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Photo: Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty

It's one of the biggest competitions out there: Who will be the go-to platform for buying and selling stock in private companies? A consortium of giant banks is now teaming up with Nasdaq to try to ensure that the answer is to be found on Wall Street, rather than in Silicon Valley.

Why it matters: No matter how many companies go public, the total valuation of private companies only ever seems to go up rather than down. Which means there's big money to be made in trading stakes in those companies.

The big picture: More than $2 trillion in wealth is tied up just in the equity of unicorns — private companies worth more than $1 billion. Many early employees and other shareholders would love to sell at today's valuations, while a long list of investors is desperate for any opportunity to buy some of the world's hottest and fastest-growing companies.

  • It’s not just unicorns: Other privately-owned companies, such as those emerging from bankruptcy, also need ways to easily trade their equity.

Flashback: The company with the greatest-ever volume of pre-IPO share trading was almost certainly Facebook. Its shares were traded on a platform called SecondMarket, which was later sold to Nasdaq and became Nasdaq Private Market.

  • Nasdaq said Tuesday that it’s spinning out Nasdaq Private Market into a separate, stand-alone company. Further investment in the new entity is coming from some of Wall Street's biggest names: Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and SVB Financial Group.

Where it stands: There's a lot of competition in the space. Retail investors are served by companies like OurCrowd, MicroVentures and EquityBee, while institutions use platforms such as EquityZen — when they're not negotiating directly with companies or going via big investment banks.

By the numbers: One of the largest institutional players, Carta, recently raised money at a $7.4 billion valuation.

The bottom line: It's not too late for one platform to dominate the asset class. Most buyers and sellers will naturally gravitate to the venue with the greatest liquidity and the deepest client book, creating a winner-takes-all dynamic.

  • With Tuesday’s announcement, Nasdaq is putting Carta on notice that it intends to be that winner.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 27, 2021 - Technology

Paradigm gives tech firms a diversity Blueprint

Image: Paradigm

Paradigm, the consulting firm run by Joelle Emerson, is launching Blueprint — a self-service tool that companies can use to see how their policies and practices stack up on facilitating diversity, equity and inclusion.

Why it matters: Despite much talk and significant financial investment, the tech industry has failed to become appreciably more diverse in recent years.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

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