A capitalization table, or cap table for short, is a snapshot of who holds what securities of a company at a given time.
A typical, relatively detailed cap table will have an investor-by-investor breakdown of the number of securities held, the percentage of economic ownership of the company (by class or series of security, if relevant), and the percentage of voting control over the company (by class or series of security, if relevant, and if different than economic ownership).
The level of detail provided in any given cap table can vary depending on what capitalization information is required by the intended viewer, as well as what information a company is willing to share. Cap tables are important records that can inform major company decisions, so it is imperative that a company keep its cap table accurate and up to date.
Companies use cap tables to determine how much equity to award to employees, how much equity to sell to investors, and which investors are needed to approve certain major company actions, among other equity- and governance-related issues. Investors use cap tables to determine what economic ownership and voting control they have in a company on an absolute basis and relative to other investors.
In the fundraising context, both companies and investors use models based on cap tables (known as pro forma cap tables) to forecast changes to the company’s economic ownership and voting control as the result of new investments. In mergers and acquisitions, buyers and sellers typically build complex spreadsheets, using cap tables as a starting point, to calculate how much and to whom the proceeds of a transaction will flow.