Navigating the Funding Winter: Unlocking Liquidity through Secondaries

Written By:
Vishnu Boorla
July 17, 2023
Navigating the Funding Winter: Unlocking Liquidity through Secondaries

Over the past two years, the funding markets have experienced a challenging period commonly referred to as the "extended funding winter." Startups and companies seeking funding faced heightened scrutiny, increased investor caution, and a slowdown in capital availability. However, recent market developments indicate a potential solution to this liquidity drought: discounted secondaries. With employees holding substantial Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) pools, exploring discounted secondaries as a means to provide liquidity and retain talent has lot of merit to it. This article delves into the funding and market trends of the past few years, the emergence of discounted secondaries, and the potential impact on employee morale and overall company performance.

The Funding Winter - A Struggle for Capital

The funding landscape has witnessed a significant shift over the last two to three years. Startups and companies looking for funding faced a challenging environment characterized by increased caution from investors, reduced valuations, and a general market downturn. Several factors contributed to this "funding winter," including geopolitical uncertainties, economic fluctuations, and a market correction following a period of exuberance. As a result, raising capital became increasingly arduous, leading to cash constraints and limited growth opportunities for many firms.

The Emergence of Discounted Secondaries

In the midst of the funding winter, a new trend has started to gain momentum: discounted secondaries. Traditionally, secondary offerings have provided liquidity for early investors and employees, but the concept of discounted secondaries takes this approach a step further. These transactions involve the sale of privately held shares at a price below the company's current valuation, allowing employees to unlock liquidity and diversify their portfolios while still being aligned with the company's long-term success.

Unlocking Employee Liquidity and Enhancing Morale

By offering discounted secondaries, companies can provide their employees with an opportunity to access liquidity and derive value from their equity holdings. This approach serves as an attractive retention tool, particularly during times of market uncertainty when traditional funding sources are limited. Empowering employees to realize the value of their ESOPs not only helps to attract and retain top talent but also improves overall morale within the organization.

Recommended Reading: ESOP Liquidity Structuring in India

The Impact on Company Performance

Implementing discounted secondaries and liquidity programs for employees can have a positive impact on company performance. By addressing the need for liquidity, employees may feel more financially secure and motivated, enabling them to focus on their work without distractions. Additionally, this approach aligns the interests of the employees with the company's long-term success, as they continue to hold equity in the business. This sense of ownership fosters a stronger commitment, driving productivity and innovation within the organization.

The Outlook on Discounted Secondaries

Looking ahead, discounted secondaries hold significant potential in the evolving funding landscape. As the market gradually recovers from the funding winter, companies seeking to attract and retain talent will likely explore innovative approaches to offer liquidity to their employees. Discounted secondaries provide a win-win solution by providing employees with much-needed liquidity while allowing companies to retain valuable team members and maintain a positive work environment.

Considerations and Challenges

While discounted secondaries offer an attractive proposition, companies must navigate potential challenges and consider various factors. Valuation, regulatory compliance, and the impact on existing shareholders are crucial aspects to address. Furthermore, implementing transparent communication and fair pricing structures are essential to maintain employee trust and ensure the success of such programs.

Also Read: Understanding ESOP Trusts in India


The funding winter of the past two to three years has posed challenges for startups and companies seeking capital. However, emerging trends in discounted secondaries present an opportunity to alleviate liquidity constraints and enhance employee morale. By providing employees with access to liquidity through discounted secondaries, companies can retain talent, improve overall company performance, and foster a sense of ownership and commitment. As the market evolves, discounted secondaries are likely to play a crucial role in shaping the funding landscape, offering a promising avenue for companies and employees alike to thrive in an ever-changing business environment.

Vishnu Boorla

A seasoned professional with over 20 years of experience in the software industry, now making significant strides in the fintech realm. Passionate about transforming ideas into impactful products that drive growth and value. Leading the product at Qapita Marketplace, specializing in liquidity programs for ESOPs and early-stage investor transactions in private companies. Pioneered and successfully rolled out marketplace products facilitating secondary transactions for private entities. Always enthusiastic and willing to share and help develop ideas. Natural leader who communicates excellently from developer to board level. Fintech Innovation | Product Strategy | Liquidity Programs | Secondary Transactions | Team Leadership | Geospatial Specialist |

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