We have seen an increased number of term sheets for convertible note financings lately and thought it might be helpful to discuss some of the terms and conditions of these notes. In an earlier issue of Insights, we discussed angel investing and the risks (and rewards) of that strategy. Convertible note financings are used for seed financing and are a very economical and efficient way for start-up companies to obtain seed capital without losing control of the early-stage company.
A convertible note financing is short-term debt that automatically converts into shares of preferred stock upon the closing of a Series A financing round. This method of financing is favored by company founders because it can be completed very quickly, is somewhat simple, and is relatively inexpensive in terms of legal costs. A convertible note purchase agreement and note can be a few pages long and prepared and closed in a few days.
While start-up companies can issue common stock to early investors, there are a variety of reasons why the founders may be reluctant to do so. These include the difficultly in putting a value on an early stage company and potential tax issues for founders issued stock at nominal values. Because convertible notes are debt not equity, their issuance puts off the valuation matter until the later round of financing – by which time the company may have developed to an extent where more and better information is available on which to base a valuation.