Sonntag, 8. März 2009

"negotiations" part 5.2 of the series six steps to venture capital

the negotiation process is key for a good contract. in "negotiations" part 5.1 of the series "six steps to venture capital" the general framework got laid out. in part 5.2 it is all about the details.

key points first

time line, term sheet, contract. in that order. never avoid any critical topic at the beginning. they will sooner or later surface anyway, so they shall be dealt with directly.

know the aims
it is vital to know the aims of the negotiations before they take place. the negotiation team has to decide beforehand what they aim for and how much compromise is acceptable.
one way to do that is to sit down for half an hour, discuss, decide and write down the aims to visualize and remember. then destroy the paper, as it must not be seen by the vc by any accident in the meeting afterwords.
this holds for each separate meeting. no-one alone compromises the agreed terms in face of the investor. if a rethinking of the agreed aims is necessary, a break out session is necessary.

break out sessions
they are a common way to take speed or emotion out of tense negotiations. every party gets time to rethink, to cool down or to gather required information. can co-ordinate their negotiation aims. whenever necessary break-out. rather one break out session too much than having agreed to anything without realizing what it means. having experts on stand-by is recommended.

experts on stand-by
lawyers, technical experts, general advisers or friends are source for support during negotiations. they are to be informed ahead so they can be reached when required.

know the terms
drag along, take along, liquidation preference, right of first refusal, pre-post money valuation, milestones, catch-up, pay to play, ratchet, signing-closing, advisory board, due-diligence,... they all can be looked up. e.g. on investopedia or wikipedia. this is investment language, nothing really complicated about. one just has to be able to deal with them, know them by heart and be able to „play“ - meaning negotiate on the different aspects - them.

bad negotiation results can not be excused with tiredness. if necessary take break outs, get food, go scream on the balcony - whatever is necessary. then get back and keep negotiating hard.

vc are (also) humans. they have hobbies, family, worries, hopes. they are like everyone else. avoid the hawks through checking their references (discussed here).

heart & hard

being respectful and friendly is key. negotiating hard at the same time is no contradiction. not only for the negotiations and the daily life after with vc. it also holds for customers, suppliers, sales partners or employees.
at the end of a long negotiation process both parties are supposed to be unhappy with the results - but still happy to have closed the deal. with the negotiations finalized and vc money injected it is all about fulfilling and surviving. more on why it is necessary to deliver in the upcoming sixth and final part of „six steps to venture capital“.

recommendations: 1) define aims: time line & term sheet key elements, 2) take break outs, 3) have experts on stand-by and 4) know the terms.

in the final part of the series six step to venture capital read on how to survive after the investment. clearly not a trivial task.
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Dienstag, 3. März 2009

"negotiations" part 5.1 of the series six steps to venture capital

finding the right vc is difficult. getting a good investment deal is worse. though with the right preparation, much can be done to achieve a result, which is mutually favorable.

this is the 5th part of the "six steps to venture capital" guide, where the systematic approach to acquire venture capital for a is discussed. after the motivation got sorted out in step 1, the a-b list of potential investors in part 2 (part 1, part 2) got filled. the battleground got prepared in step3. now it is all about bringing home the money.

experienced investors will take advantage of unprepared therefore key topics have to be covered before going into the actual negotiations. to know more about strategy and preparation, see sun zi, moltke and douglas adams for basically every contact with the vc can be considered as part of a negotiation process.

time line - term sheet - contract signing & closing are the cornerstones of vc- negotiations. after the 2nd meeting the vc should have figured out the idea, market, business model, competition, exit channels and team - the investment story of the start.up. that done, it is all about nailing down a deal. that´s the same for the potential investor as for the start.up.

time line
the time line outlines the time frame from the beginning of the negotiations until the money flows. agreeing on the time line is rather non controversial and allows to get know to each other. simple does not mean irrelevant. by committing to a time line (especially) the vc has to reserve resources, meaning money.

term sheet
next thing is the term sheet. using common (non lawyer) language, all the important topics of the investment get outlined in it. it is basically a multi-page text document which both parties sign. example see here. whatever key topic relevant to the start.up or vc has to be part of the term sheet.
struggling for compromise is part of this process. moving key topics to be solved „afterwards“ or through proposals of lawyers in the final contract often leads to late break ups. thus involving high lawyer bills and wasting weeks of negotiations. typical time line to reach a term sheet is four to eight weeks. every party covers their own costs. granted that the negotiations were successful, it´s then about fixing a contract.

the final contract gets drafted on the basis of the term sheet. it should merely be a reformulation in lawyer-language. a common lawyer between the vc and the investee reduces costs. based on a well negotiated term sheet, it rarely leads to a break-down of the investment process. the paperwork can produce contracts between 35 to 100 pages.

the costs are typically covered by the start.up after the investor injected money. a maximal allowance for the cost should already be settled in the term sheet, anywhere around thirty thousand dollars/euros. anything above is to be covered by the respective parties.
time line for the contract should be four weeks. two weeks for signing and another two to four weeks for closing finalize the process.

giving the general line (term sheet - contract signing & closing), there are some topics which deserve an in depth coverage, like knowing the terms, break-outs or tiredness.
this will be covered int the upcoming part two on "negotiations" of the series "six steps to venture capital"

linktip: for the MIT 100k participants: executive summaries

updates start.up financing mindmap

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