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VC Financing:
The Term Sheet's Role in Raising Venture Capital

Entrepreneurs and companies who are seeking venture capital often negotiate with one or more venture capital firms on a number of important issues. These issues include the amount of capital to be raised, the investment terms, etc. The document, which summarizes these terms, is known as a "term sheet."

The term sheet is similar to a letter of intent; in other words, it is a nonbinding summary of the key points of the transaction. These points are later covered in detail in the Stock Purchase Agreement and related agreements signed at the time of execution of the transaction.

The value of the abbreviated term sheet format is that it speeds up the process of consummating a transaction. Specifically, it allows the parties to agree on the general terms of the transaction rather than having to debate less important details. In addition, because it is not binding, it allows the parties to take their discussions to the next level without the danger of committing too much. Note, however, that some parts of a term sheet may be binding. Typically the binding aspects only refer to confidentiality and disclosure issues.

Venture capital firms, and not the companies seeking capital, typically prepare the term sheet to include the terms under which they are willing to invest their capital. Alternatively, when seeking capital from angel investors, firms typically create their own term sheets for the angels to review. This fact tells a bit about the balance of power in an investment transaction. Venture capital firms are often more sophisticated and have more power than the companies seeking capital. Alternatively, angel investors are typically less sophisticated and have less power, and are more prone to consider the investment terms as laid out by the company seeking capital.

Getting to a term sheet is a key milestone in the capital raising process. Although not all term sheets result in a transaction, the term sheet shows that both parties are legitimately interested in executing a transaction. It is then up to the investor and company to agree upon the details.

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