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Key Terms of a Startup Investment Agreement  

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Startups and early-stage companies often rely on external funding to fuel their growth and expansion. Securing investment from external investors is likely a critical milestone in your startup’s journey. Your investors may be venture capitalists or angel investors. Alternatively, you may receive funds from other sources. Regardless, successful funding rounds often involve complex negotiations and detailed legal documents. One essential legal document is the investment agreement, which is a foundational legal document you will share with your investors. This article will explain several key terms of a startup investment agreement.

What is an Investment Agreement? 

An investment agreement is a legally binding contract your startup will share with your investors. This document will outline the terms and conditions of the investment your investors have made. It will set out expectations for both parties. Further, this agreement will detail your startup’s rights and obligations and those of your investors. 

The investment agreement will detail aspects such as:

  • the amount of investment; 
  • whether the investor expects to receive a stake in the company, and if so, the size of this stake; and
  • any other terms relevant to the transaction. 

The agreement establishes the framework for collaboration moving forward. Additionally, the agreement formalises the investment process. Moreover, the agreement clarifies the rights and obligations of both parties. The agreement also mitigates the risk of potential disputes or misunderstandings arising during the investment period.    

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Key Terms of the Investment Agreement 

Every investment agreement is different, but several key terms should be present in your investment agreement. Awareness of these terms can help protect your startup’s interests when drafting the agreement. We explain the core terms you should know in more detail below.

1. The Names of the Parties

Specifying the parties’ names is a crucial aspect of your investment agreement. Although the names of the parties are not actual terms per se, it is nevertheless important to include these in your investment agreement. The contract must name the investors and the startup company. Naming the parties involved establishes their legal identities and binds them to your agreement’s terms and obligations. 

2. Investment Amount

The investment agreement will specify the amount of funding the investor will provide your startup. This term is crucial as it outlines the investor’s level of financial commitment. Knowing this amount is essential for planning your startup’s strategy and determining its value.

3. Equity Stake

Your investor may require equity in your company in return for providing you with funds. Crucially, your investment agreement will set out the percentage of equity your investor will receive. It is vital to consider how much equity you will give up and how it will impact your control over your company. You should assess the impact of the investment on the dilution of existing ownership. This relates to your ownership percentage of your startup.

You should be wary of taking on too many major investors or even a majority shareholder. This could profoundly impact the balance of power in your startup or early-stage company. 

4. Rights and Responsibilities 

The investment agreement will outline the rights and responsibilities of both parties. This is crucial, as these terms outline your and your investors’ roles and obligations. 

Investors’ rights can include provisions such as voting rights, board representation and rights to information. It is essential that you carefully evaluate these terms. You need to ensure your investors’ expectations align with your startup and its goals. Your investors’ rights can impact your own, limiting your decision-making abilities. 

5. Dispute Resolution Framework

Your investment agreement should outline a clear dispute resolution procedure that will be followed should you and your investors have a dispute. It is quite possible that you and your investors may have a dispute during the investment period. By understanding this framework, you will have clarity on how to navigate potential challenges.

6. Exit Terms 

An exit strategy is an essential part of an investment agreement. It is crucial in case of unresolvable disputes, investor withdrawal or insolvency. Exit terms in your investment agreement should outline aspects such as: 

  • what will happen to the exiting party’s shares; and 
  • your investment repayment options in the case of insolvency. 

The exit terms may include provisions that outline what will happen to your and your co-founders’ equity. This is in the event either you or your co-founder leave the company. You should pay close attention to any provisions related to this aspect. Further, you should carefully review these provisions and seek legal advice. 

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Key Takeaways

An investment agreement forms the foundation of a founder’s relationship with their investors. This sets the stage for a mutually beneficial partnership. Further, the agreement establishes the terms of the investment. Moreover, your investment agreement provides a framework for collaboration between you and your investors.  

Before signing an investment agreement, you need to read and understand it fully. You need to understand key terms such as: 

  • the investment amount; 
  • your investors’ equity stake in the company; and 
  • what dispute resolution procedure you will follow in the event of a dispute. 

It can be a great idea to seek legal advice to help you navigate your decision and address potential challenges.

If you would like help understanding or drafting an investment agreement for your startup, contact our experienced startup lawyers as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.   

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Jessica Drew

Jessica Drew

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