The first cap tables

I visited Mystic Seaport on a recent trip back to USA and my home state of Connecticut. Unexpectedly, it gave me a chance to observe how early whaling trips were financed.

Whaling crews would leave for one to two year journeys to hunt sperm whale off the coast of South America. From a financing perspective, there are parallels to the venture capital industry today, as highlighted in The Economist article entitled Fin-tech.

In order to align incentives and keep crew members motivated, an agreement was made to divide future profit among all parties. 

    • Every crew member, down to the cabin boy, had predetermined share of the profits
    • The captain’s share, typically 1/15th, was much less than what is recommended for startup founders today (startup cap table tips ).

Below is an example of what a “capitalization table” looked like. If you zoom in on the right hand column you can see the amount of shares allocated to each crew member.

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