Equity splits


Equity splits, particularly within the context of startups and businesses, involve several considerations and strategies to ensure fair and strategic distribution. Here are some insights from experts on the topic:

General Approaches to Equity Splits

  1. Early Stage and Equal Splits: Michael Seibel from Y Combinator advocates for equal equity splits, especially among first-time founders with similar levels of experience. This approach helps ensure balanced team dynamics and motivation. However, Seibel acknowledges that this might not be suitable in every situation, particularly if founders have varied levels of experience or contribution 1.

  2. Adjustments for Full-Time Commitment: Mark Ramadan from Sir Kensington's highlights the challenge of renegotiating equity when one founder moves to a full-time role. Initial equal splits were adjusted to reflect full-time commitment and effort, leading to complex and sometimes contentious negotiations 2.

  3. Majority Stake with Audience Contribution: In some cases, a significant majority share can be justified if one party brings substantial value, such as an established audience. For instance, Doug DeMuro ended up with a majority equity share in his venture because he provided the crucial audience that drove initial success, even though other partners put in the capital 3.

    Founder Equity Splits

    Auren and Michael discuss the rationale behind equal equity splits for founders in Y Combinator, emphasizing the importance of balanced team dynamics and experience levels. They explore scenarios where unequal equity distribution may be more suitable, highlighting the significance of founder motivation in company success.

    World of DaaS

    Y Combinator Head Michael Seibel: The ONE Mistake Killing Startups #yc #twitch

Expert Opinions

  1. Importance of Equity in Long-Term Motivation: Michael Seibel, alongside Auren Hoffman, stresses that equity should be distributed thoughtfully to ensure long-term motivation. They argue that unequal splits might lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement over time, urging founders to think of equity distribution in terms of several years rather than months 4.

  2. Potential Issues with Conflict: Y Combinator's Dalton Caldwell notes that inequitable splits can exacerbate conflicts among co-founders. When disputes arise, having nearly equal shares can help minimize discord, though a slight imbalance (e.g., one extra share for the CEO) can serve as a tiebreaker to avoid deadlocks 5.

Equity Distribution in Different Contexts

  1. Startups vs. Established Companies: Equity splits can be more straightforward in startups, where founders might be willing to agree on equal splits initially. As companies grow and roles solidify, renegotiation can reflect the difference in contribution levels and responsibilities.

  2. Public and Private Equity Disparities: The ownership of public stocks shows significant disparities, with a small percentage owning the majority. Platforms like Carta aim to simplify equity issuance to employees, promoting a more inclusive approach within private markets 6 7.


Equity splits require careful planning and negotiation to balance fairness, motivation, and business needs. Key strategies include considering equal splits for similar experience levels, acknowledging full-time commitment, and planning for long-term sustainability. Experts suggest that addressing these aspects early can prevent future conflicts and ensure that all parties remain motivated and invested in the company's success.