Shawn Owen, Founder & CEO of Equa, is a serial entrepreneur and trailblazer in the blockchain world with over 25 years of business operations experience. A bitcoin advocate since early 2011, Shawn helped pioneer cryptocurrency-backed lending with the launch of SALT where he remains involved as a Board Member. In 2018, he started Equa to bring company formation and governance solutions into the future by leveraging his expertise in corporate structure and crypto-backed technology solutions. Shawn envisions a world of friction-less, self-evident, and transparent truths beginning with corporations and extending into the daily lives of shareholders.
Please tell us your name and a little more about yourself?
I’m Shawn Owen, Founder & CEO of Equa. I am a serial entrepreneur and blockchain advocate. I got into Bitcoin in early 2011 and helped pioneer cryptocurrency-backed lending with the launch of SALT where I remain involved as a Board Member. In 2018, I started Equa.
What is Equa?
Equa is the leading immutable governance platform that scales to help high-growth companies go from start-up to successful exit, whatever that looks like. We help executives and founders establish good governance and facilitate agreements and cap table management. This allows companies to easily distribute equity, take on new investment and adjust company valuation, and more. Our solutions, which include a cap table management solution, are designed for founders, executives, and shareholders at high growth startup and blockchain companies regardless of corporate structure or legal status.
What inspired you to start Equa and what was your vision for the company
There is this fundamental problem all businesses face and it’s worse with high growth companies and startups. The problem comes down to how different groups of people relate and come to an agreement. Then, more critically, how people determine the value of that agreement becomes important but difficult to define. The formalities of doing this fall by the wayside.
The misalignment causes a ton of fatigue and chaos throughout the process from start to finish. What’s worse, these problems contribute to negative outcomes. Many companies that should make it don’t make it to IPO, for example. Ultimately, I think solving these problems around how businesses and people structure and attach value to agreements will improve the way markets, especially private markets, function.
Tell us more about the unique products and features that make Equa stand out from other platforms in the market?
Equa integrates across solutions and digital equities or currencies. We want to plug in as early as possible with companies to provide them with a comprehensive solution for seamless management across organizational transactions and agreements. There are so many point-solutions for formation management and administration all serving the different needs of founders, legal, compliance, and equity holders. Equa’s comprehensive governance solutions are designed for tomorrow’s executives and owners. We think tomorrow’s businesses will demand transactional speed and ease-of-access without sacrificing document and agreement security and integrity. That’s what we are building toward.
What is Cap Table Management, could you elaborate?
Cap Table Management is one critical aspect of what we do. A capitalization table, or a cap table, is just a spreadsheet that shows the equity capitalization for a company. When a company starts out, this is simple enough but as a company grows and takes on new investment, issues equity or takes on debt funding, or brings in new employees who receive equity as part of their compensation, things get more complex. Typically, Cap Table Management involves managing these evolutions. Eventually, companies start looking for software solutions to help manage this.
It’s important for Cap Tables to closely integrate with corporate strategy. Changes to corporate strategy and structure create time-sensitive needs to adjust agreements. When a company changes structures, it impacts past and future equity agreements. Offerings across different types of platforms don’t necessarily agree and need realignment, which creates potential organizational friction. Without dynamic Cap Table Management, companies’ legal and compliance departments face a lot of work to readjust and align structures and agreements.
Please tell more about the role of blockchain in Equa’s solutions? How does it help your customers?
So there are a couple of parts of blockchain that I think are really powerful and beneficial if used the right way. Ultimately, blockchain is a tool like any other that if you don’t use it the right way has no value whatsoever. Blockchain can’t solve everything.
As it relates to how Equa leverages blockchain: there’s this perfect intersection where we want business activity to have demonstrable value and where we define agreements relating to that activity and its value. Blockchain allows us an elegant way of taking and defining ownership digitally while tying in more traditional notions of equity and ownership.
Additionally, we leverage blockchain technology to allow companies to execute strategies similar to what MicroStrategy and Tesla have done, where they can put Bitcoin in their corporate treasuries and tie that directly to, say, the issuance of bonds. I don’t think solutions built without blockchain can really handle this type of flexible, real-time accounting that takes into account digital currencies.
How this helps our customers depends on what their major pain points are when we start working together. One of our customers, for example, is a holding company that employs investor capital to purchase a controlling interest in purpose-driven subsidiaries. Shareholder empowerment is extremely critical to what they do. They wanted an equity management and transfer agent solution that aligned with their vision for a future of empowered shareholders.
How does Equa help a startup become a thriving business, any success stories to share with us?
One of our early clients is a green cryptocurrency mining company. The CEO faced a variety of challenges in setting up his business. Some of these included managing expectations with stakeholders across time zones. Another breaking point for this lean startup came from the time and cost to manage paperwork and agreements across enterprise document management platforms as well as from the legal costs associated with large, frequent updates to investor contracts. The CEO also shared with us his concerns with establishing cap table management across multiple classes of equity and compliantly managing digital transfer.
Today, I’m happy to say, this crypto-mining company is currently in its Series A investment round. Purchasing tokens confers real equity in the company and entitles the buyer to dividends. They count on Equa to manage, communicate with, and distribute tokens and equity to hundreds of investors on a single platform. Investors enjoy easy and transparent access to their historical transactions. Equa Transfer serves as agent of record, too, for the compliant transfer of equity and tokens. Because they’re using Equa solutions, I’m happy to say, they are able to confidently offer a security (equity) token to fund their expansion.
Could you give us a walkthrough of how Equa works for Private and Public Companies?
Equa’s Cap Table Management solution works as well for public companies as it does private, startup, and blockchain companies. Our solution offering features depend on the needs of our clients. Public companies need robust solutions for equity transfer and management. Startups and private companies count on reliable issuance solutions to meet their needs. In terms of how we see the future, all companies from those squarely a part of the blockchain world to those visionary CEOs transforming more traditional Corporate Treasuries, need the ability to move between equity and tokens. This latter feature is a core feature of our Cap Table Management platform.
Following the latest trends in digital transformation, what’s something businesses should pay attention to that might not be on their radar?
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are gaining momentum and going through an adoption phase where they are finding their home. We’ve only scratched the surface. NFTs will start to plug into more and more applications and areas of our day-to-day personal and business life. In the same way, smart contracts preceded decentralized finance and crypto-backed lending, NFTs are the predecessor to some supercharged business solutions. The end-user — our customers — may not ultimately care about the technology that underpins some of the experience we provide but in terms of trends in digital transformation, this is a huge area of growth that’s worth understanding.
Do you have any current opportunities for investors and partners at Equa?
Absolutely. We are eager for partners in a few different categories and already with work lawyers, VCs, incubators, and others who work with private, blockchain and public companies. We have referral discounts and other benefits, too. Partners can learn more at https://www.equa.global/for-partners/ .
We also have some investment opportunities coming up. We just closed a pre-seed round last month and will be announcing a new round of investment soon. Accredited investors can sign up to stay informed by visiting https://www.equa.global/equa-investment-opportunity/. We will be announcing details of our next round within the month.
Tell us more about your team and customer support, what makes you special and what do we expect?
Our team is composed of experts in compliance, investment, and governance. We offer white glove services and handle each client’s on-boarding personally. We have plans to scale this type of personalized service as we attract new members to our solutions platform.