“We needed an expert to help manage our ownership data”
White-glove cap table management
Disaster Tech optimizes employee ownership with the Astrella platform
Starting a business is hard. In addition to building a solution and bringing it to market, founders and CEOs need to wear many hats and be experts in legal, tax, HR, international requirements, marketing, communications, and so much more. Managing the company’s cap table and employee stock plan is complex, highly confidential, and just can’t be wrong.
Sean Griffin, co-founder and CEO of disaster recovery service provider Disaster Technologies, Inc. (aka Disaster Tech), knows this all too well. A fast-growing startup in a highly competitive industry, their goal is to stay in line with financial obligations without compromising business agility or transparency for employees and stockholders. To manage this task, they turned to AST Private Company Solutions and their cap table management solution, Astrella.
Disaster Tech: Employee ownership and operational agility
Disaster Tech develops SaaS solutions, specializing in data-driven platforms empowering their clients with situational intelligence to scale emergency response operations during events like severe weather, flooding, or wildfires. While this kind of work is exciting—and critically important—behind the scenes, Disaster Tech is also a startup managing the challenges that most young businesses face. As an employee-owned C Corporation, Disaster Tech’s cap table and employee stock plan is typical for a company at their stage of growth and fundraising, including common and preferred stock, employee stock options, stock appreciation rights (SARs), and restricted stock units (RSUs).
Disaster Tech believes in communication, transparency and high touch and fast turn arounds when it comes to shareholder communication and employee grants. One of the biggest challenges for Sean Griffin, CEO of Disaster Tech, was that although he could technically perform the task on an Excel spreadsheet, managing stock plans is not part of his job description—nor should it be! He also knew that keeping the information on a spreadsheet kept him from allowing his shareholders and employees from understanding the potential value owning stock in his company or working for his company meant.
“It is both time-consuming and expensive to engage lawyers to manage our cap table regularly,” says Griffin. “And without internal management, that’s what we would have to do to stay compliant with reporting and tax laws. We want to do everything aboveboard, legally, while staying agile.”
Their approach wasn’t ideal or even sustainable. Fortunately, Griffin’s connections introduced him to Astrella, and he easily converted his data to Astrella.
White glove support was needed
The challenges of managing stock options and financial reports are more than just processing complicated paperwork. They include everything from legal protection to formulating exit strategies and attracting—and retaining—top talent. Griffin realized that the complex relationships between employees, businesses, regulations, and reports made for more errors that can bog down operations—or worse. It was Astrella’s optional professional services offering that made the difference for Disaster Tech in averting a few disasters of their own.
“They’ve been quality control for us on top of consulting,” says Griffin. “There was an instance where I issued a stock option to an employee, completed everything, and uploaded it to Astrella. The professional services team caught an important error that would have cost my employee, and we were able to fix the issue immediately.”
One of Disaster Tech’s key priorities is bringing in skilled employees invested in their enterprise, so customer service like this is critical to their success. Employee stock ownership is an important tool for many business owners, especially companies like Disaster Tech where having experienced, long-term employees benefit their operations. Griffin adds, “we will check in with Astrella when we are considering making strategic changes to our plan design—their experts are available to help us and ensure we know the pros and cons to the changes we can make.”
A recent article in the online magazine Inc. cites Astrella when pointing out that a properly configured employee stock plan can support retention and attract top talent in many industries, especially in a competitive labor market. Astrella allows companies like Disaster Tech to provide stock ownership information to individual employees through the Astrella mobile app or online. This allows employees to check their ownership and review documents they have signed without calling the company for help.
“As we scale,” says Griffin, “[Astrella] will scale with the company, and that includes providing information to our employees. Any way that we can improve employee experience is what we want to achieve as a company.”
And, when employee relations aren’t quite so smooth, Astrella offers Disaster Tech the ability to protect themselves during disputes and related legal issues. Storing cap table data utilizing private blockchain technology ensures that all historical data is managed in an immutable ledger.
“We’ve had to deal with employees,” Griffin says, “where, without clear management and robust systems, it would be impossible to prove legal ownership of specific stocks based on employment terms. A former employee claimed he owned stock but, with an accurate data management, we were able to show that he hadn’t worked long enough for the company and wasn’t entitled to shares. That sure saved me on legal bills.”
“It has been smooth sailing using Astrella since day one,” Griffin says. “I would recommend them to any new founder and urge them to manage their data from day one.”
Are you ready to take control of your cap table? Contact Astrella to get started.