I was speaking with a friend of mine today who mentioned that his term sheet for his Series A round fell through. Things looked great for the last 6 weeks and then the deal process went into a stall regarding intellectual property rights. To make a long story short, one of the co-founders of the company built the company’s software in his spare time. However, he also had a full time job and decided ultimately to stay there rather than join the startup. Well, you can imagine that down the line the company that the co-founder worked for could potentially claim rights to the IP. Rather than leave this open to chance, the VC and the early stage company did the right thing and decided to clean up the ambiguity. Today, the IP is about to get assigned in the proper manner. However, the VC got cold feet and backed out of the deal.
So what happened? You see, deals take a life of their own. The more time it takes to close a deal, any deal, the more chance there is for it not to happen. Momentum is a powerful force but deal inertia can be more powerful. It sounds like the VC just got tired of the deal and also got cold feet as it seemed that a competitor or 2 cropped up during the deal closing process. This is not the only story of delayed deal closings. I was interviewing a CFO candidate for one of my portfolio companies yesterday and one of our discussion points was why a potentially large deal fell through. From his perspective, his side tried to overnegotiate the fine points, extending the closing out by a month. During that time the potential acquirer missed its numbers, got hammered by the street, and decided to back out.
My advice to you if you are going to raise a round is to make sure that you are prepared for all that may come at you in terms of due diligence. Have your financials clean, make sure your IP is owned by the company and not by any consultants, and have your references teed up to talk to potential investors. The more prepared you are the more impressed the VC is and the quicker the deal closes. One other point to remember, do not overnegotiate. Figure out the big picture of what you want in a VC partner and deal, negotiate those points but be willing to give up other points that the VC cares about. I have been in a few situations where an entrepreneur overnegotiates, and it certainly makes me wonder what it will be like to work with that person post-closing. Will there be give-and-take in our VC-entrepreneur relationship or will that entrepreneur always try to get his way?