In our term sheet series, Jason Mendelson and I have been focusing first on “the terms that really matter.” We are down to the last one – the pay-to-play provision.
At the turn of the century, a pay-to-play provision was rarely seen. After the bubble burst in 2001, it became ubiquitous. Interesting, this is a term that most companies and their investors can agree on if they approach it from the right perspective.
In a pay-to-play provision, an investor must keep “paying” (participating pro ratably in future financings) in order to keep “playing”(not have his preferred stock converted to common stock) in the company. Sample language follows:
“Pay-to-Play: In the event of a Qualified Financing (as defined below), shares of Series A Preferred held by any Investor which is offered the right to participate but does not participate fully in such financing by purchasing at least its pro rata portion as calculated above under “Right of First Refusal” below will be converted into Common Stock.
[(Version 2, which is not quite as aggressive): If any holder of Series A Preferred Stock fails to participate in the next Qualified Financing, (as defined below), on a pro rata basis (according to its total equity ownership immediately before such financing) of their Series A Preferred investment, then such holder will have the Series A Preferred Stock it owns converted into Common Stock of the Company. If such holder participates in the next Qualified Financing but not to the full extent of its pro rata share, then only a percentage of its Series A Preferred Stock will be converted into Common Stock (under the same terms as in the preceding sentence), with such percentage being equal to the percent of its pro rata contribution that it failed to contribute.]