Thursday, November 02, 2006

CRV QuickStart: Clarity on What it is


My firm Charles River Ventures announced yesterday a program to help entrepreneurs get a cool idea off the ground called QuickStart.

There's been a tremendously positive reaction. We also noticed that there was some confusion about what it is. So let me clear things up a bit.

1) What is QuickStart?
QuickStart is a seed funding program whereby CRV will invest $250K in a promising new startup in the form of a loan to the starutp.

2) What kind of a loan is it? And who is the loan to?
The loan is a convertible note made to the entrepreneur's company. It is unsecured debt. If the company goes out of business, the entrepreneur is not personally liable in any way. The purpose of the loan is to get the entrepreneur up and running and proving out their concept quickly

3) Why is it a loan?
Well, because entrepreneurs started asking us for their seed funding to be a loan. The advantage of the loan is that it allows the entrepreneur to keep the entire equity of the company for themselves as they prove out their concept. There is no equity dilution for taking the loan.

It is also a simple 2 page loan that is easy to understand. And it is fast. There is no need to go out and convince and negotiate the "valuation" of the company for the entrepreneur. This allows for the entrepreneur to quickly get operating and prove out the concept in a stealthy way.

4) If the entrepreneur wanted the seed funding of QuickStart to be seed equity instead of seed loan could they do that with CRV?

YES, totally up to the entrepreneur. We are just offering another option.

5)Why is CRV doing this?
Because entrepreneurs kept asking us for this and we realized the whole startup funding market was entering a new long term trend. A trend where with $250K an entrepreneur could build out and prove a concept.

We believe that there is heightened experimentation on the part of entrepreneurs and we want to support as broad a landscape of entrepreneurship in these projects that are "capital light." We realize that QuickStart could be viewed as disruptive to the business model of seed equity angel investors who traditionally ask entrepreneurs to dilute their stock during the seed phase. We didn't set out on purpose to disrupt anyone's business model. All we are doing is moving in the direction of the entrepreneurs' needs to get concepts out and tested quickly in a way that is palatable to the entrepreneur.

6) If this is so great for entrepreneurs, what is the benefit to CRV? In exchange for giving $250K as a loan to the company what does CRV get?
Very simply, CRV gets the right to participate equally with other equity investors IF and WHEN the entrepreneur decides they want to raise a Series A equity round.

7) Assuming the entrepreneur accepts the $250K QuickStart convertible loan, what are their obligations to CRV?
The obligation is a right for CRV to participate in the first EQUITY round (Series A) with other investors on an equal basis. On our website, we state that we have a right to participate in 50% of the Series A equity round. Frankly, we said that as most Series A investments have 2 venture firms as investors. And we'd like to be 1 of the 2. Thus 50% of the Series A round. But if the entrepreneur wants more than 2 firms, all we are asking for is the right to participate equally with other investors in that first Series A.

8) Who controls the size, timing, valuation, etc. of the Series A equity round? The entrepreneur does. CRV claims no right at all here. We believe that the entrepreneur has the right to go to the free market and suggest the size of Series A they want to raise. At the time they want to raise it. At the valuation they are seeking. From whatever investors they want.

9) Will CRV help me in raising Series A?
If the entrepreneur asks us to, we are happy to introduce the company to quality investors that we know and trust.

10) Why is CRV charging interest on the loan?
Because we have to per IRS rules regarding loans. We have ZERO desire to operate as a bank. We are not in business to make money directly on these loans. Our hope is that the company does super well and we can convert the loan into equity. And participate in the growth of the company. That's what we'd like to do.

11) What is the "discount" on the seed loan mean?
The discount is a discount on the conversion price of the seed loan. That discount would get applied only if and when an equity round is raised. And the discount is only applied to the seed loan portion ($250K) of the future series A equity round. The example on QuickStart shows an example of this. It is definitely not interest and does not get paid out if a Series A equity round is never raised.

11) What happens if the company never raises a Series A and is acquired before raising equity?
That's ok with us. We ask that the loan be paid back at the time of acquisition.

12) Can the entrepreneur include other investors in the seed round?

Yes. We are happy to include other investors in the seed round if the entrepreneur wants to include them. We aren't doing this to block other investors out. We are doing this to participate in new, really exciting concepts that are sprouting all over. So if inclined, other investors including angel investors can join in the seed round if the entrepreneur wants.

13) Will CRV continue their traditional venture investing?
Yes. All we are doing is extending our offering to cover the new reality and new marketplace.

The benefit to CRV is that CRV will get to participate in a lot of really exciting startups in a way that is good for CRV and good for the entrepreneur at the same time. We are just evolving and changing with what the market needs and wants. That's why we are doing this!
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