Angel Investing – A Note on Notes

Business Concept: Close-up the Funding button on the keyboard and have Lime, Green color button isolate black keyboardThere are a variety of funding options for entrepreneurs to consider as they explore taking in external capital. For investors, understanding the pros and cons of these various funding options and how they fit into a company’s overall funding plan is critical. One option, a Convertible Note, is a hybrid structure that is used as a bridge to a future equity round. In addition to a stated interest rate and maturity date, Convertible Notes will have conversion terms that outline how the notes will be repaid or converted into equity. The amount of equity that a company needs to raise to trigger the conversion of the notes is referred to as the qualified equity financing. Historically, I have seen this form of funding used primarily in pre-seed rounds where the company needs to raise a small amount of capital to get to proof of concept as well as a bridge financing between a Series A and B round in order to provide the company with a bit more runway to get to the metrics required by a Series B investor.

The rationale for the use of Convertible Notes has been that they are faster, cheaper, easier to consummate than a typical preferred stock offering when a small amount of capital is being raised. In addition, many notes are structured on a rolling close basis so that the company has access to the funds as soon as the checks are written, without a requirement to meet a minimum funding level. It is a bit like needing a full tank of gas to reach your destination, but only being able to fill the tank half way. Not only do you not reach the destination you had in mind, you end up in the middle of nowhere.

Recently I have seen more $1 million plus convertible note seed offerings. In many cases the company has been raising funds for well over a year or is quickly approaching a maturity date with no qualified equity financing in sight. As a note holder, I may be faced with either extending the term of the note or being converted into common stock at a cap that may well exceed the true value of the company. With the availability of standardized Seed Preferred documents such as those used by New York Angels, an active angel group of which I am a member, the faster, cheaper, easier argument goes away. In addition, as a Preferred Shareholder in a company I have protective provisions that require my consent on issues that can adversely affect the Preferred Shareholders. As an investor, I think that Convertible Notes make sense for a small pre-seed round of funding or as a bridge from a Series A-B round ( or Seed to A…). For larger offerings, I prefer (no pun intended) to invest in Preferred Stock. From the founder’s perspective, some issues that need to be considered when employing Convertible Notes are outlined in a recent article by Ed Zimmerman, the Chair of the Tech Group @ Lowenstein Sandler LLP and an awesome supporter of women entrepreneurs.

Angel Investing – Ringing in the New Year 2016

New Year 2016 conceptIt’s that time once again to reflect on the prior year and make some resolutions for the next. In last year’s post, I suggested that you develop your own investment strategy, take a closer look at the convertible notes in your portfolio and add some interesting reads to your list. Here are a few of my suggested resolutions for 2016: Continue reading

Angel Investing – Twelve Days of Christmas 2015

12 days of christmas: 12 Snowflakes

On the first day of Christmas
a founder shared with me:
A Term Sheet for Series B Continue reading

Angel Investing – Make way for the Crowd

This past Friday, just a day shy of Halloween, the SEC finally voted on Title III of the JOBs Act, the “Crowdfunding” provision enabling individuals who do not meet the definition of “accredited investor” to participate as investors in online portals investing in the start-up space. This “democratization” of capital formation will be done through funding portals that will need to register with the SEC and become a member of a national securities association. Continue reading

Wharton Venture Award: A Judge’s Perspective

Note: This was originally posted on the Wharton Entrepreneurship Blog 3/31/ 2015

This year was my second opportunity to serve as a judge for the Wharton Venture Awards.  In addition to working with a great team of fellow judges to select the award recipients, I also have the opportunity to continue to follow the progress of the students. After last year’s program, I was able to act as a mentor to one of the recipients, Katlyn Grasso, CEO and Founder of GenHERation. The progress she has made on GenHeration is amazing and I was thrilled to learn that Katlyn had recently been awarded the University’s “President’s Engagement Prize” which not only validates her business proposal but also provides funding to help her actually build her business. As an active angel investor, supporting young entrepreneurs and celebrating their successes is one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in the early-stage ecosystem. Continue reading

Angel Investing – Happy New Year 2015

new year designAnother year has passed and it’s time to think about resolutions for the New Year. As an angel investor, it’s a great time to reflect on the past year and then turn your thoughts forward to investment opportunities in 2015. In last year’s New Year’s post, I suggested that you think about knowing your co-investors, getting your investment dox in order and looking at the world through the lens of an entrepreneur. Continue reading

Angel Investing – Twelve Days of Christmas 2014

12 days of christmas: 12 Snowflakes

On the first day of Christmas
a founder sent to me:
A Financial Model error free Continue reading