Amar Varma, a three-time entrepreneur and VC, experienced firsthand the challenge of dealing with administering equity stakes within a startup. It’s his belief that many existing solutions — e.g. spreadsheets and even software-as-a-service tools — require founders to handle an outsize amount of the management and accounting work manually, and often end up complicating rather than streamlining back-of-office processes.
So Varma launched Ten Key Labs, a platform that taps AI to try to reduce the burden of managing company equity stakes across platforms. Ten Key Labs can set up approvals and templates in a few clicks, Varma claims, issuing reminders for outstanding actions.
“I saw an opportunity to tap my understanding of what a founder really needs and combine that with the latest in AI to give founders a tool that lets them focus on building their companies by giving back time and easing their mental burden,” Varma told TechCrunch in an email interview.
Using Ten Key Labs, founders can track and organize their startup’s cap table — the table that shows each investors’ equity capital stake in the business — and use predictive tools to model their hiring and financing needs. They can also issue equity, managing the various stakeholders — e.g. employees, employees, investors and board members — and approval workflows in one place.
Ten Key Labs isn’t liberal in its use of AI. But it applies it where it makes sense — as a “co-pilot” for corporate-related tasks, Varma says. For example, the platform can automatically convert stock options in an offer letter approved by a company’s board of directors, which tends to be a source of costly “clean-up” time for lawyers when it comes to financing and exits.
“The challenge is, founders and operators generally don’t fully understand the cost of equity in the allocation equation,” Varma said. “By having a fully transparent and collaborative platform around equity management, the various stakeholders are able to collaborate and understand the impact of their decisions.”
Now, Ten Key Labs has lots of competition in the market for equity management software — incumbents like Shareworks, Carta and AngelList, to name a few. But Varma argues it’s differentiated in several aspects.
For one, Ten Key Labs emphasizes automation and collaboration with outside stakeholders. Beyond this, the platform has built-in safeguards to mitigate the potential for mistakes in cap tables.
“Though sometimes not clear in the moment, errors in the equity allocation are costly,” Varma said. “And there’s increasing scrutiny by regulators to know who the ‘owners’ are in a business.”
Safeguards and automation for cap tables aren’t new concepts, to be fair. And — color me skeptical — but I wonder how well Ten Key Labs’ tech works in practice. Even Carta, one of the more robust equity management solutions out there, has been accused (albeit by a competitor) of introducing errors.
It’s the earliest days for Ten Key Labs — the company just launched a public waitlist for its paid product. But Varma thinks that, with the millions of startups launching globally every year — and $10.5 million in funding from backers including Eniac Ventures, Craft Ventures, Sierra Ventures and several angels — there’s an opportunity for Ten Key Labs to make a dent.
“We understand the importance and the complexities of managing company equity,” Varma continued. “For the past year, we have been working with key design partners to perfect the product use cases, user personas and value proposition of the Mantle platform. We’re now ready to expand.”
With the money it’s raised so far, Varma isn’t planning to expand its ten-person team just yet. But it aims to substantially grow Ten Key Labs’ marketing efforts, focusing on acquiring customers in the startup, accelerator, incubator, legal and VC firm spaces.