s essential to be critical (which doesn’t imply “sophisticated”!) about your investing, possibly for the primary time in your life. Learn our funding rules right here

Stage 3: For the remainder of your life

After you get by way of all of the preliminary sturm und drang of the IPO—you’ve discovered how a lot you owe in taxes, you’ve realized learn how to take care of RSUs vesting in a public firm, you now have an affordable funding portfolio, and many others.—whether or not that takes one 12 months or two or extra, you can begin placing the IPO occasion behind you and begin determining: The place can I’m going from right here?

Liquidity: Heaps. All of the liquidity.

When you’re now not on the firm, you possibly can promote the inventory for grocery cash everytime you need (so long as you’re not married to somebody who additionally works on the firm…it occurs!). 

If you happen to’re nonetheless working on the firm, you might be nonetheless topic to buying and selling home windows. 

Complexity degree: Excessive human complexity

Relying on the quantity of wealth you now have, your technical complexity might nonetheless even be excessive. I are typically leery of sophisticated technical options, however generally there may be some unavoidable “complexity of privilege,” as I’ve dubbed it.

For sure, your private panorama has now completely modified. 

Your work at this stage is to orient your self on this new panorama, and discover the probabilities on this new stage of your life. What comes forward?

For all the worth of the technical work you’ve performed these previous couple of years to organize for and get by way of the IPO, it truly is now that every one that work begins to repay, and also you get to begin designing a probably very new life for your self.

There are fewer questions like “ought to I train my choices and promote or maintain?” and “when ought to I promote my RSU shares?” They’ve been changed with thrilling and sure angst-y questions within the class of “Nicely, I’ve acquired all this cash. Now what?” 

Questions like:

  1. Ought to I give up my job? 
  2. Can I cease working? 
  3. Ought to I’m going again to high school? 
  4. Can I take a sabbatical? 
  5. Ought to I purchase a brand new house? 
  6. Ought to I totally fund my child’s school fund?
  7. I’ve actual issues in regards to the state of the world. How do I exploit a few of this wealth to do one thing about it?

As my enterprise coach, a long-time monetary planner herself, describes it: there are three sorts of questions in monetary planning:

  • Easy: “Am I eligible to make a Roth IRA contribution?” You may simply google it.
  • Sophisticated: “How a lot Various Minimal Tax (AMT) will I owe if I train these ISOs?” It’s essential to truly work at that, however there may be an reply.
  • Complicated: To wit, all of these questions listed above. There isn’t an reply. There are innumerable variables, lots of that are unknowable. The (or a) proper reply will find yourself being a mixture of the numerical and the human.

When you get to Stage 3, welcome to Complicated. For the remainder of your life.

Greatest Practices at This Stage

  1. Self work.
    Have you ever observed the pattern? In massive and small methods, it’s essential to proceed to find who you might be. This can be a significantly good time to do centered or prolonged work on your self. Now you’ve gotten the assets to make massive adjustments in your life. You may suppose that having the cash is the top of the IPO journey. For my part, it’s actually just the start. The cash is a software for…what, precisely? That’s your work now.
  2. Proceed to execute (and evaluate and adapt) no matter methods you created earlier than.
  3. If you happen to haven’t reworked your property plan since coming into this new wealth, please attain out to an property planning lawyer.
  4. Shield your wealth.
    If you happen to haven’t ensured that your insurance coverage protection (life, incapacity, umbrella legal responsibility, and many others.) is suitable for this new degree of wealth, please attain out to an insurance coverage dealer. Relying on simply how a lot wealth there may be and what you do in your corporation and private lives, there may must be different, extra sophisticated property planning work right here. An lawyer (property planning, household regulation, and many others.) can advise you.

I hope that this framework for eager about your organization’s IPO is useful. I believe it’s a superb framework, however it’s not the one one.

In case you are in your IPO journey and need a pondering accomplice to get you thru the easy, sophisticated, and complicated components of it, attain out and schedule a free session or ship us an electronic mail.

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Disclaimer: This text is offered for academic, normal info, and illustration functions solely. Nothing contained within the materials constitutes tax recommendation, a suggestion for buy or sale of any safety, or funding advisory providers. We encourage you to seek the advice of a monetary planner, accountant, and/or authorized counsel for recommendation particular to your scenario. Copy of this materials is prohibited with out written permission from Movement Monetary Planning, LLC, and all rights are reserved. Learn the complete Disclaimer.


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