Dienstag, 17. August 2010

"rutschgefahr!" founders terms in german venture capital contracts

multiple liquidation preferences, full ratchets and founders warranties are on the rise on the german startup market. the positions for founders and new investors in new financing rounds get worse in 2010, as a bearish venture capital (vc) market dictates tougher conditions.

in order to avoid "rutschgefahr", german for slip hazard, when negotiating an investment round, read on to get the facts right.

a recent study of the german "mlawgroup" on "vc deal terms report 2010" (german only) gives quantitative insights into an often less transparent market. take the waring, plenty of numbers coming up - plenty of facts to get the own expectations right.

the study is based on feedback on 30 seed fundings, 36 series a and 16 series b rounds. the german "high tech gründerfonds" was taking the lead with 27 investments of 66 early rounds, thus making it the first address for young german startups.

so what to expect as a founder team, when sitting down with investors?

founder vesting is dominant, in 73% of the seed investments. vesting periods are between two to four years. allowances on the vesting are the minority with just 40% of the deals for only 25% of the founders shares.

good leaver/bad leaver clauses gain 18%, up from 32 to 50% of the investments. most good leavers can expect to gain a fair valuation of their shares (73%, up from 49%) though.
venture capitals seek for preferential rights in 78% of their investments. simple (1x) liquidation preferences are seemingly unavoidable in the seed stage (73%), while multiple preferences (2x) are a minority with only 7%. 20 percent of the feedback forms contained no answer on that question though.

exit preferences are common (53%) with an average of 5% interest p.a. on capital invested (8% last year) , although a maximum of 20% was reported.

while founders warranties remain an imperative (95%), pay to play seems to become a scare species. no seed round saw such rulings, series a rounds just in 23% of the cases.
non compete clauses for founders are enforced in 100% of the seed and in 75% of the a rounds with average durations of 2 years. on average founders get a half year salary in return.

anti dilution provisions are either weighted averages (51%) or full ratchets (35%), with a clear rise in the latter.

mlawgroups commented the tightening of conditions for founders as questionable. they could not understand how the worsening positions of the founders could help to prepare the founders (and existing investors) well for exits. for a law firm, this is a rather strong statement.
so much on the numbers. good thing with the study is, that it provides a useful basis to get one own´s negotiation aims right.

read more on general terms & conditions of vc contracts in "legal gibberish of investors in plain english" and in the series "six steps to venture capital".