In a low-yield world, is Pre-IPO investing the hidden secret to higher yields?

by Sandeep Kumar | June 1, 2021
  • Pre-IPO secondary transactions are growing, and over the past few years have consistently generated higher returns over other traditional asset classes
  • Startups are remaining private longer. The average age of technology companies going public has gone from 4 years in 1999 to 11+ years now. As a result, several broker networks and pre-IPO marketplaces have emerged to provide liquidity to early-stage investors and employees
  • Our analysis shows that secondary investments in mature startups 2–3 years prior to a liquidation event have yielded between 40%-70% annualized returns with fairly high success rates. That’s not a typo!
  • Case in point — Slack went public with IPO priced at $38.5 per share, earning around 200% above the last private funding round 10 months prior to the IPO
  • However, investing in Pre-IPO is no silver bullet. Just like all other forms of investing, you can go wrong and will go wrong. Imagine investing in Airbnb in 2017, or in Bytedance in Dec 2019. Airbnb’s valuation has halved since, while Bytedance has taken a nosedive.

It’s been busy year for public markets. The pandemic shock and resulting global economic turmoil has seen world exchanges experience a never before roller-coaster ride in the last few months. What with the V-shaped recovery in the stock markets and emergence of Robinhood traders across the world, equity is the name of the game right now. A slew of technology startups is slated to come up with IPOs in the next 12 months, and people are actively debating investing in these IPOs for listing gains.

There is a set of investors, however, who already own shares in most of these Pre-IPO companies, and are waiting for listing gains. They purchased these shares either directly from angel investors, early-stage VCs, and employees holding vested ESOPs or from one of the secondary marketplaces mostly available in the US.

To give you some perspective, our team went back 5 years and looked at the secondary market valuation histories of all IPOs that happened during this period.

(All numbers are taken from actual secondary transactions. Data for a few years in not available.)

Returns realized from investing in Pre-IPO companies 1/2/3/4 years prior to IPO event startups

If you don’t like dense tables, let us call out a few things:

  • If you had invested $ 10,000 in Beyond Meat on 02 Oct 2015, it would be worth $ 102,000 as on 02 May 2019, the date of listing.
  • If you participated in a secondary transaction as on 21 Sep 2018 in Lyft, you would make a cool 150% return in about 6 months. On the other hand, if you bought Lyft as a retail investor in the IPO, you would be sitting on an approx. 70% loss right now.
  • On a more modest note, an investment in DropBox or Uber in late 2015 would earn you only a 2–3% annualized return, highlighting that not all hits are a homerun.
  • Other notable names are Slack (42% annualized return), Roku (88% annualized return), and Coupa (104% annualized return)

Our outside-in neutral perspective can be summed up as:

  • If you make a good selection (right about 60–70% of the time) of investing in the right startups in the secondary markets, the returns far outweigh any other asset class with comparable risk.
  • The biggest benefit to the investor according to me is the shortened investment period. Shorter the time period, lesser chances of something going wrong. In the time that it takes to invest and wait in an early-stage VC, you could churn your money twice and maybe make higher, but more certain returns. Corollary being that shorter the investment time horizon, shorter can be the returns as well.
  • You get to invest in high-growth Unicorns at an earlier stage before the company goes public and leftover gains are distributed.
  • A mature startup is slightly more stable, has proven product-market fit, has hopefully learned how to scale, and has a proven team that works well together. All this adds up to slightly higher principal protection.
  • Don’t go for overhyped startups, irrespective of how mature a startup is, you have to make a call on if the valuation has some margin of safety built in.

What is a Pre-IPO marketplace and how does it work?

Pre-IPO marketplace is a private market where the private company shares exchange hands between private (almost always accredited) investors. Pre-IPO shares are generally held by founders, employees and early-stage angels/VCs. Sometimes the holding period becomes just too long to tolerate (ask any early investors of Palantir!). VCs need to show performance and return capital, angels and company employees need liquidity. Ergo, the need to sell shares in the secondary market to new investors. Please note one important distinction. In a secondary sale, the company does not receive any proceeds from the sale, it is shareholders exchanging monies and assets.

With private markets maturing and investors getting more sophisticated, this secondary market has expanded rapidly over the past 4–5 years. The development of broker networks and secondary marketplace have reduced some of the liquidity concerns of the investors and contributed to the rapid growth.

How real are the returns?

Historically, stock markets have given returns of ~10% annually. But investing in select Pre-IPO companies, such as high growth tech startups can provide substantially higher returns. With a larger number of companies choosing to stay private for a longer-term, many investors (majorly retail) miss out on the ultra-high growth stage of the company. This is the stage where the company’s valuations rise multifold and retail investors miss out on the substantial portion of the returns waiting for the IPO to happen. Also, IPO is not the only liquidation event, instead there are a lot more corporates and private equities acquiring mature startups.

Take the example of the Direct listing of Slack, a popular workplace collaboration tool that went public in 2019. The Company raised series A funding in 2009 and decided to take 10 years to go public. Slack’s stock was valued at $11.91 per share in the last VC funding round 2018. Within a year, Slack’s shares after IPO opened at $38.5 per share, implying an approximately $23 Bn fully-diluted valuation Company’s price closed at 225% above the last private funding round 10 months ago.

Few other success stories in the last few years:

Zoom is a global video communication platform that went live with an IPO in April 2019. Zoom went live at a valuation of $10 Billion with shares priced at $36, by the day close shares traded at $62. Zoom in the last VC round raised $115million putting the company’s pre-money valuation at $885.03 million (at $14.97 per share).

Beyond Meat is a plant-based meat producer that went public in May 2019. The company’s IPO was priced at $25 per share, valuing the company to $1.5billion. By the end of the day shares were trading at $65 per share. The company last raised $50 million in 2018 at a valuation of $1.3 billion, with shares priced at $16.15 per share.

ForeScout is a network security monitory firm that went public in 2017, 17 years after it started its operations in 2000. Till date company has raised around $300 Mn in funding. In the last funding round company was valued at $1 Bn, but when the company went public the valuation of the company dropped to ~$800 Mn. This is an example of a situation where things didn’t go as planned.

Allocating a small portion of your portfolio to Pre-IPO high-growth securities can provide opportunities of earning substantially higher returns than investing in public markets, with risks lower than that of the initial stage VC investors. But it is no silver bullet where all the bets are winners, you have to be selective and meticulous in the due diligence of private companies before investing to earn substantial returns in Pre-IPO secondary market. Buyers beware!

Where will the Secondary pre-IPO Market go from here?

Private markets have grown and matured over the past two decades. Since 2002, Global Private Equity asset value has grown more than twice the rate of public market capitalization. At the same time, the private equity secondary market has also seen tremendous growth in volume. We believe that a similar progression of events may happen in the startup secondary market as well. Once very insignificant, the pre-IPO secondary market has evolved to become a very useful mechanism for founders, ESOP owners, CXOs to liquidate their private securities, either partially or fully. Companies now tend to remain private for longer period of time and thus increasing the relevance of the secondary market. Secondary pre-IPO market has seen a continuous growth in transaction volume and has become a reliable source to get differential exposure and skip the J curve. The chart below indicates the rising secondaries transaction volume.

What’s driving the growth of the Secondary pre-IPO market?

1. Longer gestation period to a liquidity event

To date, there are 400 unicorn startups (private companies that are valued above $1 Bn) globally. With large corporates and funds willing to back these companies, they don’t have a huge incentive to go public to raise funds. Going public also exponentially increases the compliance and reporting needs. According to McKinsey & Company, the average age of U.S. technology companies that went public in 1999 was four years. By 2014, that average rose to 11 years and the trend is on the rise. There could be many reasons factoring in a company’s decision to delay raising capital from public:

  • Additional cost involved
  • Incurring new and ongoing operational requirements (filing financial statements)
  • Losing autonomy
  • Risk of takeovers
  • The dreaded IPO flops
  • The delayed IPO exits have led investors to look for other options to exit and diminish liquidity concerns.

2. Founders need liquidity, VCs need to show successful exits

I was speaking to a founder who has been running a very successful tech startup in the valley for the past 10 years and may take another 4–5 years to successfully do an IPO or sell out. The problem is, he needs liquidity today to fund his kids’ education, mortgage, and other obligations.

VCs with a fund life of 10–11 years at times are unable to liquidate all their investments within this period. Given the need to return capital to investors, it can also become imperative to sell a portion of the portfolio in the secondary market. Whatever be the reason, the fact remains that there is increasing high-quality supply available in the secondary market.

3. Increased secondary market efficacy

With the advent of multiple offline brokers and online platforms (such as Torre Capital), it has become easy for founders to connect with buyers looking to acquire stake in unicorn startups. Increasing tokenization of asset classes using technology has also helped reduce investment minimums, documentation, and timelines.

How does the Pre-IPO market actually work?

Investing in Pre IPO shares generally can be done in a few ways.

  • One way to invest in unicorn startups is via Brokers or advisory firms that specialize in Pre-IPO secondary transactions. Using offline brokers or investment banks requires a large transaction size (a couple of million at least) and may come with high transaction charges (sometimes up to 10%), and longer lead times.
  • Another upcoming way is to list your shares on a secondary platform which then collates a set of shares and offers it to its existing investor network. The drawback here is that unless you are offering shares of very well-recognized startups, there may not be enough demand.

Taking an example of company XYZ. The Company was founded in 2010 and the founder owns 100% of the shares (complete ownership). Company raises 1M at the post-money valuation of 10Mn. Thus, the early-stage investor owns 10% of the shares and the founder owns the remaining 90%. Over the next few years, multiple investors invest in a company and the valuation of the company also rises. Founders and early investors have a large portion of their wealth locked in the company stock. Traditionally, the only way for them to liquidate their share was for the company to go public or engage in an M&A transaction. But now, they can opt to sell a portion of their shares on a secondary platform and enjoy the benefits of their labor while continuing to grow their company.

We at Torre Capital provide our investors access to best-in-class startups, and shareholders easy liquidity in two ways:

  • You can opt to list and sell your shares outright on our platform. Our investors are always looking for high quality opportunities to invest in.
  • If you don’t wish to sell your shares, or can’t because of restrictions, you can also secure a loan from Torre Capital against your shares.

With our broad network across the globe and many collaborations, we bring to our investors the best of opportunities while allowing startup shareholders fast access to liquidity.

Pre-IPO market comes with its own set of risks investors should be aware of

Private markets are growing and maturing at a fast pace but investing in the Pre-IPO private equity market and securities in the secondary market carries extra layers of risk over investing in public securities such as bonds and public equity. Some of the risks that a secondary market investor bear is:

  • Risk of IPO not going live or getting delayed

There is a small risk even with high growth unicorns that the IPO may not go through, or the company may further delay going public. This risk is generally mitigated by the discount at which the Pre-IPO securities are available. But the probability of not going live and the inability to find other exit options is always present.

  • Sudden reduction in liquidity or valuation because of black swan events

Take the example of Bytedance. Till December last year, you could not get hold of shares of Bytedance even at inflated premiums. Due to the happenings over the past six months, investors who came in the past 12 years might find it quite difficult to exit their investment. WeWork is another example that has been much talked about. Such situations can’t be ruled out completely. The secondary private market has an inherent liquidity risk as the number of buyers and sellers in the market is limited. Also, there is no one centralized platform or stock exchange with market makers.

  • Information Asymmetry

Private securities in the secondary market are not held to same reporting standards as those on the public side. This makes it much harder for an investor to evaluate a private company. Founders and managers holding the security have more information available than the buyer and have no big incentive to share the information in the market. This information gap adds the risk and impacts investor confidence in the secondary market.

In conclusion

We firmly believe that Pre-IPO markets for mature/unicorn startups is going to expand exponentially over the next 5–10 years, and investors should carefully examine the opportunities available. If suitable for their risk profile and portfolio size, this can be a great asset class to allocate 5–10% of your portfolio to in order to improve overall returns and reduce dependence on traditional investments.

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This article has been co-authored by Daksh Arya and Sargam Palod who are in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

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“All that glitters is not gold” — Growing valuation bubble of Indian start-ups

by Sandeep Kumar

 The valuation game

The Venture Capital valuation is a simple game, but never an easy one. While there is little to learn, to play it perfectly takes years, if not decades of experience under the belt.

So how do the VCs arrive at that valuation figure? Market Opportunity? Product Market Fit? Strong Founder Team? Disruptive Product Offering? Extensive Network Economics?

Nah.

Capital invested divided by the stake diluted. That’s it!

The VC chooses the amount of capital he is ready to deploy and the stake he wants to have in the company. Of course, the wish is to part with the least capital for the most stake. Now coming up with these two numbers, the capital chunk to invest and the amount of stake to buy, this is where experience comes in.

The winning bet in your portfolio

Most VCs have personal favorite ranges which they are comfortable with. Some VCs may like to hold only a few concentrated bets while others may want to deploy small amounts into numerous startups. The premise is the same. Each VC wishes to hold at least one winner in its portfolio, the winning bet that ‘returns the fund’.

This gets us to staging. The valuations do nothing to the VC portfolio, except increase the unrealized returns section, which, as the name suggests, are ‘unrealized’ and don’t mean anything unless the company makes an exit from that valuation.

But what if the company is not yet ready for an IPO or a buyout?

The VCs of course know this. Hence when they get together to finance a startup at some stage, let’s say series A, they are offering just enough money to take the startup to the next funding stage. This continues until the IPO or buyout.

Nowhere do the VCs use the DCF or any other model to find a fair value of the shares of the startup. Startup valuation is not a valuation game, it’s a pricing game. It is not about finding a startup trading at a lower than its fair value price and hoping the market corrects itself, the game is about finding another buyer who will be ready to pay higher. All this has nothing to do with cash flows generated from the assets held by the startup, adjusted for the underlying risks of all sorts (DCF basically). All these valuations are nothing more than exhaust fumes as suggested by Fred Wilson, an NYC based VC:

“Early-stage valuations aren’t valuations. They are the exhaust fumes of negotiation about two things — the amount raised and the amount of dilution.”

The information asymmetry

Now let’s take a look at what we have: You are a VC that is trying to get a stake in some startup. What do you do to get an idea of how much you should pay? You don’t have DCF or any other model to help. So, you look at what similar companies have been valued at. With new business models operating in diverse geographies, you realize that it is hard to say how you can define a similar company. Let’s say you came up with food delivery as one category. Despite the difference in the business models, one can hardly cobble together a list of 4–5 startups in the Indian space.

So, the VC game is plagued with opaque, inconsistent deal information. While the figures the VC arrives at are most probably wrong and have nothing to do with reality, they have nothing to worry about as long as they are able to find someone who’s ready to buy at a higher price from them.

The Indian startups in numbers

The past few years have been a gala time for the Indian startups who have managed to secure funding unabated despite the pandemic and its blues.

Startups in India managed to raise $7.8 Bn until April itself. This is a significant number almost 70% of the total $12.1 Bn raised in 2020 and more than 50% of $14.2 billion raised in 2019.

The average funding size has increased to $25.21 Mn, up from $14.94 Mn in 2020. There have been 402 funding rounds until April itself, against 1,114 deals in 2020 and 1,036 in 2019.

Overvaluation and the global landscape

The push towards absurd overvaluations has been a result of the negative interest rate environment. Post the GFC, there was heavy lending and even more borrowing. So much so that people had to pay up money just so that they could lend money. Of course, this led people to look for alternative avenues to park their money and generate juicy returns. The baseless optimism and hollow belief in spotting the next Bezos, Zuck, or Musk have led to an audacious amount of money flowing in, creating completely senseless valuations, having no roots in reality.

Tesla, more than $13 Bn in debt at the end of last year, recently had a market capitalization of $160 Bn, greater than General Motors and Ford combined. At the IPO price, Square was valued at close to $3 Bn, which is 50% below the $6 Bn valuations for which it had raised money from private investors a year before. Uber which in accounting terms stands at around 5x times its revenues, is also grossly overvalued as it is nowhere close to being the leader in the driverless car’s space. WeWork tried to go for a $47 Bn listing but ended up getting corrected to $8 Bn.

The WeWork fiasco was dubbed as a wake-up call in a Morgan Stanley report stating that the days of ‘’ were over.

Unicorns were considered rare. Today, however, the United States has a herd of more than 100 of them, with 100 more outside the US. Each worth a billion dollars or more.

Will history repeat itself?

Let’s talk about the Indian scenario and the startups which we believe are overvalued and most likely to come back to their intrinsic value as and when the markets correct themselves.

1. Byju’s: World’s most valuable Ed-Tech Company

Byju’s operates an online learning platform. It also creates a mobile app for pupils that offers a variety of learning activities. Exam preparation classes are also available. Original material, watch-and-learn movies, rich animations, and interactive simulations are all available to users on the site. The firm is having an EV/Revenue multiple of 17x.

It is the only major player in the Ed-Tech space in India, which has led the company to raise multiple rounds of funding and leading to an enormous increase in valuation. Knowledge in today’s world is free, however, Byju’s creates unique content with animation and the product often seems to be overpriced. In recent times there were a number of instances on various social media platforms where people questioned the pressure on the sales team and how Byju’s is so concerned about their sales when they try to push their offering in the market.

In the long run, the expected return from Byju’s is questionable. Below is the chart of the revenue and valuation of Byju’s over the last five years.

2. Cred — The borrower’s messiah

Losses in billions of dollars are nothing new for hyper-funded companies, especially when they’re chasing size and consumers at any cost. CRED’s metrics tell a tale in and of itself. CRED has made a profit of $71,000 in its second year of operation. CRED hasn’t been able to monetize its user base in FY20, despite acquiring a large customer base with a high propensity to spend and consume.

While the two-year-old company’s sales remained low, its total expenditure increased by more than 5.9 times to $52 Mn in FY20, compared to $9 Mn in FY19. The greatest cost center for the financial firm was advertisement and marketing, which accounted for 47.6% of total expenditure. From $3 Mn in FY19, such costs increased by 9.3 times to$25 Mn. During the fiscal year that ended in March 2020, CRED spent Rs 726.7 to earn a single rupee of operating revenue. CRED’s yearly loss in FY20 was INR 360.3 Crore, up 5.9 times from the $8 Mn it lost in FY19. The current cash burn is difficult to sustain, with an appalling EBITDA margin of -1979.5% in FY20, and the company will have to focus on its collections.

Despite registering astronomical losses it has attained a unicorn status by raising its valuation to $2.2 Bn in 2021. It is worth noting that the company is founded and led by Kunal Shah who is a known name in the start-up world for founding and leading numerous companies which may be an explanation behind the astronomical valuation of Cred. The graph below shows the valuation and losses of Cred over the years.

3. CarDekho — India’s leading car search venture

CarDekho helps users buy cars along with expert reviews, detailed specs, and prices, comparisons as well as videos and pictures of all car brands and models available in India. It has recently acquired an auto marketplace, Carmudi (Philippines) in late 2019 to expand business in Southeast Asia. GirnarSoft, the parent company of Jaipur-based automobile-related services behemoth CarDekho, has seen its losses increase by 155% to $45 Mn in FY2020. This comes after the company’s losses had already increased by 39% in the previous year.

Despite that CarDekho has managed to raise its valuation. Last year, Cars24, a CarDekho competitor, increased its consolidated revenue to $418 Mn and achieved unicorn valuation, and has a much lower EV/Revenue multiple. Let us now see the EV/Revenue Multiple of the peers in this game through the table below.

As per the last reported revenue and valuation figures.

We can infer from the table that CarDekho has a huge EV/Revenue multiple which signifies that the valuation of the firm is increasing at a much faster rate with respect to the revenue that the company generates, leading to overvaluation of the company. The graph below shows the valuation and revenue of CarDekho.

4. Unacademy

Unacademy is a Bangalore-based educational technology startup in India. Unacademy lessons are available in the form of Live Classes, which are both free and available on a subscription basis. Unacademy earned $12 Mn in revenue but spent $53 Mn, resulting in a loss of INR 300 crore. Employee benefits accounted for 23.7% of the edtech start-up’s costs, while other expenses accounted for 75%.

While 2020 brought plenty of development, the corporation would need to significantly increase its expenditures to reverse the losses it had in the fiscal year 2020, which ends on March 31, 2020. Unacademy’s revenue in FY21 is estimated to be over $55 Mn. It’s worth $3 Bn or approximately 35 times the expected income. The graph shows the valuation and loss of BharatPe.

5. BharatPe

When we talk about e-commerce giants, PayTm, Amazon, and Flipkart all wanted payments to take place within their own closed networks. BharatPe’s goal was to achieve what all the large brands were afraid to do: simplify things for retailers by adopting a standardized interoperable QR code. It allowed shops, street food vendors, and tea vendors to accept payments using any UPI app (PhonePe, Google Pay, PayTM, and so on) without having to download the apps. It was a simple and cost-effective approach with an added layer of security. The payment system’s complexity was reduced by a factor of ten by combining multiple UPI apps into a single sticker.

BharatPe was able to achieve early success by keeping things simple. BharatPe’s product strategy is based on making things simple for merchants, and the company uses P2M transactions as a springboard for future services. Because BharatPe does not charge merchants a setup or transaction fee, its fundamental feature money collection using QR codes is essentially a loss-maker for the company. It must spend a large amount of money to manage the servers that process millions of transactions every day. However, this provides BharatPe access to merchants who are passionate about their products and eagerly accept their offers. Despite having no visible revenue stream and without even earning a penny, the valuation of the company is increasing, and currently, it stands at $900 Mn, very close to the unicorn status. The graph shows the valuation and revenue of BharatPe.

The apprehensive loop of growing valuations

The indications are all too familiar. With large markets, illustrious founders, rapid growth, and top early-stage VCs on your side, you have a good chance of raising the next big round, even if you don’t yet have unicorn status (the desired billion-dollar value). And when major acquisitions are made for unproven companies, and valuations double or triple in a matter of months, it begs the question: are we in a bubble? This is always a challenge because most people only realize they were in an economic bubble after it has burst in the past.

Rich valuation multiples have also spread from the typical suspects — consumer internet companies — to enterprise software providers. This is a first. SoftBank, for example, invested in Mindtickle last year, valuing it at $500 Mn based on estimated revenue of $20 Mn — $25 Mn. Even SaaS companies in the United States, including Slack, Zoom, Snowflake, and Cloudflare, have gone public in recent years with great success. Sentiment in India often comes straight from the United States, particularly in related industries and from funds that invest in both nations, including several of India’s leading venture capital firms. Startup valuations are also affected by how publicly traded firms trade if retail investors are ready to pay high prices for loss-making companies, whether banks financing a share issue can find enough at a given price, and so on. There isn’t a single bubble across the board. Because of the vast quantity of money available in the market, investors are willing to pay a premium for good business. But that should be done judiciously.

Investors beware

For the first time in years, it’s possible to claim that private markets are more logical than public markets. If stock markets are the yardstick, select pricey companies may not be overvalued. A closer examination of what constitutes a bubble, as well as what Indian entrepreneurs are doing, reveals a more complete picture. Growth investing has been positive in industries that have recovered quickly from the epidemic, and there has been a lot of interest in a few market leaders. At such levels, one would expect some amount of rationalization. Investors must evaluate the prospects and the future road map of a company before investing. As more investments flow into a company without a proper business model or less revenue, it results in overvaluation creating a bubble. Investors can lose a colossal sum by not choosing the right company.

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This article has been co-authored by Sayan Mitra and  , who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

Startup investing 101: The HNI’s guide to investments beyond the conventional asset class

by Sandeep Kumar

Why invest in startups?

Investing in a startup is a high-risk, high reward game

Deciding the right opportunity and best practices for investing in a startup

Ways to invest in startups

Delaying the IPO comes with certain advantages for Startups

How startup investing really works

When can you expect a return or are you locked in forever?

Source: Pitchbook and CBInsights

Exits are what investors care about, but many founders dream of becoming a unicorn and avoid using the word “exit” until it’s too late. Despite this, M&As accounted for 97% of departures in 2020. And the majority of them occurred prior to Series B.

Exit or no exit: A fatal call

Investing in alternative assets and why you should care about them?

by Sandeep Kumar

What is the meaning of a secondary market?

The private secondary market is the one in which stakeholders of private, venture-backed companies (employees, ex-employees and early investors) wish to transfer their shares to an investor in exchange for liquidity. The investor on the other side exchanges cash in return of shares of that private company. The sales proceeds go to the selling shareholder, not to the company.

A primary issue of shares is the source of equity for a given company. Primary issue happens when a company issues a new class of shares and grants those to employees (in the form of stock options) or sells them to investors in an event of fund raise. The employees and investors who own primary shares may choose to sell them in the secondary market, through Torre Capital’s marketplace.

How can you diversify your portfolio and expect higher returns by investing in the secondaries market?

  • Given the expense of going public (which can be significant in terms of time and resources) and the public markets’ short-termism (which can cause public companies to focus on quarterly earnings and not on long term growth).
  • Tech-Based companies have fewer reasons to go public than they did a decade ago, because of which the venture-backed technology companies are increasingly reaching $1B and even $10B valuations before they go public, which leaves less potential for public market investors. In the year 1999, US technology companies went public typically after 4 years but today, the average technology company IPO comes after a minimum of 10 years.
  • As the companies are taking longer to go public, their early investors and employees have to wait substantially longer for liquidity than they would have in the past.

There are many reasons why early shareholders of now valuable private companies might want to tap into liquidity through Torre Capital. For example, an early stage venture capital investor might want to return capital to limited partners ahead of the launching of a new fund. An early employee of a now late-stage company might want to sell shares to finance transactions like buying a house.

Torre Capital acts as an intermediary between the shareholders who need liquidity, and the investors who want investment exposure to proven technology companies before they ultimately go public or get acquired. If the company goes public, investors receive shares post the lock-in period (which restricts private company shareholders from selling their publicly traded shares, ranging between 6 months to a year). If the company is bought for cash, the investors are compensated for the same as well.

More than $50 Billion in value is estimated to be locked up in private, pre-IPO companies, and the secondary market is unlocking that value for investors who were previously unable to participate due to high minimums and restricted entry.

Who influences the pricing of the secondary market?

The investors who participate in the fund raise have an influence on primary market prices; secondary transactions are usually priced in relation to the most recent funding. The price is generally influenced by factors of supply and demand. If a private company has a high demand, its shares might trade at a premium in the secondary markets (in other words, the shares would be priced higher than the share price from the most recent funding). If the sellers of a particular security are more than its buyers, the shares might trade at a discount (lower than the share price from the most recent funding).

Apart from the influences of demand and supply, following are the other factors that can affect the price per share of private market securities:

a. Share Class: Two of the primary types of shares are preferred stock and common stock.

  • Preferred stock is a type of equity security that has certain rights over common stockholders. These rights may include, but are not limited to, liquidation preferences dividends, anti-dilution clauses, and managerial voting power.
  • Common stock is a type of equity security that is most frequently issued to founders, management, and employees. In the event of liquidation, preferred shares are generally given priority over common shares.

b. Discount for Lack of Marketability: A valuation discount exists between stock that is liquid and traded publicly, and stock that is illiquid and not publicly traded. Because Torre Capital’s offerings are relatively illiquid, it’s common for them to be priced at a discount to the most recent round of funding.

Why invest with Torre?

Torre Capital is a VC funded Singapore based Financial Technology company and a Registered Fund Manager in Singapore. We are creating a fully digital Wealthtech to connect family offices and HNI investors with global opportunities, including alternative assets like Private Equity, Venture Capital, Real Estate Funds, and Hedge Funds. Our investment vehicles offer exposure to high quality global growth startups, private debt opportunities, and other thematic funds in the pre-IPO space. They are available to registered investors around the globe.

Our current customer set includes 500+ family offices and High net worth investors (CXOs, first and second-generation entrepreneurs). With the team composed of ex-Mckinsey consultants, Asset management veterans, and Digital experts.

Exclusive features offered by Torre:

  • Pre-vetted/ Curated funds
  • Low-minimums
  • Low and transparent cost
  • End-to-end digital

Who are the shareholders?

Shareholders include all angel investors, employees of the company, founders, or anyone who currently has equity in an eligible private company in the form of common shares, preference shares, stock options or restricted stock units. The following services are provided by Torre Capital to private company shareholders:

  • Opportunity to sell shares in the Torre Marketplace
  • Avail equity funding for your private company ESOPs

How does the Shareholder’s journey work?

a. For selling shareholders:

  • Register on the platform by providing a few basic details about your equity stake.
  • Explore the Torre Capital marketplace to submit your request. Our private market specialist connects with you to perform due diligence checks.
  • We offer the shares to our investor community and gather investment commitments. We also work with the company directly for a completely secure transaction.
  • Transfer documents executed and you receive the sale proceeds. Torre Capital charges a nominal transaction fee.

b. For shareholders who seek to avail equity funding:

  • Register your interest and submit your financing request. Find out how much funding you can avail.
  • Our credit experts get in touch with you to perform due diligence checks, understand your tax liability and underwrite the funding.
  • Depending on your company’s terms and agreement, the forward equity contract is signed and you receive your funds.
  • Share a portion of profits with us post liquidation event. In case of no liquidation event, you don’t have to pay us back.

Advantages of selling at Torre’s Marketplace:

  • Immediate Partial Liquidity.
  • Maximum benefit to shareholder: You only pay us in case of a liquidity event.
  • Get to keep your upside: If your company never meets a liquidation event, you still have received funding for part of your shareholding.
  • Minimized Risk: Upfront part funding and safety of investment till liquidation. 
  • Multiple asset class: If you own multiple classes of preferred stock, common stock, ESOPs, RSUs, you can sell them easily on the Torre Capital marketplace.

Who are the investors?

Currently only accredited investors as defined here are able to make investments through our platform (Investments are not open to US Citizens). With Torre’s platform, the opportunities are endless. You can choose to allocate capital across four different asset classes – equity, ESOPs, structured products, and funds.

How does the investor journey work?

  • Register your interest on our platform. We leverage our network to provide company specific offerings to all employees.
  • Reserve your interest. All IPAs issued post approval.
  • Shareholders agree to terms, sign a Forward share ownership contract.
  • Funds transferred to shareholders’ account. Company leadership informed of agreement with Torre Capital. Receive frequent updates.
  • Upon liquidation, receive principal and profits redemption requests raised to shareholders.

Advantages of investing at Torre’s Marketplace:

  • Exclusive access to high-growth startups: 20% – 30% discounted equity ownership in series D and above global pre-IPO unicorn/soonicorn shares leading to lower investments than secondaries.
  • No upfront cost: Zero transaction cost versus 10% charged by secondaries.
  • Attractive Returns: 3x – 5x better returns than direct secondary transactions.
  • Vigilant and protective measures: 3x collateral protection for initial investment till 80% downfall in stock value.
  • Faster cash-inflows: 3x – 4x faster return of capital than top VCs.

Torre’s Pre-IPO Fund

If you believe in the power of the Torre Capital platform for sourcing strong deal flow and you believe in the pre-IPO asset class, but you are not comfortable or otherwise do not want to select single names for investment, you should consider a managed fund investment. The Fund Series investment committee will select all investments, which are a curated subset of what comes across the Torre Capital platform.

If you would like your investment to give you diversified exposure to the pre-IPO asset class, but can’t commit to multiple $100,000 investments, a managed fund is a good option. You will get investment exposure to multiple pre-IPO companies that are carefully selected by the fund series investment committee.

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