Gahhh. It’s funny, but almost impossible to read much of due to the caps.
Gotta follow the conventions of the genre Irene :)
At first I thought this was simply a spam email that was caught and republished (which I’ve done in the past to highlight certain features), but something was off, so I read it. Really, a sucky story, but seemingly all too common in these new bubble days. I suggest you join a growing mega-corp^1 that gives subsidiaries autonomy. I have nothing but great things to say about Salesforce / Heroku, for instance.
1: Or start your own startup, and when you become successful enough, pay yourself a decent chunk of money…
Wait, this is a real story? I guess it is, yeah. Ouch!
Oh! I was just trying to be funny, see the satire tag :(
The amounts don’t usually qualify for Nigerian email scam levels, but I definitely know people who can’t get the cash together to buy their options in 90 days/pay AMT.
Oh, good! I saw that satire flag and thought maybe you left your company and suffered this, but wrote your frustrations like this to avoid backlash…
Oh, I’m glad it wasn’t an enormous amount. :)
It’s in the category of first-world problems, but I do sympathize with people in that situation.
Hahaha .. The silicon valley variant of the Nigerian Letter scam ;)
What is the original story that this one makes fun of?
there are a few! which one are you referring to, the history of nigerian 419 scams, the one where startup employees have to gin up the cash to exercise their options within 90 days of leaving a company, or lose out on a lot of valuable equity, or the one where rich white dudes accumulated most of the power in silicon valley, and make it difficult for others to join them?
I guess I was asking about the stock options. I don’t have a very strong understanding of how that works. But I picked up some info further down the thread.
No original story, just a common situation where employees leaving a startup typically have 90 days to exercise or forfeit their stock options. Exercising the options requires a lot of cash to buy the shares and pay the taxes. Taxes are generally calculated when the employee buys the shares - even if shares are totally illiquid due to the company being non-public, restricted shares, blackout periods, etc., so it is often the case that employees cannot take a short loan, buy the shares, and sell some percentage of shares to cover the tax bill. The unlucky employee can either put a lot of cash on the table or forfeit their options.
Okay, I tried to read the Wikipedia page and was not enlightened.
What is a stock option precisely? It sounds like something negotiated for which is part of a renumeration package (alongside your salary and other benefits) which gives the employee the right to purchase.. a certain number of stocks in the company? Any number? I don’t know heck about stock markets; can they not just do that anyway? What benefit do they get from having these options?
Yep, you’ve got the basics. That link I gave has a nice intro. The key part is that the exercise price will be lower than the current price of the shares, so the engineer will immediately be making a profit when they exercise them. Stock options are often “golden handcuffs”: a lucrative reason to stick around at the company because your options “vest” and become exerciseable over time.
As to the other part of your question - this is the distinction between public and private companies. A “private” company doesn’t have to give out or sell stock to anyone it doesn’t want to. A “public” comgoodpany’s stock is listed for sale on the stock market and anyone can buy it. Companies transition between the two with an “initial public offering” - which is also when it becomes possible for that engineer to easily sell their stock.
A lot can go wrong for that engineer with having the cash to exercise (in general or in the typical 90 days after leaving the company), private sale restrictions, lockup periods, AMT, and the sad fact that stocks don’t always go up. But a lot can go right - Google pays a great salary to devs and then nearly doubles it with stock options (RSUs)… assuming their share price keeps going up. (Microsoft’s stock price being flat from 2001 to 2012 did not do them any favors for employee retention.)
Right, thank you! I did miss that link in your first post. The key point I was missing was that the exercise price is indeed lower than the share price (or like, hopefully will be). Likewise, I didn’t realise that private companies actually had stock to give or sell at all (!).
Nice read! Well, content wise :)
Zach Holman’s post on this is very relevant: “Fuck Your 90 Day Exercise Window”
I laughed and then I cried. A sweat romance. Not sweet, sweat.