Once Rivals, Secondary Market Player Forge is Acquiring SharesPost in a $160 Million Cash-and-Stock

Even amid a pandemic, there’s a race on to create a powerful, global private securities marketplace where private shares are traded as freely as public company shares on the Nasdaq.

In one lane is Carta, an eight-year-old maker of cap table management software with big ambitions to create a kind of private company stock market, one that the startup tells the Financial Times could debut this summer.

Nasdaq itself is in the race, having acquired in 2015 an earlier broker of private shares called SecondMarket. It has since used its Nasdaq Private Market business to provide software to private companies and investment funds looking to do tender offers or share buybacks.

Now, two other companies that were long competing against one another are joining forces to boost the odds that they can survive and maybe thrive against the others. Pending regulatory approval, Forge,  founded as Equidate in 2014, and SharesPost, founded in 2009, will merge under the Forge brand after agreeing to a $160 million cash-and-stock deal. (The companies are declining to share more financial specifics than that.)