Yoko Spirig is co-founder and CEO of Ledgy, Europe’s leading equity equity management platform for fast growing teams. Prior to Ledgy, Yoko graduated in Physics from ETH Zürich, conducted research at CERN and the University of Oxford and was project lead of ETH Zürich’s first hyperloop team, swissloop.ch.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Sure! I am co-founder and CEO of Ledgy. My background is actually in physics. I studied at the University of Oxford, CERN and ETH Zürich, where I met my co-founders Ben and Timo. Ledgy is the leading equity management software for scaling businesses: we help companies automate much of the work that goes into running equity plans, and we give team members the power to make more sense of their equity stakes.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
In 2017, after my co-founders and I completed our masters degrees, we were actually working on a different startup idea when we got chatting to another founder, who showed us how he was managing equity and his cap table. In short, it was not good!
It was a massive Excel sheet and each single share was represented on a single line of the sheet, making management a complete nightmare. He employed a full-time team member whose sole job was to update the Excel sheet. Furthermore, even though they were going through all this trouble, the startup’s team didn’t really understand what equity was about.
We realised that there was an opportunity to create automated equity management software with tools to enhance employees’ understanding of equity. That was the ‘lightbulb moment’ that kickstarted Ledgy.
How did you achieve awareness?
As a business we want to be a cheerleader, championing the amazing companies being built all over Europe. European tech has experienced incredible growth over the past few years and we want equity to become more relevant as more European startups achieve success.
We always highlight the importance of equity, as equity is the most precious asset a startup has. If explained well and used strategically, it can play a key role in motivating employees to stay on board for the long run. Then the problem: running equity plans can be time-consuming and frustrating for finance, operations, legal and people teams, especially if companies have stakeholders in many different countries.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We’ve raised more than $30m in funding from investors including New Enterprise Associates, Sequoia Capital, Speedinvest, 20VC, and more. In September 2022, we announced a $22m Series B funding round, to allow us to improve our product, support companies in their scale up journey and accelerate the ecosystem’s understanding of equity.
When fundraising, we were very clear about starting with our mission up front, articulating exactly why my co-founders and I founded a company together in the first place. We genuinely believe that entrepreneurs will be central to solving the world’s problems, and we want to help teams to create positive change in the world.
Starting with the ‘why’ lets you build the business case for the product, and create a logical narrative that investors can follow. In our case, it’s the fact that the European tech ecosystem is developing at a rapid pace, but there’s still no standard way to handle equity and share ownership.
What are the key successes?
Today, Ledgy supports more than 2,500 customers in 42 countries. Clients include many of Europe’s most innovative growth-stage companies such as Getir, Pleo, Trade Republic, and Monese.
We have grown to more than 70 people, with offices in three markets – Switzerland, Germany and the UK – and we have raised over $30 million to support our continued growth. As the company has grown, we have placed an emphasis on maintaining an equal gender balance through the company, which is still true today.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge I’ve found when it comes to equity is education. Firstly, many companies are still skeptical about how powerful equity can be as a motivator for the team. The second, related, challenge is that if companies do not communicate about equity in a transparent way, employees find it very hard to fully understand what their stake means, even down to fundamental details like how much their equity could be worth now and in the future.
Ledgy helps teams overcome these challenges. We help companies automate many of the time-consuming processes that go into managing an equity plan, so they can focus on communicating and evangelizing the benefits of equity to the team. Companies can then ensure everyone is aligned behind the same long-term mission, creating greater synergies and helping teams deliver the positive changes they want to make in the world.
What are your plans now/for the future?
The current climate in Europe for employee equity is undergoing a much-needed transformation, one that we believe in and welcome with open arms.
Our goal is to help European employers to democratise company ownership. Businesses can align incentives by allowing employees to own part of the company. Giving equity to employees is a win-win: Sharing the company’s financial success with employees is not only the right thing to do but it also leads to better company outcomes as shown by data.
Amid the current economic climate, employers are struggling to reward employees with pay rises, leading to increasing employee turnover and ‘quiet quitting’. Equity is a powerful tool, but running an equity plan is complex and frustrating for HR and people teams. Ledgy helps HR stakeholders champion equity and build incredible cultures in their companies.
We handle equity, so companies can focus on their people. By automating equity plans and engaging employees on one single platform, we allow employees to self-manage their equity.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Generally speaking, it is highly important that you pick the right co-founders and team members around you – people who you really enjoying working alongside. It is better to take time to hire great people than to rush into hiring decisions.
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