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Stripe invests in a Carta competitor, Pulley

October 21, 2020, 4:30 PM UTC

A startup that is betting on continued startup creation has raised $10 million to go up against the likes of Morgan Stanley and Carta.

Fintech darling Stripe led the Series A round in Pulley, a company based in Mountain View, Calif., that helps young companies manage their equity, the companies announced Wednesday. Notably, Stripe is a customer of Morgan Stanley’s Shareworks, the cap-table management platform the bank acquired last year, which offers similar services.

Because startups raise funding in multiple stages with often complex terms that allow investors the right but no obligation to invest in future rounds, calculating the ownership breakdown as the business evolves is a conundrum.

Pulley hopes to make that process less opaque with cap-table management and scenario-modeling tools so that young founders who can’t make those calculations on their own can make estimates based on the Pulley platform.

“What we see now is all of these rounds are getting so complicated that founders often don’t know how much equity they own and give away much more than they expect,” Pulley founder Yin Wu says.

It’s an issue that plagues many founders—and is one Wu intimately understands. In 2013, Wu sold her Y-Combinator-backed startup Echo Lockscreen to Microsoft, a product that eventually became the lock screen seen today on Android-based phones. But only during the sale process did Wu realize she held 10% less equity in the business than she previously assumed, because the startup had made educated guesses rather than modeling out how earlier funding rounds could impact the final ownership of the company.

Wu says she’s also seen instances of startups inadvertently selling over 100% of their company.

Other investors in Pulley’s round included Caffeinated Capital, General Catalyst, 8VC, and angel investors including Elad Gil, Avichal Garg, Parker Conrad, Jack Altman, Kathleen Estreich, Linda Xie, Matt MacInnis, and Jeannette zu Fürstenberg.

Pulley is not alone in the space. As funding to private companies has boomed and allowed startups to stay private longer, companies have also found a need to better track their equity. Founded in 2013, private equity management company Carta recently reached a $3.1 billion valuation with some 16,000 customers including Robinhood and ClassPass. Last year, Morgan Stanley acquired employee stock compensation platform Solium for $900 million and rebranded the business as Shareworks.

While Carta’s ambitions have grown to encompass an area that speaks to later-stage startups—a private market-share marketplace—Pulley hopes to get its foot in the door by focusing on young startups. Its customer roster currently includes one-click checkout startup Fast and social app Clubhouse. Y-Combinator (which is also a Pulley investor) and Stripe, which has become an avid venture investor in its own right, could also prove to be key ways of getting the word out, Caffeinated Capital managing partner Ray Tonsing says.

Pulley’s investors also believe there is space for several players in the market and that, pandemic aside, startup creation will continue. Carta, which laid off 16% of its workers amid the crisis, has recently begun hiring again.

“I do still think the market is still underserved,” says investor Elad Gil, adding he believes there’s ample room for multiple companies to pop up in the space, angled at different stakeholders in the fundraising process including lawyers, founders, and investors, to name a few. “There’s maybe half a dozen areas for user segmentation. As an investor, it is really hard to get a crisp look at the cap tables. There aren’t good portfolio management tools.”