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Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Questions For You To Ask About Stock Options As Compensation

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If you’re considering a new job, salary is of course important…but don’t forget about equity (especially in Internet/Silicon Valley-oriented companies).

Here are the simple questions to ask related to stock (I’m gonna keep this simple and limit discussion to stock options):

  • Can stock options be part of my compensation program?

If the answer is “yes,” than you move on to these basic questions:

  • How many stock options will be offered to this position?
  • What are the total number of shares currently outstanding? (this allows you to calculate the % of the company you could own)
  • What are the total number of shares that the company is authorized to issue? (this tells you what % of the company you’d own if they issued new new shares)
  • What is the current exercise price of the stock options? (this will usually be a low price unless it’s a publicly-traded company (in which case you have little to worry about because you will only be exercising the right to buy the stock if you’re going to sell it for a price that is known to the public (and which will be higher than the amount you’re paying).
  • How do the stock options vest? (this is the period of time through which they vest and at what rate (often, the shares vest over 4 years but with a one-year cliff (meaning that if you leave in less than 12 months, you would have zero stock vested but if you stay 2 years than you would have half of the shares vested).
  • What is the current valuation of the company?

Let’s say that the answer is that they can offer you 20,000 stock options for a strike price of $.01 each (i.e $200 total cost if you every exercised the options).

And let’s say that there are 1 million shares outstanding but another 1 million are authorized to issued (i.e. there are 2 million shares that may be outstanding one day).

Then, your 20,000 stock options would account for 2% of the currently outstanding shares or 1% of the shares that could be outstanding one day.

If the current valuation of the company (remember, you asked for this too) is $5 million, then you’re stock are worth at the low end 1% of the $5 million or $50,000 minus the $200 you’d have to pay to exercise the options (and, of course, minus whatever the capital gains taxes are at that time).

If you or other smart folks believe that the value of the company is going to increase (let’s say to $100 million within 4 years), then your 20,000 stock options (which should account for 1%+ of the biz) would be worth around $1 million.

That’s the basics of how stock option compensation works.

Good luck!

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Thursday, August 5th, 2010

5 Tips On How To Get To Know Someone You’ve Never Met


Have you ever wanted to meet someone, even though you don’t know them? Perhaps you read about them in a book or just heard that they were an awesome person.

Here are some approaches I use to get to know a “desired connection” better.

5 Tips On How To Get To Know Someone You’ve Never Met

1) Look up the desired connection on LinkedIn for your common connections…it’s not that simple: read on!

First off, look them up on LinkedIn to see what connections you have in common.

If the desired connection is a 2nd degree connection (i.e. a connection of mine is a 1st degree connection to them), then look closely at those 2nd degree connections and determine if you have such a fantastic relationship with any of the 2nd degree connections that you’d be willing to ask them to introduce you to them.

If the answer is “yes,” then great…ask your connection for an intro (but read tip #5 first!).

If the answer is “no,” then instead focus on trying to add value to those 2nd degree connections and don’t bother asking for the introduction yet (reason: if you ask a favor of someone, you want them to feel like it’s worth their while!).

If the desired connection is a 3rd degree connection or more distant, then I recommend you work harder at expanding your LinkedIn connections (see my business networking section of articles (including LinkedIn tips!)).

You should constantly work towards being just a connection away from meeting anyone.

2) Look up the desired connection’s LinkedIn page to see if they list any “Web sites” or their Twitter page

This is simple: if you can find your desired connection’s LinkedIn page, then look at their profile page (a few fields underneath their name) for any links they include next to “Websites” or “Twitter.”

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Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Shares A Few Thoughts


I was at the recent CrunchUp and Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason shared a few interesting factoids about his business with Michael Arrington.

I chatted with Andrew during a coffee break — seems like a nice guy. We both have close friends who graudated New Trier High School in Winetka, Ill.

The first thing that struck me is how casual he appeared — t-shirt, jeans sandals and a low-key personality.

I thought it was cool how this mellow guy is revolutionizing commerce and putting Chicago on the map for Internet business (I imagine you’ll see numerous new Chicago Internet startups as early Groupon employees cash out (some already have) of this multi-billion dollar business to start new businesses.)

Below are my notes from some stuff that he and Arrington shared onstage:

Some Groupon Numbers:

  • $1 million in revenue per day (this is what Arrington heard and Mason didn’t confirm nor deny it)
  • 1,000 employees
  • 12 million people receiving an email every day (with 2 million new ones added each month)
  • Gross Margin is 50%
  • Repeat Rate: “97% of businesses we feature want to be featured again.”
  • Breakage Rate is around 10% (e.g. 10% of Groupon users do NOT redeem their coupons).

Groupon Customer Acquisition

The top sources of [free] customers for Groupon:

  1. Facebook is the top
  2. Twitter is a close second

The bulk of paid customer acquisition for Groupon is Facebook and Google.

Other interesting Groupon Factoids:

  • Regarding Groupon clones, he says “the basic idea of Groupon is not something we can have a patent on”
  • We have 6-month waiting lists on Groupon for many cities.
  • “A lot [of the $135M raised in the last round] was taken off the table…by early founders.”
  • An example of one Groupon deal that didn’t work: Slippers with flashlights didn’t work
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