“The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” – John Hancock
Understanding the Investor Landscape: When it comes to striking the right chord with potential investors, comprehending the realm of reasonable terms is paramount. Every deal is unique, hinging on various factors such as investment stage, company valuation, and investor expectations. Here, we’ll outline fundamental considerations to guide you in shaping equitable agreements.
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky
Early-Stage Angels: Building Foundations: At the early stage, angels typically seek to secure their investment through convertible or SAFE notes. These instruments hold promise for both sides; they provide angels with a foothold in the company and founders with the capital infusion they need. While angels may not command significant ownership percentages, the door opens for potential board representation or special conversion discounts for those who take on more risk with substantial investments.
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca
Venturing into VC Territory: As ventures scale and move into VC territory, the complexity of terms escalates. Venture capitalists come armed with covenants and safeguards to protect their investments. Key aspects include board representation in proportion to ownership, approval over additional funding rounds, and provisions for preferred stock. Preferred stock carries precedence in liquidations, which can impact the order in which investors are paid out.
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch
Balancing Protection and Dilution: It’s crucial to strike a balance between investor protections and maintaining your venture’s growth trajectory. While VCs deserve some rights due to their financial commitments, founders must ensure these rights don’t impede crucial decision-making or create unnecessary roadblocks. Strive for a harmonious blend of investor interests and your venture’s long-term vision.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker
Consulting the Legal Architects: The complexities of investor terms often require the guidance of legal experts. Attorneys well-versed in the intricacies of venture capital deals can draft agreements that align with industry standards and your venture’s unique circumstances. While they are indispensable, vigilant oversight is vital to manage legal costs and ensure your venture’s interests remain at the forefront.
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” – Walter Elliot
The Devil in the Details: The minutiae of investor terms can influence the trajectory of your venture significantly. Vigilance is key in reviewing every detail, including rights, preferences, and expiration timelines of any special privileges. Staying informed empowers you to make informed decisions and prevent undue influence from unscrupulous actors.
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – Stephen Covey
Negotiation: A Skillful Dance: Negotiation is an art in itself. While seeking equitable terms, remember that it’s not just about the bottom line; it’s about building relationships and fostering a healthy investor-founder partnership. Collaborative negotiations can pave the way for an aligned vision and a shared commitment to your venture’s growth.
Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur, CEO and investor who founded six companies with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors for a 25X ROI. Two others are still in development. He has trained, consulted and advised thousands of Entrepreneurs, CEOs and boards since 2002. ™. Mr. Norton works with companies to 2X to 10X growth rates and valuation using AirTight Management™, the world’s most comprehensive Leadership Operating System™. He also helps companies raise capital to fund growth. He is also the Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University for early-stage companies that have not reached product-market fit and $1M ARR.
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