For most startups and/or small businesses, large sums of cash are not always readily available. Stock options or equity awards are a creative way for companies to incentivize employees or service providers with non-cash compensation. Often, these awards are known as stock option plans, equity incentive plans, or phantom equity. They are provided through a written agreement indicating how many shares the recipient is to receive, and when. Most plans require the recipient to be employed with or providing services to the business for a certain length.