Attorney Roundtable: How founder-friendly are “standard” VC term sheets?

Jennifer Rohleder, Keith Strahan, Zev Safran, and Ryan Juliano

Venture capitalists and angel investors can say they are founder-friendly. But their “standard” term sheets and funding agreements may tell a different story.

Four attorneys with deep expertise in startup fundraising weighed in during a roundtable discussion with me, Eisaiah Engel, co-author of Founder Friendly Standard, a checklist for entrepreneurs to address all the “other” terms in a financing besides valuation and percentage of the company purchased. The attorneys shared their insights on what makes a term sheet founder-friendly, how “standard” term sheets compare to each other, and how to avoid mistakes when negotiating venture financing.

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Why founders should get super-voting equity

Founder Friendly Standard gives founders 24:1 super-voting equity. Here is the rationale behind it.

This weekend, I’ve been reaching out to startup influencers to coordinate a twitter campaign where we celebrate Indie Hackers, bootstrappers, customer-funding, and Zebras during the unicorn-obsessed Tech Crunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, October 2 – 4, 2019. If you want to join us, we’re using the hashtag #DisruptVC.

One of the influencers I approached asked why Founder Friendly Standard gives founders a 24:1 voting advantage. The reason is to keep founders in control of their companies. Here’s an excerpt from the email:

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Are there any standard contract templates for investors and founders to use when funding startups?

Here’s me at Enchanted Rock meditating on a better way to beat the odds at the startup lottery.
Here’s me at Enchanted Rock meditating on a better way to beat the odds at the startup ‘lottery.’

Yes. There are lots of templates available, and you should start by retaining an attorney who represents founders. Your attorney may have a set of templates that you can have adapted to the Founder Friendly Standard.

After learning hard lessons about the tension between investors and founders, I teamed up with my former business partner, Dan Flanegan, and my former attorney, K. Adam Bloom, to create an open-source standard that you can attach to any bylaw agreement, term sheet, employment agreement, etc.

It’s called the Founder Friendly Standard. It has 17 sections that can lay common disputes to rest such as who gets to vote, who gets liquidation preferences, what is the scope of non-compete, etc.

Here are (3) three of the juiciest sections:

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Grays Sports Almanac for Venture Capital

Grays Sports Almanac for Venture Capital - A new standard for optionality to beat the odds

Grays Sports Almanac for Venture Capital - A new standard for optionality to beat the odds
Grays Sports Almanac for Venture Capital on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Executive Summary

Grays Sports Almanac for Venture Capital proposes a new risk management strategy for venture capital. In this investment hypothesis, I outline why a venture fund might beat the odds by purchasing 2,208 to 4,416 warrants on startups. Startups would operate under a governance framework called the Founder Friendly Standard, which gives entrepreneurs control of their companies. In exchange, the venture fund would have the option to exercise warrants for 15 years—purchasing discounted equity only in the startups that become successful.


This text appears in the introduction to Grays Sports Almanac for Venture Capital, available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.