If you are not familiar with some of the terms used in this resource, we recommend taking a look at our Understanding growth capital term sheets resource.

Once a term sheet is agreed and during the course of due diligence, investors will provide a first draft of the proposed shareholders agreement.

Part of the scope for your appointed law firm will be to review the proposed shareholders agreement and ensure that it reflects the terms agreed in the term sheet.

What is the shareholders agreement?

Also known as the subscription agreement or the investment agreement, the shareholders agreement sets out the commercial and legal terms of the round, including how the company and its investors will interact.

Unlike the articles of association, the shareholders agreement is not a constitutional document and therefore does not have to be made public. It may contain information and terms that you consider to be commercially sensitive and prefer to keep confidential.

Parties to the agreement will be:

Terms that are included in the shareholders agreement
Negotiation of the shareholders agreement

It is typical for several drafts of the shareholders agreement to pass between both sets of lawyers before the final draft is agreed. We recommend staying close to this process so that you are aware of any points of a commercial nature and can provide your position. The term sheet is used as a guide, but remember that it is not legally binding and therefore it is possible to propose changes.

In negotiating any equity investment, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that you are entering into a long term partnership with the new investor, and not selling the business, for example. As a result, alignment is important and protracted negotiation on minor points may be damaging and could impact the likelihood of completion or a successful partnership.

Points to be aware of

Here are a number of key points that are often discussed specifically during negotiation of the shareholders agreement:

Warranties and warranty liability caps

The company and certain members of the management team will be required to provide warranties. The list of warranties is included within the Shareholders Agreement. It may be that additional warranties are added by the investor through the course of due diligence – particularly if any concerns are raised. It is important to understand what each of the warranties means and if there are any that you are not prepared to give, then ask your lawyer to propose a caveat, carve out, or to disclose certain information against those specific warranties in the disclosure letter.

Warranty liability caps set out the maximum amount of money the company or individual is liable to pay in the event that the investor makes a claim under the warranties.

Where this cap is set depends on the investor and each individual warrantor, but they are often a subject of discussion as certain members of management may feel uncomfortable about their liability.
There are a few guiding principles that investors use when proposing liability caps:

Investor consents

The shareholders agreement will set out any investor consent items, i.e. actions or matters for which investor consent must be sought.

This is necessary for minority investors who do not hold a controlling equity stake and therefore cannot exert this influence through their shareholding alone.

They require the ability to veto certain decisions in case they are excluded from them.

It is important to note that consent items are often those of key strategic importance to the company and its growth. The list is not intended to be an indication of the items that the investor wishes to veto, but instead the decisions that the investor would not want to be excluded from. They may be used as a guide as to decisions that should be discussed at board meetings.

The consents will likely include certain thresholds that should be set accordingly for your business.

Completion of the shareholders agreement

Once all terms are agreed, the shareholders agreement is signed by the relevant parties and dated on completion of the transaction, and from then on becomes legally binding on the parties to it.

Why do some companies have two shareholders agreements?

It is common practice in the US, and occasionally in the UK, for companies that undergo multiple successive funding rounds to have two agreements: a shareholders agreement and a subscription agreement.

The two documents essentially split the shareholders agreement in two – the shareholders agreement acts as an umbrella agreement while each subscription agreement governs a particular round.

This is designed to avoid the need to negotiate and draft an entirely new shareholders agreement each time a fundraise is undertaken.

The shareholders agreement contains the investor rights, such as information rights, warranties, investor consents and restrictive covenants.

The subscription agreement contains only the specific terms and mechanics of that particular round.
This approach can work well provided that the umbrella shareholders agreement is sufficiently sophisticated such that investors in subsequent rounds are happy to agree to their terms without significant amendments.

It is not uncommon for growth capital investments to comprise a loan note or similar debt-like instrument alongside equity.

In the instance that a loan note forms part of the investment, then a Loan Note Agreement will be entered into on completion.

This agreement sets out the terms of the loan note, specifically:

A first draft of the loan note agreement will be prepared by the investor’s legal counsel, and it will be part of your legal counsel’s scope to review and comment.

Terms to be aware of

The ability for the company to repay the loan note prior to maturity may be important, particularly if the interest rate is high or the interest is rolled up. Investors that have invested through a mix of equity and loan notes may not be comfortable with repayment of the loan notes too early in the investment cycle. It is advisable to check the process and consents involved, and if any penalties apply.

The events of default may be broader and more commercial in nature than those typically seen in banking documentation.

A redemption premium may be applied to the principal sum on repayment of the loan. This redemption premium could be payable in full even if the loan is repaid early - in which case, the cost of capital for the company would increase.

Alongside the adoption of the revised articles of association and signing of the shareholders agreement, there are a number of other documents required to complete the seed round. Drafting of these documents should form part of the scope of works for your legal advisors.

Share Certificates

A share certificate will be produced for each seed investor, setting out the number of shares they hold, the class of share (most likely ordinary shares for a seed round) and the nominal price per share (often a penny or a pound).

Each share certificate is signed by director of the company and witnessed.

Board Minutes

A board minute will be prepared that will approve:

The board minute should also:

The board minute is signed by the Chairman of the board.

Written Resolutions

This ordinarily takes the form of one document with two resolutions:

The document is signed by the existing shareholders of the company.

Disclosure letter

If no warranties have been provided, then a disclosure letter is not required.

If warranties have been provided, then the warrantors and the company may wish to provide a disclosure letter, which sets out information relevant to the warranties.

For example, the founder (if one of the warrantors) may have provided a warranty that there is no outstanding litigation with any former employees. If there is any outstanding litigation, then this would be disclosed in the disclosure letter and referenced to that particular warranty. This ensures that the seed investors are aware of these issues and provides legal protection to the warrantor, as the investors would not be able to make a claim against the warrantor for breach of warranty in relation to that particular litigation. If the outstanding employee case was not disclosed and were to come to light after the transaction, then the seed investors may be able to claim for breach of warranty.

The disclosure letter is signed by the warrantors and the seed investors, to confirm receipt.

Supporting agreed form documents

If there are any documents that are defined or referred to in the shareholders agreement, in particular, those referred to in the warranties, then these must be provided at completion, for example, a copy of the business plan, the investor presentation, the management accounts or any due diligence reports.

Alongside the adoption of the revised articles of association, signing of the shareholders agreement, there are a number of other documents and actions required to complete the round. Drafting of these documents will normally form part of the scope of works for the law firm representing the investor, who is also taking the lead on the investment documentation. It may be part of your law firm’s scope to review these documents and actions.

Share Certificates

A share certificate will be produced for each investor in the round, setting out the number of shares they hold, the class of share and the nominal price per share (often a penny or a pound).

Each share certificate is signed by director of the company and witnessed.

Board Minutes

A board minute will be prepared that will approve:

The board minute should also:

The board minute is signed by the Chairman of the board.

Written Resolutions

This ordinarily takes the form of one document with two resolutions:

The document is signed by the existing shareholders of the company.

Disclosure letter

A disclosure letter is usually drafted in response to certain individuals and the company agreeing to provide warranties.

The letter sets out any information that relates to the warranties.

For example, the CEO may have provided a warranty that there is no outstanding litigation with any former employees. If there is any outstanding litigation, then this would be disclosed in the disclosure letter and referenced to that particular warranty. This ensures that the new investors are aware of these matters and provides legal protection to the warrantor, as the investors would not be able to make a claim against the warrantor for breach of warranty in relation to that particular litigation. If the outstanding employee case was not disclosed and were to come to light after the transaction, then the new investors may be able to claim for breach of warranty.

The disclosure letter is signed by the warrantors and the new investor(s), to confirm receipt.

Supporting agreed form documents

Any documents that are defined or referred to in the shareholders agreement, in particular, those referred to in the warranties, must be provided at completion, for example, a copy of the business plan, the investor presentation, the management accounts or any due diligence reports.

Pre completion searches

The investor’s legal counsel will carry out a number of specific pre-completion searches:

Pitfalls to avoid

Make sure that you obtain power of attorney for any key individuals that are unable to attend the completion meeting and are unable to sign remotely. It is surprising how often completions are held up by availability.

If the company has restructured as part of the investment, ensure that a bank account has been set up for the entity that will receive the proceeds. It can take time to put a bank account in place and this can delay completion.

We recommend appointing a law firm with experience of early stage equity fundraising to handle the legal documentation for the round. It is common for early stage companies to have articles of association and shareholders agreements that don’t function properly – and this often only emerges when these documents are put to the test, for example, through conflict with a shareholder or a shareholder employee leaving the business.

When to seek legal counsel

Law firms are typically appointed once a term sheet has been issued to investors and there is a reasonably high likelihood of agreement along the lines of the terms proposed. As a term sheet is not legally binding, it is not essential to have legal input up until this stage, but you may wish to seek a friendly view of your proposed term sheet in advance of circulation.

How to appoint legal counsel

A clear matter scope and fee arrangement is important to avoid unexpected costs. We recommend working to fixed price scopes and agreeing to variations where there is scope creep. Fee estimates should be treated with some caution as they are not a cap.

Some essential items for the matter scope:

Some additional items you may require:

We recommend appointing a law firm with experience of venture stage equity fundraising (Series A, B etc.) to handle the legal documentation for the round.

When to seek legal counsel

Law firms are typically appointed once a term sheet has been issued and there is a reasonably high likelihood of agreement along the lines of the terms proposed. As a term sheet is not legally binding, it is not essential to have legal input up until this stage, but you may wish to in the course of negotiating the term sheet, in part to avoid more protracted negotiation during finalisation of the legal documentation.

How to appoint legal counsel

A clear matter scope and fee arrangement is important to avoid unexpected costs. We recommend working to a fixed price scope and agreeing to specific variations where there is scope creep. Fee estimates should be treated with some caution as they are not a cap.

It is usual for institutional investors to provide the first draft of the legal documentation suite, in particular, the revised articles of association and shareholders agreement. This is because most have a standard set of documents that are applied across their portfolio. There are significant similarities in the structure of these documents across the industry which makes it easier for funds to co-invest. The British Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (BVCA) provide standard documents that are frequently used as a starting point.

As a result, your legal counsel’s primary role will be in reviewing and preparing commentary and amendments to the documentation.

Some essential items for the legal scope:

Some additional items you may require:

If the fundraise will be under the EIS or VCT tax schemes:

If the investor will undertake legal due diligence:

We recommend appointing a law firm with experience of equity fundraising to advise you on the legal documentation.

Law firms are typically appointed once a term sheet has been issued and there is a reasonably high likelihood of agreement along the lines of the terms proposed. As a term sheet is not legally binding, it is not essential to have legal input up until this stage, but you may wish to in the course of negotiating the term sheet, which may help to avoid misunderstandings and protracted negotiation during finalisation of the legal documentation.

Fees

A clear matter scope and fee arrangement is important to avoid unexpected costs. We recommend working to a fixed price scope and agreeing to specific variations where there is scope creep. Fee estimates should be treated with some caution as they are not a cap.

Scope

It is usual for institutional investors to provide the first draft of the legal documentation suite, in particular, the revised articles of association and shareholders agreement. This is because most have a standard set of documents that are applied across their portfolio. There are significant similarities in the structure of these documents across the industry which makes it easier for funds to co-invest. The British Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (BVCA) provide standard documents that are frequently used as a starting point.

As a result, your legal counsel’s primary role will be in reviewing and preparing commentary and amendments to the documentation.

Some essential items for the legal scope:

Some additional items you may require:

Introduction

A term sheet sets out the principal terms that will form the basis of the final transaction documentation, in particular, the articles of association and the shareholders agreement, that will be entered into on completion of the transaction. The term sheet is not intended to be legally binding (with the exception of the confidentiality clause) and serves to act as a guide.

Before issuing a term sheet, you will need to have decided upon the principal terms surrounding the proposed seed round, though these can change through the course of negotiations up to completion.
In previous sections we have covered valuation (pre and post money valuation and the subscription price), and cap tables, where you calculate the percentage equity that new investors will hold.
There are a number of other terms that govern the interaction between the Company, the Board and the shareholders, and the commercial terms of the new investment.

We have prepared a template term sheet that contains a number of key terms and can be tailored to fit your specific seed round.

Note that institutional funds will ordinarily issue their own term sheet for you to review and agree. For seed rounds comprising individuals and smaller seed funds, you will be expected to provide a term sheet.

Principal Terms

Size of the Round

The total amount of money (New Equity) being raised as part of the Seed Round, for example £500,000.

Post Money Equity Valuation

The valuation at which the funding will be raised, calculated by:

Post Money Equity Value (£) = New Equity (£) / Equity Stake held by Seed Investors (%)

It is not necessary to also include the Pre Money Equity Valuation, but if requested it is:

Pre Money Equity Value (£) = Post Money Equity Value (£) - New Equity (£)

Subscription Price

The price per share paid by the Seed Investors, calculated by:

Subscription Price per Share (£) = Pre Money Equity Value (£) / No. of Shares in Issuance BEFORE the round

Which should also equal:

Subscription Price per Share (£) = Post Money Equity Value (£) / No. of Shares in Issuance AFTER the round

Subscription Shares

The total number of shares that Seed Investors will subscribe for:

Subscription Shares (No.) = New Equity (£) / Subscription Price (£)

Proportion of Total Equity held by Seed Investors

This is the equity stake that the Seed Investors will hold in the business post the fundraise:

Equity stake (%) = New Equity (£) / Post Money Equity Value (£)

Ranking of Shares

This term sets out how the newly issued shares will rank relative to the existing shares in issuance. Is it typical for seed rounds for ordinary shares to be issued, i.e. just more of the same class as currently in issuance and held by the founders. In this instance, the newly issued shares will rank equally and participate equally with existing shares on voting rights, dividends and on a return of capital.

A new class of share could be created if they were to hold preferential or different legal or commercial rights and is significantly more likely to be required if raising from a seed fund or other institutional investor.

Note that one of the eligibility criteria for a round to be SEIS or EIS eligible is that newly issued shares are full-risk ordinary shares that are not redeemable or carry any preferential rights to the company’s assets on a winding up.

Information Rights

It is common to provide some information to your investors on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. This may depend on how involved your investors wish to be, and may be as limited as the Company’s annual accounts, or may also include:

Investor Director

If you intend to offer investors the right to appoint a Non Executive Director, then you will need to include this clause. It is not necessarily a pre-requisite or expected and depends on your investors. They may seek the right to appoint one Non Executive Director between them, usually voted for in proportion to their shareholdings.

Warranties

Include this term if the Directors, Founders and/or the Company will provide warranties to the seed investors. Warranties may be limited to the accuracy of the current share capital, or may be more thorough and include the reasonableness of assumptions underpinning the business plan, the status of the Company’s trading, any outstanding liabilities or litigation etc. They are often minimal or excluded from seed rounds.

Option Scheme

If you intend to put in place an option scheme, for example an EMI scheme, as part of the transaction or shortly thereafter, then include a clause in reference to this, setting out the maximum equity percentage of the company the option scheme will represent.

New Issue of Shares

This clause summarises the ability of the company to issue new shares, and usually permits the company to issue shares as part of any specific option scheme, or with the consent of a proportion of the shareholders. Otherwise issuances may be offered pro-rata to existing shareholders.

Transfer of Shares

These set out the rights of each shareholder to transfer their shares to another individual or entity. It is common to have in place permitted transfers, which allow shareholders to transfer all or a portion of their shareholdings to immediate family or family trusts. Otherwise, it may be drafted that any shares intended to be transferred are to be offered first to the existing shareholders pro-rata to their shareholding.

Drag Along

A drag along right entitles a certain proportion of the shareholders (usually the majority) to force smaller shareholders into a sale of the company to a third party purchaser. This can be necessary to prevent smaller shareholders from refusing to sell their shares and preventing an exit event.

Tag Along

A tag along right entitles a shareholder to participate if an offer is made for a majority of the issued shares, on the same terms as those offered to the majority shareholder(s).

Investor Consents

Investor consents are sometimes requested by a group of new investors to give them some protection and control over key decisions made by the directors, the company and/or the majority shareholders.
Investor consents usually require a certain proportion of shareholders consent to a particular list of actions. Where this percentage is set depends on your current shareholder structure. If, say, following the seed round two co-founders will hold 80% of the shares and the new investors will hold 20%, then there is no point in setting the threshold at 75% as this affords no protection to the new investors – the co-founders could vote together and ignore their consent. In this instance, the threshold may be set at 85% so that if both co-founders agree, they will still require a further 5% to proceed.

The list of consents usually comprises significant decisions, such as a winding up or sale of the company, issuance of new equity, significant capital expenditure or the disposal of assets.
Pre-emption

Pre-emption rights allow shareholders to participate in future share issuances or fundraises if they wish to, and thus reduce or prevent their equity shareholding from being diluted.

Leaver provisions

Leaver provisions set out what happens to the shares held by directors that leave the company. They will usually define a “good leaver” and a “bad leaver”, for example, a bad leaver may be someone who is dismissed or who resigns. All of, or a portion of, their shares may be subject to repurchase by the company and any remaining shares are likely to lose their voting rights (be “disenfranchised”).

The purpose of leaver provisions is to discourage individuals from leaving, to ensure that those individuals that are no longer involved in the company are not able to vote on key decisions and that equity is returned to the company to incentivise a replacement, if necessary.

It is not essential to set these out in a term sheet for a seed round; however, investors may ask for your intentions with regards to these clauses.

What is a term sheet?

Following a successful presentation and early due diligence, an offer from a venture investor will come in the form of a term sheet (sometimes called a “heads of terms”).

A term sheet sets out the principal terms that will form the basis of the final transaction documentation, in particular, the articles of association and the shareholders agreement, that will be entered into on completion of the transaction. The term sheet is not intended to be legally binding (with the exception of the confidentiality clause) and serves to act as a guide.

While specific terms can be negotiated at the point of drafting the final investment documentation, the purpose of the term sheet is to ascertain alignment on the deal proposed, so this is the time to raise and discuss any proposed amendments.

In this section we summarise the terms you may come across in a venture term sheet, and what they mean.

Typical term sheet components

Valuation

This will usually be presented as a certain amount invested for a certain equity percentage. From this, you can calculate the valuation that the investor has applied to the business (the post money equity value, pre money equity value and enterprise value).

For example, an investment of £2,000,000 for newly issued shares representing 25% of the business.

Post Money Equity Valuation (£) = Investment Amount (£) / Equity Percentage (%)
Pre Money Equity Valuation (£) = Post Money Equity Valuation (£) – Investment Amount (£)

The value of the business is then:

Enterprise Valuation (£) = Pre Money Equity Valuation (£) + Current Net Debt

Arrangement fee

Some funds charge an arrangement fee that becomes due when the deal completes and is usually based on a percentage of total funds raised. Fees vary significantly between funds – they are relatively uncommon among venture capital firms but more typical of later stage funds, such as growth capital or private equity funds. The transaction fee usually serves the purpose of covering the cost of the process for your investor and is also one of theirs sources of income. Some investors also charge an ongoing monitoring fee.

Ranking of Shares

The term sheet will set out how the newly issued shares will rank relative to the existing shares in issuance.

Institutional investors and funds will almost always seek a new class of share to be issued alongside the existing ordinary shares held by the founders and early seed investors.

This is so that specific rights can be attached to this new class of share – these rights may be economic and/or legal in scope.

Note that one of the eligibility criteria for a round to be EIS eligible is that newly issued shares are full-risk ordinary shares that are not redeemable or carry any preferential rights to the company’s assets on a winding up. This may impact the extent of rights attached to the new class of share.

Priority return or liquidation preference

Investors may ask that their investment is returned to them before the remaining proceeds are split pro-rata between the ordinary shareholders. A multiplier may be applied to this right, for example, a 2x liquidation preference means that the investor is entitled to twice their investment before remaining proceeds are divided up. The exit valuation at which this will apply may vary – it may only be relevant if you sell your business below a certain value, and hence is there to provide the investor with protection if things don't go to plan.

Liquidation preferences of 1.0x are relatively common. Up to 2.0x are occasional and above 2.0x are relatively rare.

The commercial terms of a deal need to be considered as a whole and not viewed in isolation, so consider this alongside the implied valuation, dilution and any other economic terms within the term sheet.

Some companies agree to higher liquidation preferences in return for giving away a lower equity stake in the business.

Participation

Investors that hold preferred shares may also ask for a portion of the proceeds owed to ordinary shareholders in the event of a sale, called “participating preferred shares”. There may be a cap applied to this participation, for example, the investor may receive a portion of the proceeds until they have received 2x their initial investment, and after that all proceeds will be divided among the remaining ordinary shareholders and the investor will not participate any further.

Dividend policy

Investors may request the right to participate in any dividends distributed to ordinary shareholders. In certain circumstances, they may also seek some form of preferred dividend, paid before any dividends to ordinary shareholders, provided that the company has sufficient reserves. They may also have the ability to veto any dividend policy.

Drag Along

A drag along right entitles a certain proportion of the shareholders (usually the majority) to force smaller shareholders into a sale of the company to a third party purchaser. This can be necessary to prevent smaller shareholders from refusing to sell their shares and preventing an exit event. Drag along rights are very common in venture term sheets as investors need to be confident of securing an eventual exit.

Tag Along

A tag along right entitles shareholders to participate if an offer is made for a majority of the issued shares, on the same terms as those offered to the majority shareholder(s).

Pay to Play

This clause requires that all investors contribute a certain amount to any future fundraising, and if they don’t they may lose certain rights, for example, be forced to convert their preferred shares into ordinary shares and thus lose their preferred rights. If you are raising money from multiple investors, those investors that are not well placed to provide further funding down the line may be put off by this clause as they may be faced with an inevitable loss of rights.

Information Rights

Investors may require certain information to be made available to them on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, which could include:

Non Executive Director or Investor Director

Institutional investors may require the right to appoint a Non Executive Director to the Board – this may be an individual from their own firm or an individual they introduce from their network, or both. They may also have the right to make this person the Chairman.

If a number of funds are participating, this right is usually reserved for the lead investor to prevent the board becoming too crowded.

Warranties

The directors, founders and/or the Company will be required to provide warranties to the new investors. Warranties will vary in scope depending on the investor, from warranting the accuracy of the current share capital, to the reasonableness of assumptions underpinning the business plan, the status of the Company’s trading and any outstanding liabilities or litigation.

If you agree the term sheet and progress through due diligence to completion, you will produce a disclosure letter which can be used to disclose any relevant information against these warranties and protect yourself and the company from a claim being made in respect of those specific items. For example, you may be required to warrant that there are no current employment cases against the company – if there were to be one, this would be described in the disclosure letter.

Option Scheme

If you intend to put in place an option scheme, for example an EMI scheme, as part of the transaction or shortly thereafter, then this should be explicitly mentioned in the term sheet and should set out the maximum percentage of the issued share capital that the option scheme will represent.

Investors will take dilution from options into account when calculating their anticipated return. They may seek a higher equity percentage to compensate for a large option pool.

Up to 10% of equity is relatively common for an option pool to be allocated to key members of the team.

Transfer of Shares

These set out the rights of each shareholder to transfer their shares to another individual or entity. It is common to have in place permitted transfers, which allow shareholders to transfer all or a portion of their shareholdings to immediate family or family trusts. Otherwise, it may be drafted that any shares intended to be transferred are to be offered first to the existing shareholders pro-rata to their shareholding.

Investor Consents

Investor consents are often required by minority investors to provide them some protection and control over key decisions made by the directors, the company and/or the majority shareholders.

Investor consents usually require that a certain proportion of shareholders consent to a particular list of actions. Where this percentage is set depends on your current shareholder structure. If, say, following the fundraise two employee shareholders will hold 80% of the shares and the new investors will hold 20%, then there is no point in setting the threshold at 75% as this affords no protection to the new investors – the existing shareholders could vote together and ignore their consent. In this instance, the threshold may be set at 85%, say.

The list of consents usually comprises significant decisions, such as a winding up or sale of the company, issuance of new equity, significant capital expenditure, key hires or the disposal of assets.

Pre-emption

Pre-emption rights allow shareholders to participate in future share issuances or fundraises if they wish to, and thus reduce or prevent their equity shareholding from being diluted.

Leaver provisions

Leaver provisions set out what happens to the shares held by directors or employees that leave the company. They will usually define a “good leaver” and a “bad leaver”, for example, a bad leaver may be someone who is dismissed or who resigns, and a good leaver may be someone who becomes incapacitated through illness or dies. All of, or a portion of, their shares may be subject to repurchase by the company and any remaining shares are likely to lose their voting rights (be “disenfranchised”).

The purpose of leaver provisions is to discourage individuals from leaving, to ensure that those individuals that are no longer involved in the company are not able to vote on key decisions and that equity is returned to the company to incentivise a replacement, if necessary.

Swamping rights

Minority investors may define certain circumstances in which they will have the ability to take voting control, i.e. will hold 51% or more of the voting rights in the company. These rights may be invoked for any reason or could have specified triggers, for example, the company underperforming, a key director leaving the business or a breach of banking covenants.

What is a term sheet?

Following a positive initial meeting, follow up queries and discussions on commercial terms, an offer from an investor will come in the form of a term sheet (sometimes called a “heads of terms”).

A term sheet sets out the principal terms that will form the basis of the final transaction documentation, in particular, the articles of association and the shareholders agreement, that will be entered into on completion of the transaction. The term sheet is not intended to be legally binding (with the exception of the confidentiality clause) and serves to act as a guide.

While specific terms can be negotiated at the point of drafting the final investment documentation, the purpose of the term sheet is to ascertain alignment on the deal proposed, so this is the time to raise and discuss any proposed amendments.

In this section we summarise the terms you may come across in a growth capital term sheet, and what they mean.

Typical term sheet components

Valuation

This will usually be presented as a certain amount invested for a certain equity percentage. From this, you can calculate the valuation that the investor has applied to the business (the post money equity value, pre money equity value and enterprise value).

For example, an investment of £5,000,000 for newly issued shares representing 20% of the business.

Post Money Equity Valuation (£) = Investment Amount (£) / Equity Percentage (%)
Pre Money Equity Valuation (£) = Post Money Equity Valuation (£) – Investment Amount (£)

The value of the business is then:

Enterprise Valuation (£) = Pre Money Equity Valuation (£) + Current Net Debt (£)

Arrangement fee

Some funds charge an arrangement fee that becomes due when the deal completes and is usually based on a percentage of total funds raised. The transaction fee usually serves the purpose of covering the cost of the process for your investor and is also one of theirs sources of income. Some investors also charge an ongoing monitoring fee to help cover the cost of their Non Executive, portfolio reporting requirements and portfolio company events.

Ranking of shares

The term sheet will set out how the newly issued shares will rank relative to the existing shares in issuance.

Institutional investors will almost always seek a new class of share to be issued alongside the ordinary shares held by the existing shareholders.

This is so that specific rights can be attached to this new class of share – these rights may be economic and/or legal in scope.

Debt-like instruments

A portion of the investment may be in the form of a loan note or similar instrument, which bears an interest rate and must be repaid at a certain future date. Incorporating an element of yield and downside protection for the investor may result in lower equity dilution, as the riskiness of the investment is reduced.

Priority return or liquidation preference

Investors may ask that their investment is returned to them before the remaining proceeds are split pro-rata between the ordinary shareholders. A multiplier may be applied to this right, for example, a 2x liquidation preference means that the investor is entitled to twice their investment before remaining proceeds are divided up. The exit valuation at which this will apply may vary – it may only be relevant if you sell your business below a certain value, and hence is there to provide the investor with protection if things don't go to plan.

Liquidation preferences of 1.0x are relatively common. Up to 2.0x are occasional and above 2.0x are relatively rare.

The commercial terms of a deal need to be considered as a whole and not viewed in isolation, so consider this alongside the implied valuation, dilution and any other economic terms within the term sheet.

Some companies agree to higher liquidation preferences in return for giving away a lower equity stake in the business.

Participation

Investors that hold preferred shares may also ask for a portion of the proceeds owed to ordinary shareholders in the event of a sale, called “participating preferred shares”. There may be a cap applied to this participation, for example, the investor may receive a portion of the proceeds until they have received 2x their initial investment, and after that all proceeds will be divided among the remaining ordinary shareholders and the investor will not participate any further.

Dividend policy

Investors may request the right to participate in any dividends distributed to ordinary shareholders. They may also seek some form of preferred dividend, paid before any dividends to ordinary shareholders, provided that the company has sufficient reserves. They may also have the ability to veto any dividend policy.

Drag along

A drag along right entitles a certain proportion of the shareholders (usually the majority) to force smaller shareholders into a sale of the company to a third party purchaser. This can be necessary to prevent smaller shareholders from refusing to sell their shares and preventing an exit event. Drag along rights are very common as investors need to be confident of securing an eventual exit.

Tag along

A tag along right entitles shareholders to participate if an offer is made for a majority of the issued shares, on the same terms as those offered to the majority shareholder(s).

Information rights

Investors will require certain information to be made available to them on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, which could include:

Non Executive Director or Investor Director

Institutional investors may require the right to appoint a Non Executive Director to the Board – this may be an individual from their own firm or an individual they introduce from their network, or both. They may also have the right to make this person the Chairman.

Warranties

The company and certain members of the management team will be defined as “warrantors” and will be required to provide warranties, for example, they will confirm certain facts and provide certain information and agree that they will be liable for a certain sum if these facts turn out to be incorrect or untrue, or if certain information has been concealed.

Warranties are sometimes used as a means to minimise or reduce due diligence scopes – instead of spending lots of time reviewing the company’s contracts, an investor might ask you to warrant that there are no onerous clauses within any key contract. This requires you to have good knowledge of the company’s contracts and potentially carry out this review yourself.

Warranties will vary in scope depending on the investor, but typically include items such as warranting the accuracy of the current share capital, the reasonableness of assumptions underpinning the business plan, the status of the Company’s trading and any outstanding liabilities or litigation. The term sheet is unlikely to set out the full list of warranties, but if you would like to see this then ask the investor to provide the full list.

If you agree the term sheet and progress through due diligence to completion, you will produce a disclosure letter which can be used to disclose any relevant information against these warranties and protect yourself and the company from a claim being made in respect of those specific items. For example, you may be required to warrant that there are no current employment cases against the company – if there were to be one, this would be included in the disclosure letter.

Option scheme

If you intend to put in place an option scheme, for example an EMI scheme, as part of the transaction or shortly thereafter, then this should be discussed with an investor prior to issuance of a term sheet, as they will specify whether they are willing to accept dilution for this pot within the term sheet. It is common for offers to be a percentage of the fully diluted equity, post issuance of options.

Up to 10% of equity is relatively common for an option pool to be allocated to key members of the team.

Transfer of shares

These set out the rights of each shareholder to transfer their shares to another individual or entity. It is common to have in place permitted transfers, which allow shareholders to transfer all or a portion of their shareholdings to immediate family or family trusts. Otherwise, it may be drafted that any shares intended to be transferred are to be offered first to the existing shareholders pro-rata to their shareholding.

Investor consents

Investor consents are required by minority investors to provide them some protection and control over key decisions made by the directors, the company and/or the majority shareholders.

The list of consents usually comprises significant decisions, such as a winding up or sale of the company, issuance of new equity, significant capital expenditure, key hires or the disposal of assets.

Pre-emption

Pre-emption rights allow shareholders to participate in future share issuances or fundraises if they wish to, and thus reduce or prevent their equity shareholding from being diluted.

Leaver provisions

Leaver provisions set out what happens to the shares held by directors or employees that leave the company. They will usually define a “good leaver” and a “bad leaver”, for example, a bad leaver may be someone who is dismissed or who resigns, and a good leaver may be someone who becomes incapacitated through illness or dies. All of, or a portion of, their shares may be subject to repurchase by the company and any remaining shares are likely to lose their voting rights (i.e. they will be disenfranchised).

The purpose of leaver provisions is to discourage individuals from leaving, to ensure that those individuals that are no longer involved in the company are not able to vote on key decisions and that equity is returned to the company to incentivise a replacement, if necessary.

Swamping rights

Minority investors may define certain circumstances in which they will have the ability to take voting control, i.e. will hold 51% or more of the voting rights in the company. These rights may be invoked for any reason or could have specified triggers, for example, the company underperforming, a key director leaving the business or a breach of banking covenants.

Restrictive covenants

Restrictive covenants prevent certain individuals from doing certain things within a specific time period (usually their employment followed by a period after that, for example, one year). Individuals may agree to not disclose information, compete with the company or solicit business from the company.

Security

An investor may require that their investment is secured against certain assets. This would usually relate to a debt-like investment, for example, a loan note. An investor may be entitled to collect a certain asset belonging to the company or require personal security from the directors of the company in the event that the company goes into liquidation.

Equity or performance covenants

These covenants allow the investor certain rights in the instance that the company performs below a certain threshold (for example, the business plan). These rights may include the ability to take voting control of the company or to recall a loan note.

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