When it comes to seed investment, founders have options. Typically they prefer low interest which is where SAFE comes in as a favorable alternative to convertible notes, but there's much more to the picture. Every entrepreneur should understand his or her options and make sure that they align with their long-term strategic fundraising plans.
Definition of Convertible Note
A convertible note is a type of debt that has the right to convert into equity when you hit an agreed upon milestone. FundersClub explains convertible notes as an investment vehicle that is structured similarly to a loan. However, as TechCrunch points out, this type of debt automatically converts into shares of preferred stock upon the closing of a Series A round of financing. The overall consensus about convertible notes is that they are known to be complex and therefore, finicky or glitchy.
Definition of SAFE as Seed Investment
SAFE is an acronym that stands for “simple agreement for future equity” and was created by the Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator as a new financial instrument to simplify seed investment. At its core, a SAFE is a warrant to purchase stock in a future priced round.
There are some similarities between SAFE and convertible notes investments. Both act as a viable way to help startups overcome their current big hurdle in growing or scaling to reach the milestones that warrant a Series A round. Also, both options carry a discount on the next round (or current round for convertible notes), so neither presents a clear advantage. With those in mind, looking at the differences will help an entrepreneur consider their pros and cons when determining their preferred seed investment terms.