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When entrepreneurs and investors negotiate to fund, one crucial document takes centre stage: the term sheet. This preliminary document outlines the key terms and conditions under which an investment will be made. A term sheet is a non-binding document that sets the stage for a potential investment deal. It serves as a blueprint for the final agreement and provides a framework for negotiations. Think of it as a handshake agreement detailing what both parties intend to achieve without locking them into a legal commitment.

However, it’s essential to understand that a term sheet is not a legally binding agreement. Here’s a closer look at what a term sheet is, its components, and why it needs to be carefully considered.


Critical Components of a Term Sheet

  1. Valuation: This section outlines the company’s pre-money valuation, which is its value before the investment is made. It sets the basis for determining the share price and the percentage of ownership the investor will receive.
  1. Investment Amount: Specifies how much money the investor is planning to put into the company. This is crucial for understanding the level of financial commitment.
  1. Type of Security: Indicates what kind of security the investor will receive in return for their investment. Common types include preferred stock, common stock, or convertible debt.
  1. Board Composition: This section details which seats will be on the company’s board of directors post-investment. This can affect the company’s control and direction.
  1. Voting Rights: This outlines the investor’s voting power, which can range from standard voting rights to veto power over major decisions.
  1. Liquidation Preference: Specifies how proceeds from a sale or liquidation of the company will be distributed, ensuring that investors get their money back first before common shareholders.
  1. Anti-Dilution Provisions: These provisions protect investors from dilution in case the company issues additional shares at a lower price than they originally paid.
  1. Other Terms: This can include various other provisions such as dividends, the right of first refusal, drag-along rights, and more.


Why Term Sheets are Not Legal Agreements

A term sheet, despite its detailed nature, is fundamentally non-binding. This means that while it reflects the intentions of both parties, they still need to follow through. Here’s why:

  1. Preliminary Nature: The purpose of a term sheet is to ensure that both parties are on the same page before proceeding with more detailed and legally binding documents. It acts as a preliminary agreement that outlines the basics of the deal.
  1. Due Diligence: After a term sheet is signed, due diligence typically follows. This is an in-depth investigation to verify the company’s financial health, operations, and other critical factors. The findings can influence the final terms or even result in the deal being called off.
  1. Negotiation Flexibility: Since the term sheet is not legally binding, both parties retain the flexibility to negotiate and modify terms as they move forward. This flexibility is crucial as it allows adjustments based on new information or changing circumstances.


The Importance of Careful Consideration

Although a term sheet is not legally binding, it is a critical document that sets the tone for the entire transaction. Here are some reasons why careful consideration is essential:

  1. Foundation for Legal Documents: The terms outlined in the term sheet will form the basis of the binding legal agreements to follow, such as the stock purchase agreement or investment agreement. Poorly considered terms can lead to unfavourable conditions down the line.
  1. Investor Relationships: The term sheet negotiation process is an opportunity to build a relationship with potential investors. Transparent and fair negotiations can foster trust and set a positive tone for future interactions.
  1. Strategic Implications: The terms agreed upon in the term sheet can have long-term strategic implications for the company. For example, board composition and voting rights can influence the company’s governance and decision-making processes.
  1. Avoiding Future Conflicts: Clearly defined terms in the term sheet can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts in the future. It’s easier to address potential issues upfront rather than deal with disputes after legal agreements have been signed.


In the world of startup funding, the term sheet is a pivotal document that lays the groundwork for investment deals. While it is not a legally binding agreement, its importance cannot be overstated. Both entrepreneurs and investors must carefully consider and negotiate the terms to ensure a fair and beneficial arrangement. By understanding its components and implications, parties can navigate the complexities of fundraising with greater confidence and clarity.

To inquire about legal consulting services to expedite and streamline your contract drafting process, please contact Nicolene Schoeman-Louw or Julia Stewart.