The importance of a term sheet in the context of raising funds through venture capital should not be overlooked. If you think of the ongoing relationship between you and the investor as a marriage, then you can think of the term sheet as the antenuptial agreement.
The term sheet is the document that outlines the terms by which an investor (angel or institutional), will make a financial investment in your company. The term sheet is crucial as it usually determines the final deal structure with your investor – it outlines the terms by which your investor will make a financial investment in your company.
Finding an investor can be complex and time consuming. Once you’ve found one with the right strategies and values, you may be tempted to rush through negotiations to access the promised cash injection. There can be serious ramifications if the details of the deal are not negotiated on a level playing field, and this is where the importance of a term sheet comes in.
A term sheet exposes the bare bones of the fundamental commercial terms of the investment. Due to its concise nature, the involved parties are less likely to miss essential details.
The term sheet
The term sheet is intended solely as a summary of terms for discussion and agreement between the parties. Except for the confidentiality provisions, nothing should create any legally binding obligations on the part of the parties until they execute the definitive written agreements, obtain all the corporate and legal approvals, and successfully close the deal by meeting all the conditions precedent.
The advantage of the term sheet in this respect is that it expedites the investment process by outlining the material terms and conditions, and guides legal counsel in the preparation of the proposed final agreements. It also allows you and your investor to get to grips with the terms quickly and provide input from each of your unique perspectives.
What to look out for in a term sheet
Your investor will place a valuation on your start-up company based on, among other things, comparisons to other companies in the marketplace and recent transactions. It is common to set the valuation of the start-up company as a “pre-money” valuation (i.e. the value of the company before the investors in the funding round participate). This is, however, not always the case – so be sure to get clarity on this, as investing pre-money or post-money can make a big difference in the equity stake you are giving away in your company.
If the parties are not in agreement about the valuation of the company, consider making provisions for claw-back provisions in favour of the start-up company or payment by the investor in tranches, which will be determined as and when the company’s audited financial statements indicate its valuation.
Type of shares offered to the investor
You will want to understand the type of shares you are giving away to the investor in return for the investment. Will you be giving the investor ordinary shares or preferred shares? Large investors are often only concerned with two things: Control and economics. As such, investors will often insist on acquiring a separate class of preferred shares which entitles them to fixed returns, the payment of which often takes priority over ordinary share dividends.
This is what is used to determine how the money is shared once the liquidity event happens. The preferred shares might have a liquidation preference of 1x the ordinary shares. That means that when the company is sold, the preferred shareholders will be paid first and then the ordinary shareholders.
As a start-up founder, you need to know what you are promising your investor.
Related: Is Venture Capital Right For You?
Employee share ownership
These are shares which are set aside to be issued to employees, advisors and others during the investment round. Having available shares for this purpose is important, as they are needed to bring in new talent. This pool of shares is typically part of the pre-money valuation of the business. You need to understand this concept because these shares can dilute pre-money shareholdings.
The vesting period for founder shares is ordinarily three to four years. From an investor’s point of view, they want to make sure that you, as the founder and key members of the management team, are locked in and stay invested in the company.
It’s worth noting that many of the vesting provisions are subject to the founder meeting pre-determined performance milestones and continuously adding value to the company. After all, the investor took interest and invested in the venture because they believed in the founder team.
This is an important provision to look out for as it protects the investor’s investment if the start-up company raises an additional round of funding at a lower valuation.
Your investor may allude to this in the term sheet and require you to include an anti-dilution clause in the final agreements. Venture capital investors take significant capital risks and they will always seek to minimise their investment risk however they can. It’s important that you understand the effect of anti-dilution clauses on both future capital raisings, as well as your interests generally.
Raising venture capital is a crucial, and often fragile, step in any start-up business’ journey to success. Make sure you get guidance from a legal team that is specialised in commercial and start-up law from the start.
7 Questions A Venture Capitalist Will Ask You Before Investing In Your Business
Are you ready for external financing?
It’s no secret that the number one cause of business failure is running out of cash. However, an injection of cash alone does not necessarily mean a business will be successful. Our role as a VC is to identify businesses that have a unique mix of skills and offerings that, when mixed with the right capital partner, are in the best position to succeed.
These businesses are generally run by entrepreneurs that seek to have an impact on some sector of society and have the drive, foresight and emotional intelligence needed to succeed. Finding businesses run by entrepreneurs who exhibit these qualities is a big part of our secret sauce, but equally, it’s important that we can work with, collaborate and align interests with these entrepreneurs, so that success ultimately results in both founders and investors alike realising profits and investment returns.
Understanding what VCs look for
After identifying businesses with potential, we spend a lot of time working with the entrepreneurs we’re considering investing in, asking questions like:
- Are we funding a business, an idea, a lifestyle or a big dream?
- Who are the clients, how did the business acquire them and why do they use their services?
- Does the business have a competitive advantage that’s difficult to copy?
- Can the business scale?
- And finally, is the founder and entrepreneur ready?
- Are they prepared to sell some of their company and work with external partners? Do they listen, seek and take advice?
- And when (not if) the company runs out of money, are they the first employee to forego their salary?
If you want to prepare yourself for a capital raise, these are the questions you should be asking yourself in preparation.
Right partners at the right time
Starting a business is hard. Partnering with the right investors with aligned interests is crucial and being comfortable in answering the above questions is just as important.
If answering these questions makes you uneasy in anyway, perhaps you aren’t ready for venture capital financing. Like most things in life, success comes down to people, and partnering with the right people and investors at the right time, is key. Not all entrepreneurs are comfortable working with partners. Understand what you want from a funder before you start looking for investors.
Spartan Has Financing That Is Designed For Your Business
The SME landscape is fast and flexible. It requires financing that understands how entrepreneurial businesses operate. Through its unique processes and assessments, Spartan’s finance solutions are geared to do just that.
It takes an entrepreneur to know entrepreneurs, which is why Kumaran Padayachee and his team at Spartan are dedicated to financially backing an often under-serviced sector: SMEs.
“We’re fast, we’re flexible, and we’re understanding,” says Kumaran. “Every single person who works here is SME-centric. We hire for fit, looking for empathy and alignment in every position. All of our processes and assessments are done with empathy and understanding towards SMEs.”
Becoming funding ready
Thanks to these systems, processes and the team’s unique way of assessing SMEs, Spartan typically grants finance within seven days, although the fastest approval has been six hours, with the longest 15 days.
“How quickly we can approve finance is determined by how prepared the business owner is,” explains Kumaran.
“Do they have all their basic documentation ready? These include financials, management accounts, debtors age analysis and creditors age analysis. From a working capital context, this information makes it easy to assess the health of the business. Every business owner and financial director should be on top of these figures.”
Finding a funding fit
Not every business needs funding. Some can grow organically and draw on their own cash reserves. Others choose an equity route.
Spartan is a debt funder. However, even as a debt funder, the team’s aim is to back entrepreneurs and help them grow their businesses. They evaluate what the finance will be used for, and if the return is greater than the repayments.
“There are numerous ways that finance can be applied incorrectly by SMEs,” says Kumaran. “One of the first flags we look for is debtors age. If the industry norm is payment in 30 days, but a business is typically paid by its clients in 60 or 120 days, then we know there is something wrong with their internal processes. Either the company is too shy to be assertive with clients, or it lacks the capacity or capability to invoice clients and collect cash efficiently. Either way, the result is a shortage of cash.
“Business owners in this situation apply for a loan in order to be able to pay the bills, when they should be reviewing their own business, pulling one or two levers, and improving their cash flows.
“A customer project or contract is an example of an expansionary and positive need for finance. These cases are ideally suited to bridging finance. The problem is that there’s a lead time gap. You need to start the project, spend cash to hire people or purchase equipment, build internal capacity, deliver on the project and then the customer only pays you. Working capital and bridging finance allows the entrepreneur to do just that, and the company grows as a result.”
Bridging finance, in particular, is high risk and requires a large amount of flexibility, which is why more traditional funding institutions shy away from it. Spartan, on the other hand, offers revolving bridging loans to customers the team has worked with. “We understand this space, and our aim is to support the entrepreneurs within it,” Kumaran concludes.
Alternative finance solutions
Spartan is a 36-year-old Non-Bank Finance Company — that specialises in financing Small and Mid-sized businesses by providing:
- Growth Finance [structured finance for expansion]
- Specialised Asset Finance [equipment/machinery/technology/software/office fit-outs/energy/etc.]
- Working Capital Finance [bridging finance & medium term loans].
Bridging Finance is available for one to three month terms and is ideal for contract or project-based businesses. It is a solution that assists businesses with solving cash flow issues due to growth related challenges in their business and is either for a once-off need or for revolving business use.
Spartan is an Authorised Financial Services Provider 47631 and Registered Credit Provider NCRCP8669.
3 Top Tips SMEs Should Be Aware Of When Accessing Funding
Darlene Menzies weighs in on the top three things you should consider when accessing funding.
1. Applying for credit facilities
Apply for credit facilities (such as a bank overdraft or revolving credit facility) when business is going well, which is when a bank is more likely to approve it. This also means you will have the money immediately available if you hit a cash flow challenges. Don’t wait until the business has hit a cash cliff to apply, as you will be less likely to qualify or be in a position to negotiate the best rate/terms.
2. Have critical documentation easily available and kept up-to-date
Create a secure electronic folder, preferably stored online, that house all of your statutory and financial documentation that funders will request from you when you apply for finance.
This includes up to date copies of your company registration documents, shareholder agreement and register, certified copies of member/director IDs and marriage certificates, tax certificate, signed customer contracts, business plan, latest financial statements, up to date management accounts etc. SME lack of finance readiness (i.e. having their documentation available for funders) is a key constraint to being able to access funding.
3. Know your credit score, both your personal credit score as the business owner and your business’s credit score
Our report shows that 61% of entrepreneurs applying for finance don’t know their credit score, yet this is one the primary evaluation components used by funders to determine the risk of lending money to the business.
It’s important that SMEs request their credit scores and address any issues that are negatively affecting them. You are permitted one free credit record per annum from the Credit Bureau. Take time to learn about how the credit system works.
Access to finance
“There are a number of research studies that confirm the link between access to finance and business growth, showing that increased access to funding increases revenue and job growth in SMEs.”— Darlene Menzies, founder of finfind.co.za
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