Employee share ownership, ESOP, VSOP

Employee stock ownership plans such as ESOPs or VSOPs offer young start-ups the opportunity to create a committed team by giving their employees a share in the profits of the newly founded company and to retain employees in the company at an early stage. These options are particularly interesting if the start-up is not yet in a financial position to pay high salaries in the initial phase. Nevertheless, a motivated team ultimately forms the basis for the future success of the start-up.

ESOP - Employee Stock Ownership Plan

As part of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), employees of a company can acquire shares in the company in the form of shares. They are offered favourable conditions for the purchase of these shares or as part of their remuneration, whereby the conditions are contractually regulated. It is up to the startup founders to decide exactly how such a contract should be structured. Certain conditions can be stipulated that determine when employees are able to acquire shares. Ultimately, an ESOP programme offers a good opportunity to motivate and encourage employees and to retain them in the company in the long term.

VSOP - Virtual Stock Option Plan

In contrast to the ESOP, where real shares are acquired by a company’s employees, the VSOP – Virtual Stock Option Plan – is a purely virtual share option. These virtual stock options have the value of the actual shares, but the employees only receive the right to an actual profit share when certain contractually agreed conditions are met. Until then, employees have neither company shares nor the associated voting rights. By receiving payment via their salary, the respective employees can still benefit from the success of the start-up.

In contrast to the ESOP, the VSOP offers a less complex option for employee participation, which also strengthens employee loyalty to the company without transferring voting rights to the employees.

We will be happy to provide you with comprehensive legal advice on all points that need to be considered in the context of employee participation via ESOPs, VSOPs or other participation programmes. Please feel free to arrange a consultation with one of our expert lawyers.