Term Sheet: Right of First Refusal

Today’s “term that doesn’t matter much” from our term sheet series is the Right of First Refusal. When we say “it doesn’t matter much”, we really mean “don’t bother trying to negotiate it away – the VCs will insist on it.” Following is the standard language:


Right of First Refusal: Investors who purchase at least (____) shares of Series A Preferred (a “Major Investor”) shall have the right in the event the Company proposes to offer equity securities to any person (other than the shares (i) reserved as employee shares described under “Employee Pool” below, (ii) shares issued for consideration other than cash pursuant to a merger, consolidation, acquisition, or similar business combination approved by the Board; (iii) shares issued pursuant to any equipment loan or leasing arrangement, real property leasing arrangement or debt financing from a bank or similar financial institution approved by the Board; and (iv) shares with respect to which the holders of a majority of the outstanding Series A Preferred waive their right of first refusal) to purchase [X times] their pro rata portion of such shares. Any securities not subscribed for by an eligible Investor may be reallocated among the other eligible Investors. Such right of first refusal will terminate upon a Qualified IPO. For purposes of this right of first refusal, an Investor’s pro rata right shall be equal to the ratio of (a) the number of shares of common stock (including all shares of common stock issuable or issued upon the conversion of convertible securities and assuming the exercise of all outstanding warrants and options) held by such Investor immediately prior to the issuance of such equity securities to (b) the total number of share of common stock outstanding (including all shares of common stock issuable or issued upon the conversion of convertible securities and assuming the exercise of all outstanding warrants and options) immediately prior to the issuance of such equity securities.”


There are two things to pay attention to in this term that can be negotiated. First, the share threshold that defines a “Major Investor” can be defined. It’s often convenient – especially if you have a large number of small investors – not to have to give this right to them. However, since in future rounds, you are typically interested in getting as much participation as you can, it’s not worth struggling with this too much.


A more important thing to look for is to see if there is a a multiple on the purchase rights (e.g. the “X times” listed above). This is an excessive ask – especially early in the financing life cycle of a company – and can almost always be negotiated to 1x.


As with “other terms that don’t matter much”, you shouldn’t let your lawyer over engineer these. If you feel the need to negotiate, focus on the share threshold and the multiple on the purchase rights.