EquityBee Survey: Full Quarter of American Startup Employees Can’t Afford to Exercise Their Stock Options

New survey reveals that many employees are missing out on the biggest benefit of working for a startup — the ability to partake in the success of the company they helped build

PALO ALTO, Calif.--()--Stock options may be a great way to increase employee retention in the face of the Great Resignation, according to a survey released today by EquityBee, a California- and Israel-based employee-focused stock options funding solution.

The survey of more than 1,000 employed U.S. adults, conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of EquityBee in December 2021, found that stock options increase employees’ personal investment in the companies they work for. However, employees must be able to exercise those options — and many can’t.

“The reality of the workplace is that many stock options remain on the table because startup employees are unable to afford them. That means a significant amount of the workforce won’t share in the potentially life-changing financial windfall, which they otherwise earned, when their companies have a liquidity event. That shouldn’t be the case,” said EquityBee CEO Oren Barzilai. “We created EquityBee to enable startup employees to fully participate in the success of the companies they help build, but there’s a clear benefit to the companies as well.”

Stock options help employees feel more emotionally invested in a company

According to the survey, stock option packages are overwhelmingly positive for both the employees who receive them and the companies that offer them. This is excellent news for companies scrambling to retain employees in the face of the Great Resignation.

  • 92% of American workers surveyed said receiving stock options increases their sense of belonging to a company.
  • 85% said receiving stock options motivates them to work harder for a company to succeed.
  • 89% said stock options could change their financial future for the better.

Unfortunately, 61% of American startup employees said they haven't been granted stock options through their current employer. Of those who have, more than a third (36%) said their employer didn’t explain their stock options clearly.

Many can’t afford to exercise their stock options

EquityBee data shows that 55% of US stock options goes unexercised since employees don’t have the necessary cash or can’t afford the financial risk involved in exercising them and paying the applicable taxes.

The Propeller Insights survey commissioned by EquityBee reveals that more than a quarter (26%) of startup employees who have been granted stock options don’t believe they can exercise, even without considering the tax portion. This includes more men (28%) than women (25%), even though significantly more men (37%) than women (29%) have been granted stock options by their employer.

The data also reveals an interesting generational story: Employees ages 45+ were almost half as likely (21%) as employees ages 18-44 (39%) to say they’d been offered stock options. Further, employees ages 55+ were most likely to say they can’t afford to exercise their stock options.

“EquityBee's mission is to level the playing field,” added Barzilai. “We pair employees with investors who can help them exercise their stock options.”

About EquityBee

EquityBee provides startup employees with the capital they need to exercise their stock options, become shareholders, and participate in the success of the companies they helped build. Investors in EquityBee include Group 11, Greenfield Partners, Battery Ventures, Latitude, Altair Capital and ICON Continuity Fund. For more information, visit equitybee.com.


Jessica Shein


Jessica Shein