Prior to entering into negotiations with an angel investor or venture capitalist there are multiple due diligence-related items the VC will want evaluate in order to make the decision whether to invest in your company, and if so, how much they want to invest. Failing to properly plan for these issues can at best slow down the process and at worst completely derail the deal. However, the good news is that with some forethought and preplanning, you can have many these issues squared away from the beginning.
Register Your Company
First, regardless of whatever entity type you have chosen (Delaware C-Corp is the most typical for venture capital investment), you need to make sure that you have properly registered with the formation state and that all of your formation documents are in place and organized in a way that can easily be shared with an investor. These documents should clearly state the ownership, include vesting provisions for the founders, and be structured in a way that will allow for future investment from outside parties without too much procedural difficulty. Additionally, it is important to keep detailed corporate records. The lawyer who helps you with your initial formation can help you understand and plan these details.
When it comes to intellectual property, an investor is going to want assurances that no one outside the company will have any claim to the IP the company claims to own. To do this, somewhere in the company’s formation agreements should be language that assigns all IP to the company and if not, it should explicitly outline what is owned by whom and under what arrangement the Company is using those rights. Additionally, you may want to have started registering any trademarks, copyrights, or patents your company has created.
Similar to IP ownership, you should make sure to have all of your contractual agreements solidified. This includes everything from referral agreements to perhaps the most important, employment agreements. You should be able to identify who is an employee and who is an independent contractor and have the documentation to back it up. Not only will documentation suggest to the investor that you are highly organized and a good investment, but these agreements will ensure no surprises down the line with employees and independent contractors, regardless of whether there is impending investment or not. Employment issues, especially when dealing with intellectual property ownership, can be a particularly difficult problem if not dealt with early.
Having these issues dealt with before engaging with an investor will help to ensure smoother negotiations and possibly more company-friendly terms once V.C. or angel investment becomes a reality. While you may be able to handle some of these issues on your own, your lawyer can help to ensure that some of the trickier issues like vesting provisions and intellectual property assignment are completed properly.