Pre-IPO shares explained

Dan ChaparianVice President, Product Marketing, Forge

You probably know how easy it's become to open an app and with a few clicks buy and sell publicly traded stocks like Tesla or Airbnb. But what about buying stock in companies before they go public? Before companies announced that they're going to go public, obtaining equity in a private company might seem difficult. It might seem like you have to be an employee with stock options at a startup or a venture capitalist who participates in a funding round to get access to pre-IPO names. Now individual investors may be able to access investments in pre-IPO companies through private marketplaces like Forge.

Buying pre-IPO shares can provide several benefits. While there's no guarantee that startups will increase in value if they go public and of course virtually any investment, including startups can lose some or all of its value, you can at least have the opportunity to get in early and, if the company grows during that time, experience significant upside over the long term. The private market could also be considered a separate asset class compared to public stocks. So, you can potentially benefit from diversification if you buy pre-IPO shares rather than investing entirely in publicly traded stocks.

While buying pre-IPO shares can benefit individual investors in several ways, you should be aware of potential risks and downsides. In addition to contributing higher fees, limited liquidity generally means that trading pre-IPO shares takes more time than it does for publicly traded companies. Pre-IPO shares can also bring more regulations and company trading rules. And in addition to requirements like being an accredited investor, you can also face rules like IPO lockups.

So, if you buy pre-IPO shares, just know that you may not be able to immediately sell them after the company goes public. As with virtually all investments, pre-IPO stocks carry the risk of decreasing significantly or going to zero. While you should consider these risks, pre-IPO shares can be a way for accredited individual investors to allocate to startups, diversify your portfolio, and potentially seek outsized returns.

About the Author

Dan Chaparian is VP of Product Marketing at Forge Global. Prior to joining Forge, Dan was VP, Global Product Marketing for BlackRock's iShares ETF business. He previously held positions at Apple and Uber and is a former startup founder. Read more from Dan.

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Investing in private company securities is not suitable for all investors. An investment in private company securities is highly speculative, involving a high degree of risk, and investors should be prepared to withstand a total loss of your investment. Private company securities are also highly illiquid and there is no guarantee that a market will develop for such securities. Each investment also carries its own specific risks and investors should conduct their own, independent due diligence regarding the investment, including obtaining additional information about the company, opinions, financial projections and legal or investment advice. Accordingly, investing in private company securities is appropriate only for those investors who can tolerate a high degree of risk and do not require a liquid investment. Past performance Is not indicative of future results.