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Why offering stock options is a good idea for European startups?

Companies in Europe have traditionally used employee stock options as a recruiting tool to attract new employees and expand their operations. Stock Option Programs make it achievable to accelerate employees' performance as well as help with substantial financial success for the company. Let’s explore stock options for European startups and their benefits.

Why offering stock options is a good idea for European startups?

Stock options for European startups

Employee share plans have been part of European-listed firms' pay packages for some time now. Depending on the circumstances, employers can offer stock plans to some employees, such as senior executives and executive directors, or they can provide stock plans to the entire workforce. Companies use incentives for various purposes, including meeting or exceeding sales objectives, enhancing production goals, boosting employee morale, and honoring exemplary employee performance. People feel like they've accomplished something when they're recognized for their efforts.

What are stock options?

Various methods are employed by businesses to motivate their employees. In addition to cash remuneration, stock options can be used as a tool to inspire employees and increase productivity. The right to purchase shares of a corporation over time and in accordance with a vesting schedule is known as a stock option. An employee who has a stock option receives shares of the company in exchange for their services.

The value of an employee's stock increases as the company prospers. In other words, as long as the company does well, the employees do too. As a result, stock options are an excellent approach to building a long-term relationship with your employees.

How do stock options work?

Many organizations give these options to their employees because they can be mutually advantageous.

Employees' right to sell their shares under the terms of their stock option contracts is usually specified in the contract itself. You'll find out in the contract how many shares you're able to sell-off. For instance, a contract may provide that an employee will earn 10,000 shares over four years, and they will be able to exercise all of those shares within that time period.

Stock options often have a waiting period before they become exercisable; this is called “the cliff”. Employees often have to work for a company for a specific amount of time before they are eligible for stock options. Having stock options in the company encourages employees to stick around for as long as possible.

Why should startups offer stock options to their employees?

When a company can't afford to pay high salaries, many companies turn to these plans as a means of attracting, motivating, and retaining personnel. When an employee, officer, director, advisor, or consultant exercises a stock option granted to them through a business plan, they are able to purchase stock in the firm.

Employees can participate in the company's success without investing any of the company's hard-earned capital in stock option plans. As employees pay the exercise price for their options, they can really contribute to a company's financial stability.

The following are the reasons why companies issue stock options:

  • Attracting and retaining top talent can be made easier with the help of options.

  • Employees can be encouraged to work harder if they have more options.

  • A more cost-effective alternative to additional monetary compensation is an employee benefit plan.

  • When it comes to hiring top talent, smaller businesses have options that larger ones don't have.

Pros and cons of offering stock options

Stock option plans require a company to deal with a number of essential aspects before issuing options. A company prefers a plan that allows it the greatest degree of flexibility as a general rule. Explained below are the pros and cons of offering stock options.


Additionally, there are monetary benefits for employers who decide to give stock options in addition to the benefits of employee incentives and retention. First and foremost, issuing options does not incur any costs for the company. An employee who is eligible for these options can receive a lesser wage from their employer. Using these options, corporations can also free up funds for use in other business areas. A transition from 100% cash pay to 80/20 cash and stock options, for example, means that there is more money to spend elsewhere.

For employers, stock options have many advantages:

  • When a corporation offers stock options, it frees up funds that may be invested back into the business.

  • Employees are encouraged to be more productive.

  • Employer-employee relationships can benefit from the implementation.

  • No additional costs are incurred by the employer.


In the long run, stock options may have a dilutive effect, lowering the stock's value. Even if a company's performance isn't stellar, certain high-level executives may still obtain stock options as part of their compensation package. It is also a disadvantage that an individual employees must rely on their coworkers and managers' aggregate production to get reimbursed, regardless of their own individual hard work and effort.

Employers' disadvantages from the plans:

  • In order to raise the stock price and their remuneration, executives may make risky decisions.

  • In many cases, cash incentives outweigh stock options when it comes to employee motivation.

  • The value of these options may be reduced.

European startups and their consideration to offer stock options

The key to meaningful change in EU-wide startups is not only to help enable the return of European talent to Europe but also to design sensible tax and stock option schemes that attract and incentivize people. Keep reading to know how to plan a strategy to offer stock options.

Why are European startups now deciding to offer stock options?

For this reason, why are so few European firms offering stock options in Europe? At least in part, this is due to the fact that many new businesses cannot afford to hire the necessary legal and professional support staff. However, on a broader scale, government regulation is to blame.

Bringing these options across borders across Europe is challenging because of Europe's patchwork approach to employee ownership, and taxation is a key concern. There is a "dry income" issue with these options when employees are taxed on their stock grants before receiving any money in their bank accounts.

What benefits does offering employee stock options bring to European startups?

In European countries, corporate and tax policy has enormous benefits on employee stock ownership. In general, the company where a person works or other company shares are tied to a number of persons and collective participation forms. This is typically accompanied by special conditions, such as pre-determined holding periods and tax benefits.

How to plan a strategy to offer employee stock options?

When it comes to running a business, it's essential to have a thorough understanding of how to design an employee stock option plan. Throughout the planning process, there are numerous details to consider and keep track of. The founders and the board of directors will almost probably be in significant trouble if any mistakes are made during these processes.

Created employee stock option plans require an upfront commitment of work and money, but if they are implemented incorrectly, they might cost much more in future expenses.

Listed below are the implemented strategies to create an employee stock option plan.

Set up stock option plan

Developing a stock option plan philosophy is the first stage in creating an employee stock option plan. In general, entrepreneurs, board members, and advisors should work together on this. It's important to talk about how you'll tell future employees about the incentive early on in the planning process. Designing your strategy should take into account the mission and values of your firm.

You must decide how much of your company you will give away to your first employees and those who will join your organization later on. There are 100 shares in a regular stock award. There are several ways to distribute employee stock options, but corporations can do it differently. Additionally, these plans should detail the relationship between cash and equity.

Maintain stock option plan

A common mistake that organizations make is not scrutinizing their equity budget closely enough. If you have a funding event coming up, keep an eye on your hiring strategy. Using your recruiting strategy guidance, you can figure out how many stock options you'll need to set aside to pay new hires.

Your pool size will be determined by the number of options you have available. Your allocation must be monitored overtime to ensure that it can support future recruits. Your equity budget must be reworked if there appears to be a shortfall at any point in time.

Evaluate the fair market value of shares

The most important stage is to determine the share's fair market value, which is based on a variety of factors, including the company's current financial statements, its present market position, and the potential for future growth. So, make sure to evaluate it precisely before the option is granted.

NOTE: For any, Europe companies with US employees, US companies with subsidiaries in Europe, or European companies with subsidiaries in the US, a 409A valuation is needed for those who offer non-qualified deferred compensation. This refers to determining the company's current fair market value. If you want a safe harbor 409A valuation or not, you need to make sure the firm that does the valuation is independent of you. Strike prices can be manipulated to achieve an unfair advantage by corporations, and the IRS is on the lookout for this type of activity.

Prepare offer of stock options

When it comes to offering stock options to employees, companies frequently make critical blunders. Not having enough shares in the company's stock pool to make an offer to a new employee is a common blunder. Invalid stock options are those that have been made public. This can be remedied in the future, but for now, it's something to consider when evaluating the grant for a new employee.

Furthermore, you must ensure that your employees are legally entitled to be employed by you. Before offering a position to an employee, it is critical to verify their residency and work visa status.

Start Granting

The board must approve stock option grants for your employees or directors. Board approval is required if you offer stock options that are significantly different from the company's standard offering or vesting schedule. The agreement must be processed and put into effect before the last step can be completed. Ensure that the employee receives the final, signed copy of the contract by following through to the finish.


Furthermore, it's a simple method of saving your cash as you hire top-notch employees to staff your firm and dramatically boost your chances of success. But take the time to assess the worth of what you're giving away, and apply discipline to the process early by setting up an employee pool.

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