A term sheet is a non-binding agreement outlining the basic terms and conditions under which an investment will be made. The term sheet acts as an outline for the parties involved so that once an agreement has been reached, a contract will be formed that adheres to the conditions defined in the term sheet.
A term sheet covers the major aspects of a deal, reducing the chances of a misunderstanding between parties. It also ensures that expensive legal fees attributed to drafting a binding agreement are not prematurely paid due to disagreements that arise. Here are some tips on creating an effective term sheet.
Numbers, Control, & Equity
The term sheet generally covers economic terms such as valuation and equity distributions to mitigate against a down-round or share dilution later. Things such as options or other equity incentives may be up for negotiation, as changes in options tend to change on a pre or post money basis. It also covers matters pertaining to control and voting rights, as investors enjoy having influence over managerial decisions as a way to control their investment and future liquidation options.
It Goes Beyond Valuations
It is easy to focus all attention on the pre-money valuation in a term sheet, as that defines the financing strategy of the startup moving forward. However, other topics such as governance and control should be equally considered. Investors can put in clauses giving them preference for the sale of a company or the issuance of preferred stock, giving them greater leverage over their investment and control over the company’s major decisions.
Retrofit Your Term Sheet
Not every deal or investor will be the same, which is why it important to draft a term sheet that answers to your specific needs, as well as those of the other party. Terms sheets are marginal, meaning that a win for you may mean a loss for the other party, vice versa. Hence, it is important to make sure that (1) you are aware and content with the terms laid out in your term sheet and (2) you leave room for changes or negotiation, as the term sheet is not the final contract, but a starting ground for securing your investment.