Startup Founders, Investors, and Term Sheets

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
3 min read

Starting a business can be an exciting and challenging endeavor. For startup ideas that look to scale rapidly, securing funding from investors is a critical aspect of the process. A term sheet is a document that outlines the terms of an investment in a startup, and it is typically the first step in the investment process. In this article, we will discuss the role of startup founders, investors, and term sheets in the startup ecosystem.

Startup Founders

Startup founders are the driving force behind a new business. They are responsible for conceiving the idea, developing a business plan, and executing the vision. As a result, founders often have to wear many hats and juggle various tasks, including fundraising, hiring and firing, marketing, and product development.

Founders should be passionate about their ideas and willing to take risks to bring them to fruition. They should also be adaptable and able to pivot their strategy as needed, as the landscape of the startup world is constantly changing.


Investors play a critical role in the startup ecosystem, providing the capital necessary for startups to grow and succeed. Investors can be individuals, venture capital firms, or other organizations interested in supporting and investing in early-stage companies.

Investors typically look for startups with a strong team, a solid business plan, and the potential for significant growth. They also consider the market demand for the product or service and the competitive landscape.

Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash

Term Sheets

A term sheet is a non-binding document that outlines the terms of an investment in a startup. It is usually the first step in the investment process and is used to negotiate the terms of the investment before reaching a final agreement.

When funding a venture capital-funded startup, the term sheet is one of the most important documents you will encounter. It is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of an investment.

Startup founders need to understand the implications of term sheets and what they mean for their company.

Term sheets typically include information such as:

  • the amount of funding being offered by the investor,
  • the valuation of the company, the equity being offered to the investor,
  • the type of security offered in exchange for the investment,
  • the rights and responsibilities of both the startup and the investor
  • any other terms and conditions of the investment.

Term Sheets and the Law

Term sheets are legal documents, so understanding each clause’s legal implications is crucial. Generally, the clauses included in a term sheet are split into two categories: economic and control.

Economic terms refer to the amount of capital to be invested and the structure of the investment. The Economics include the investment amount, the type of security offered in exchange for the investment, and the repayment terms.

Control terms refer to the rights and responsibilities of both the investor and the startup, such as board composition, voting rights, and exit rights.

The terms of a term sheet are not set in stone. Instead, the startup and the investor negotiate the terms to find a mutually beneficial agreement. The fluid nature of the negotiation is why it is essential to understand the implications of each clause so that you can make an informed decision when negotiating the terms of the investment.

The negotiation process can be complex, as founders and investors often have different priorities and goals. For example, founders may focus more on maintaining control over the company and preserving equity, while investors may be more interested in protecting their financial interests and minimizing risk.


Startup founders, investors, and term sheets are all key players in the startup ecosystem. Founders are responsible for bringing their vision to life, while investors provide the necessary capital to support the growth of the business. Term sheets outline the terms of the investment and serve as the first step in the investment process.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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