Fluent Commerce issues employee equity at scale (and globally) with Cake

January 12th, 2023   —   Elise Peate

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Became an equity superhero with Cake

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About Fluent Commerce

Australia-headquartered company Fluent Commerce offers order management software to retailers and brands to help them gain a real-time and accurate view of their inventory data and fulfill orders more profitably. Their cloud-native distributed system, Fluent Order Management, is the first cloud platform that can be customized to fit a customer’s unique omnichannel strategy. This product has found homes in many international companies such as L’Oreal, Dulux, JD Sports, Dior and Prada Group to name a few.

COO and CFO of Fluent Commerce, Darius Coveney, is an internationally experienced executive with a finance background. He has worked in organizations around the world, spending the first 10 years of his career in public practice. Since then, he’s taken up several roles for various technology-driven companies where he has been responsible for strategy, funding, M&A, operations, HR, and reporting.

Looking for an alternative

After several years in the business, it was only natural for Fluent Commerce to grow and expand. With this came the addition of more team members locally and internationally–and a new set of rules and regulations. The initial system they were using was no longer working for them. Coveney says, “When Arrowroot made the investment, they weren’t general in what they wanted. The contract included the system we had to use. It took us a little while to get to that project, given the significant growth we were experiencing, but once we did it was, frankly, pretty painful. We got it in for our shareholder base and investors, but when we came to trying to do the ESOP,  the matrix was getting pretty complicated. We give everybody an ESOP top-up every year, and given we're about 150 people now across multiple years of issuance and then when you add nine odd jurisdictions to that, it was just too hard for Carta to deal with.”

Fluent Commerce x Cake

Watch the full interview with Darius Coveney here.

Starting from one system and then shifting to Cake also took some time for their employees. Each employee could have different strike prices, exercise prices, etc., and they’ve been waiting for a system where they can log in and see all of that. When it was time for employees to access their ESOP, it became a bit of a running joke within the company of when they’ll actually be able to see it.

As the company developed, it became more and more important for them to showcase transparency in their growth. Coveney says, “We do talk about the underlying drivers of [our] value. We talk about the value of the business and what employees are doing to help drive that value and drive their own option value and how that works, and how that helps… Seeing them be able to understand what their link is to those options.”

How did Cake help?

When their global team started to grow, that’s when they knew they had to go for an alternative. Enter Cake, a company Fluent Commerce has been familiar with within the Australian tech network. Coveney is all praises, especially for one of Cake's Product Gurus, Shannon Griffin, “Shannon helped us through the process of onboarding. She's been amazing in terms of being hands-on and really helping us to actually get it up and running. She was genuinely concerned about it, in terms of wanting it to be right and ready for our employees.”

After onboarding, Cake was up and ready for their employees to use. Coveney says, “Using that new product for the international piece and looking at all those different jurisdictions, it's been great. It's been pretty seamless… It's not just for the company, but really it's for the employee at that point. Getting the right outcome for the employee with their tax position and making sure you're doing the right things to tick the right boxes for the regions. I think that's been awesome in terms of coming into the Cake family and taking advantage of that work that you guys can do once and then cookie-cutter across multiple clients. I think that's really clever.”

Access to the platform is as easy as a click of a button, with investors being able to get a copy of their share certificate and employees having visibility of the terms of their options.

Now, it’s all a piece of Cake!

Fluent Commerce has certainly faced some challenges. But, thankfully, Cake has been there to help them resolve these. Coveney says, “For our journey with Cake, the thing I was trying to solve in making the move was that piece around the legal complexity. How do I get across the requirements in each of these countries and how do I make sure that setup is good for me? But more importantly, is it good for the employee?  Do the employees get the right outcome? But on top of that, that piece of visibility for employees so that they can see what's there. And so wherever they are, they can see what piece they've got of the cake.”

“We’re trying to issue options out to 150 people every year, we had that through spreadsheets and a Word [document] merged into PDFs. And then trying to get people's signatures and just all of the admin around that. Who's signed, who hasn't signed, trying to keep track. All of that stuff.” But with Cake, all that confusion is a thing of the past.

As for the ESOP running joke? Coveney was pretty happy to join the Friday afternoon huddle and report that they will, finally, be able to get a peek at it!

Fancy an office luau?

At Cake, we promote a creative healthy lifestyle to our employees. Fluent Commerce thinks so too, and they’ve made use of their office space in Sydney in showing this by adding--guess what?--a tiki bar! Set up on their balcony, they’ve got a lawn and some chairs set up where you can have your lunch or just lounge around in your spare time. When work gets stressful, nothing beats getting fresh air–especially when it’s just a few steps away.

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