In addition to the other ways we’ve discussed here (stock options, phantom stock, stock appreciation rights), another way to compensate individuals working for a startup is to give them a cash payment upon a change in control of the company, called in the industry a “strip right”.
For example if a startup company has four founders each owning 25% of the shares, and they bring on another but don’t grant him or her shares, the initial founders can agree to pay the new individual a percentage of the “net proceeds” received from a “change in control” of the corporation. “Net proceeds” is usually defined as the gross proceeds received minus transaction costs and brokers commissions as well as some other items. A “change in control” is defined as it normally is in these agreements, and covers if the company merges with another or sells substantially all of the company’s assets. In such a case, the shareholders would receive cash (or assets it can sell for cash, like tradeable shares of the acquirer). The strip right agreement would require the shareholders that granted it to pay to the holder of the strip right, either a percentage or flat fee before they received their cash for the change of control.
In the example, if the four founders grant a 10% strip right, and a couple years down the road the company is sold for one million dollars, with transaction fees of $100,000, the holder of the strip right would receive $90,000 (net proceeds of $900,000 x ten percent). The shareholders would split the rest of the $810,000 and each receive $202,500.
One of the benefits of the granting of the strip right is that it is not taxable to the recipient. The downside, at least to the recipient is that they are not a shareholder of the corporation and they may never receive a cent if there is never a change in control. Due to its tenuous nature, the strip right is usually granted in connection with other compensation awards.