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Chris Bryant

Unicorn Stock Markets: A Lifeboat for Startup Employees?

With IPOs and SPAC listings vanishing, companies like Forge give staff at private firms a way to sell equity.

There’s a growing market for unicorns.

There’s a growing market for unicorns.

Photographer: DBenitostock/Moment RF

It’s hard to close a SPAC deal right now, but former JPMorgan & Chase & Co. banker Blythe Masters pulled it off. Her Motive Capital Corp. completed a merger in March with Forge Global Holdings Inc., a marketplace that lets staff at startups sell shares before their employer has gone public. The upshot is there’s now a private securities market whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, providing more visibility into this opaque and less regulated world. 

I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on Masters, who has championed blockchain since leaving the worlds of credit derivatives and commodities in 2014. While there’s plenty of competition, her bet that “private stock exchanges” will keep growing — despite deflating tech valuations — looks astute, as long as regulators don’t throw sand in the gears. With the IPO and SPAC markets moribund, these platforms may be able to help startup employees cash in some of their chips, provided they accept a big price cut.