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Is the direction towards secondary trading taken by platforms like Forge and CartaX no longer effective?

Javier Avalos

Co-founder & CEO at Caplight

It's an interesting question, and it's one that I bet would catch a lot of eyes if it was put into a headline somewhere. “Secondary trading dead” -- that’s a clickbait headline, for sure. I think that the numbers themselves allude to the fact that secondary trading is very alive and well. Forge put out some public preview of their Q3 2021 results. I don't think it included volume specifically, but it did include revenue. And I think it spoke to $95 million of revenue in the first three quarters of the 2021 year. You can do some quick math. If you assume that there's a brokerage model in place there and they're booking some percentage of volume traded as revenue, you could back out what a volume number might look like, and it's clearly going to be in the billions of dollars.

Carta put out some stuff around the activity they've seen with tenders recently -- that number also looked to be north of $4 billion. Nasdaq Private Market put out some stuff earlier this year when they were announcing their spin out from Nasdaq parent co with their bank consortium backers -- that was also in the multi-billions of volume traded. And notably, a new entrant to the market of traditional secondaries, Figure, the Mike Cagney-led company, put out some stuff earlier this week that certainly caught our team's eye. It also had a four handle on it in terms of the billions of dollars traded already.

If you think about what secondaries consist of, it's the brokered activity of “try to match a buyer and a seller.” But a secondary is also a tender. It's a company supporting their employees or their early shareholders getting liquidity through a company-sponsored tender offer -- that's secondary trading by definition. I think what you're starting to see is the emergence of all of these different use cases becoming productized and competition over who's going to own which vertical. Forge is competitive with Carta on their company-facing side of the business, as is Nasdaq Private Market, as is Figure. We're going to continue to see groups emerge, tackling different verticals.

I think that overall for us, we're happy with the added validation that these groups are bringing to the asset class, as indicated by the success they're having with the sheer volume that they're trading each year.

Find this answer in Javier Avalos, co-founder and CEO of Caplight, on building synthetic derivatives of private stock
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