Entrepreneur

500 Startups’ newly released fundraising documents will keep you from ‘getting screwed’

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Free things are great, and they’re even better when they save you, your startup, and your investors a boatload of money and drama. And lucky for you, startup accelerator program 500 Startups is releasing one of those magical gifts today.

The program released today a set of free legal documents for startup founders it calls “KISS,” or “keep it simple security” — it’s attempt at a play on the “keep it simple, stupid” mantra.

The documents are actually for convertible notes, either for debt or equity, and are designed to keep founder from “getting screwed” — a technical term, of course.

500 Startups is not the first to create and release such documents. Series Seed, created by Ted Wang, a partner at top tech law firm Fenwick & West, originally came out in 2010 and have since been revised a few times. In 2008, Accelerator program Y Combinator has also released its first openly available document template, a set of Series AA Preferred Stock financing documents for early stage equity fundraising. It later released its SAFE (“simple agreement for future equity), a alternative to the traditional convertible note.

In its announcement of KISS, 500 Startups admits that the “YC SAFE docs in particular were a big step forward in creating a true industry standard (we have used them on several occasions since we are a frequent investor in YC companies).” The SAFE documents became so well-liked that in January, Los Angeles-based accelerate StartEngine announced it will be officially switching to SAFE.

Nevertheless, the 500 Startups group said it’s created its own documents to better strike “the right balance… a balance between the interests of the founders as well as those of the investors.” Apparently, there are sometimes cases where smaller angel investors get cornered into signed deals that don’t do them any service, despite the fact that historically, investors have had more power in deal negotiations.

And of course, use the documents at your own risk — 500 Startups won’t be held liable if you do get screwed in a deal.

 

More information:

Y Combinator is a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to startup companies. It offers financing as well as business consulting along with other opportunities to 2-4 person companies looking to take an idea to a product. Y Co... read more »

Dave McClure has been geeking out in Silicon Valley for almost twenty years as a software developer, entrepreneur, startup advisor, angel investor, blogger, & internet marketing nerd. He is an advisor or investor for Mint, Mashery, Sim... read more »

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10 comments
Cary Rosenzweig
Cary Rosenzweig

Kudos to 500 Startups.  As an angel investor, I've experienced some of the problems caused by the "standard" convertible note agreements.  It's frustrating to be one of the earliest backers of a company, taking the most risk, then getting hurt by later events which don't hurt other stakeholders.  Balance is the key concept in the new KISS documents, and I think they strike it correctly.

Sam Smith
Sam Smith

500startups screws you right away by charging you $25K for their program.

john frankel
john frankel

It is interesting that incubators, that take equity first, promote documents that both weaken the rights of the next round of investors and leverage up the companies with pseudo debt.  Great for the winners, bad for everyone else.  


Convertible notes are great for insiders funding growth as a bridging stage.  The further they go from that the narrower are the use cases.

Richard Ortega
Richard Ortega

My only question is does it matter for the founder (other than reading this for their own understanding of term sheets), because likely the investor will give you the terms with small wiggle room (unless your a super hot company).

Terrence Yang
Terrence Yang

@john frankel Can you please give some examples of how the rights of the next round of investors are weakened under 500 Startups' convertible debt KISS documents?