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SAFT Agreement Explained: Your Ultimate Guide [2023]

SAFT Agreement Explained: Your Ultimate Guide [2023]
Written by
Sebastian Almnes
Published on
October 31, 2023

Are you intrigued by the potential of blockchain startups and looking for ways to invest in them? Have you heard about Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT) but want more detailed information? If so, you're in the right place. This guide provides a comprehensive breakdown of SAFTs, digging into their origins, structure, regulatory landscape, and advantages & disadvantages from the viewpoints of both startup founders and investors. Join us on this exploratory journey to understand the nuances of SAFT agreements and their pivotal role in cryptocurrency.

Key Takeaways

  • SAFT Agreements are high-risk investment instruments offering qualified investors, as defined by their respective country's laws, access to blockchain startup tokens while complying with their country's securities regulations.
  • SAFTs provide a range of benefits, such as investor protection and flexibility in fundraising, but also carry risks due to lack of regulatory clarity and potential legal issues.
  • By learning from successful and unsuccessful cases, parties involved can ensure comprehensive agreements that comply with applicable laws for improved chances of success in the blockchain space.

Understanding SAFT Agreements

A person holding a future token in their hand
A person holding a future token in their hand

Accredited investors are given the unique opportunity to invest in a blockchain startup's token as an alternative to future equity, thanks to high-risk investment tools known as SAFTs. These agreements necessitate that investors provide upfront capital, with the promise of receiving tokens at a later date once the company's blockchain project has been launched. Adhering to federal securities regulations to protect investors is a key element of these contracts. However, they still retain the flexibility necessary to facilitate new ventures.

The popularity of token sales in the fast-paced world of blockchain is on the rise. This increase in token sales is largely attributed to issuers - the entities offering the tokens. These issuers are striving to create a transparent and understanding environment for all parties involved in the investment process, especially when it comes to rights and protections associated with digital assets like cryptocurrencies.

Origin and Purpose of SAFTs

SAFTs emerged as a reaction to legal guidelines put forth by regulatory bodies like the SEC and CFTC. SAFTs allow accredited investors to engage in blockchain projects lawfully, offering them a means of investment that complies with federal laws.

SAFT agreements can be a bit tricky, so let's simplify it. It's like buying a ticket for a concert that's yet to be announced. You're giving money now for tokens that will be released in the future. The concert is the blockchain startup's project. Once the concert (or project) is ready, you get your tokens. But there's a twist. The ticket might be considered a security (like stocks or bonds) before the concert. After the concert is live, it becomes a utility (like a concert ticket). This is important because securities have different regulations than utilities. So, it's like buying a ticket that's a stock at first and then becomes a regular ticket once the concert starts.

This clarity enables those considering investing in tokens or other potential investments to do so without any legal risk as long as they adhere to federally accepted standards. These standards are found in instruments like convertible notes, which are short-term loans made by investors that can be swapped for ownership shares. In the case of a blockchain startup, this might mean that the investor's loan could be traded for tokens once the project is up and running. The ultimate goal here is to maintain compliance while providing funding opportunities through various digital asset networks involving different types of coins.

Key Components of a SAFT Agreement

When investing in a blockchain startup, the agreement for future tokens (SAFT) must comply with regulations like the Securities Exchange Act in the US. A token purchase agreement, prepared by a crypto attorney, will contain several terms and conditions that cover aspects such as Token Description, Purchase Terms, Vesting Schedule, and Regulatory Compliance, among others. These components dictate the dynamics of each investor-startup relationship. For instance, token descriptions provide an understanding of the tokens' purpose, while purchase terms lay out the pricing timelines and delivery schedules.

To delve deeper, the Token Description section is where the nature, functionality, and utility of the tokens are detailed. This includes how the tokens will be used within the blockchain ecosystem, their value proposition, and how they interact with other components of the platform.

Purchase Terms, on the other hand, refer to the specific terms agreed upon for the sale and purchase of the tokens. These terms encompass the purchase price, the amount of tokens to be bought, the form of payment, and the timeline for the delivery of the tokens.

The Vesting Schedule section outlines the timeline for the release of the tokens to the investor. It is designed to ensure a long-term commitment from the investor towards the project by gradually releasing the tokens over a specified period.

Lastly, Regulatory Compliance is a critical part of the agreement that ensures the contract abides by relevant laws and regulations. It outlines the obligations of both parties in complying with securities laws, anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations, and other relevant legal requirements.

For successful and legally sound investments, it's crucial to properly address all elements of a SAFT contract.

Comparing SAFTs to Other Fundraising Methods

Two people discussing the differences between SAFT and ICO
Two people discussing the differences between SAFT and ICO

In order to grasp the strengths and weaknesses of utilizing SAFTs for raising funds for blockchain projects, as opposed to an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) or conventional equity-based methods, it's essential to scrutinize each method in depth. In this section, we will delve into these different strategies to aid investors in making a decision that is in line with their investment aims and objectives.

We will delve deeply into the comparison of SAFTs with other financing options such as ICOs and conventional equity investments, offering an in-depth analysis of their pros and cons, and their suitability for various projects and situations.


It's crucial for both investors and startups to understand the differences between SAFTs and ICOs. One of the main differences is that SAFTs are generally used in the early stages when investors purchase tokens to be delivered in the future, whereas ICOs involve the direct sale of tokens to everyone, including those not classified as accredited or sophisticated investors. In terms of securities regulations, it’s worth noting that there may be restrictions when investing through an Initial Coin Offering as opposed to a more secure process, like buying tokens via a SAFT agreement. Finally, being aware of these differences can assist both parties in making informed decisions about their strategies for investing in digital assets such as cryptocurrency-based coins/tokens, while considering potential fraud issues and the due diligence procedures necessary for investor safety associated with this type of fundraising mechanism (i.e., ensuring transaction transparency).

SAFT vs. Traditional Equity

SAFTs and traditional equity are different. A SAFT is a digital asset that helps get funding from accredited investors. Traditional equity, on the other hand, is stock that gives wider ownership of the company. Traditional equity also gives investors certain rights like dividends and voting privileges, which may not be given with token investments. Also, trading tokens on cryptocurrency exchanges can be quicker than trading regular stocks through private agreements or public offerings. So, when deciding between a SAFT and traditional equity, consider all these factors.

Eligibility for Investing in SAFTs

A person holding a document with the words "Accredited Investor Requirements"
A person holding a document with the words "Accredited Investor Requirements"

For those considering a SAFT investment, it's important to note that only accredited investors are eligible. In the following sections, we'll delve into the specific criteria that these investors must meet, and how these differ from the requirements for non-accredited investors. We'll also discuss the potential gains and losses involved, helping you decide whether a SAFT investment is the right move for you.

Accredited Investor Requirements

Accredited investors, who meet certain criteria such as income or net worth, and might have experience in securities transactions, are exclusively allowed to participate in SAFTs. This limitation is in place because these investors are generally considered to be more capable of enduring potential losses if their investment doesn't yield a profit. It's important to note that the definition of an accredited investor can vary from country to country. Therefore, potential participants should familiarize themselves with the specific requirements in their respective jurisdictions. In this section, we will focus on the US definition.

To qualify as an accredited investor, you must meet at least one requirement from a list that includes income level, net worth, or professional experience in the sector. This means that an individual needs to have an annual income that exceeds $200,000 (or $300,000 for joint income) for the last two years with the expectation of earning the same or a higher income in the current year. Alternatively, a person can qualify with a net worth exceeding $1 million, either individually or jointly with a spouse, excluding the value of the person's primary residence. Lastly, an individual can also qualify if they possess certain professional certifications, designations or other credentials or if they are a director, executive officer, or general partner in the company selling the securities. Fulfilling these criteria ensures your eligibility to participate in unique investment opportunities like SAFTs, which often provide higher returns than typical investments in blockchain startups.

Implications for Non-Accredited Investors

For those who are not accredited investors but are considering investing in SAFTs, it's important to be aware of certain limitations and risks. These include restricted access to certain offerings, higher risk levels in these types of investments, and the absence of regulations or protections that these investments offer. Additionally, these types of investments can present liquidity issues. Therefore, it's crucial for any potential investor who isn't accredited to understand these implications and limitations before proceeding with such an investment.

The eligibility criteria for accredited investors might seem restrictive at first glance. However, their purpose is to protect those investing in high-risk options. If non-accredited individuals gain an understanding of these limits and the potential hazards that could arise when engaging in such investments, they can make an informed decision about whether alternative investments should be a part of their portfolio. Alternatively, they can take steps towards achieving accreditation to experience firsthand all the opportunities that come along with participating in the world of SAFTs available today.

Navigating Regulatory Compliance with SAFTs

A person holding a document with the words "The Howey Test and SAFTs"
Two people debating the topic of "The Howey Test and SAFTs"

Securities play a pivotal role in the legal structure of SAFTs. In this segment, we will explore the application of the Howey Test, its impact on the classification of SAFTs as securities, and potential strategies to mitigate any regulatory risks associated with issuing these tokens.

The Howey Test, utilized by U.S Securities, is a four-part evaluation tool designed to determine if transactions qualify as "investment contracts" or securities subject to regulatory requirements. The criteria include: investment of money, in a common enterprise, with an expectation of profits, from the efforts of others. If all these conditions are met, the transaction or agreement is deemed a security.

Howey Test and SAFT tokens is a crucial concept to understand. It's essential to evaluate how the test's criteria apply to these tokens, how it impacts their classification as securities, and how to navigate potential compliance issues. This process involves assessing the nature of the investment, the structure of the common enterprise, the expectation of profits, and the source of these profits.

The Howey Test and SAFTs

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission uses the Howey Test to decide if a cryptocurrency token can be classified as an “investment contract” (or security). According to this test, an investment contract exists when money is invested in a common enterprise with expectations of profits derived from the efforts of others. SAFTs, which involve the sale of functional tokens, are not considered securities under these regulations because they are operational. This means they don't fulfill the criteria to be classified as securities. Therefore, understanding the application of U.S. federal regulations and the Howey Test and their implications is crucial for both startups and investors. This knowledge helps them comply with laws and avoid legal risks that could have financial repercussions.

Addressing Regulatory Challenges

To mitigate potential legal and regulatory risks, startups and investors should pay close attention to the relevant laws when drafting SAFTs. It's crucial to ensure that the agreement covers all aspects thoroughly and that due diligence checks are conducted appropriately. This approach can pave the way for a successful project that leaves all parties involved content and satisfied.

Pros and Cons of SAFT Agreements

People discussing the benefits of SAFTs

SAFTs, a tool for fundraising in the blockchain startup world, come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. This section will shed light on the potential pros and cons of such agreements, helping you decide if this is a suitable option for your investment or fundraising needs.

SAFTs offer a number of advantages for both parties involved: For investors, they simplify the documentation process compared to traditional investments as SAFTs are custom-made contracts. For startups, they provide a significant capital boost without the need to give up ownership control, thereby increasing the prospects for long-term success.

Benefits of SAFTs

SAFTs provide a host of advantages to investors, including early access to future tokens, enhanced investor confidence due to the protective nature of these contracts, and a sense of safety due to regulatory compliance. The process of raising capital for startups is expedited through these agreements, which gives investors a sense of comfort. The efficient fundraising process facilitates a smooth token distribution process, further boosting security assurance. In summary, SAFTs offer an appealing option for both investors and startup founders within the blockchain domain.

Drawbacks of SAFTs

Before investing in a SAFT, one should evaluate the potential rewards and associated risks. The investment carries an elevated degree of risk since tokens may not be issued if the project fails. Only accredited investors can take part in such investments which narrows down available options for people considering to invest.

SAFT transactions lack clear regulatory guidance, creating uncertainty for startups and participants. Potential legal issues may arise from this activity. Furthermore, any bugs or glitches in the smart contract implementation could lead to financial losses or other unintended outcomes.

In conclusion, it’s important individuals weigh all factors carefully before deciding on whether they wish to partake in a SAFT related transaction. Taking into account potential profits, but focusing primarily on the prospects of potential losses when making their decision.

Case Studies: Successful and Unsuccessful SAFTs

The "Success Stories" of the World
The "Success Stories" of the World

Investors can benefit from exploring real-world cases of successful and failed SAFTs to understand the possible risks and rewards. These examples provide helpful insights on how best to approach future agreements in this realm. To examine key factors that shaped outcomes, we can look at instances where a startup or investor was able to succeed – as well as unsuccessful situations they encountered along the way. By doing so, it gives us an opportunity see what works when constructing these contracts for both parties involved down the road.

Success Stories

The success of SAFT agreements, such as those between Filecoin and Protocol Labs or Blockstack and Dfinity with their investors, can be attributed to an effective structure which allows these backers to benefit from the project’s prosperity. In the realm of blockchain fundraising, SAFT agreements have emerged as a potent tool. Success stories underscore the importance of careful structuring and rigorous regulatory compliance. These instances emphasize the significance of intelligent structuring and adherence to regulations, ensuring that stakeholders reap the benefits of the projects they support.

Lessons Learned from Unsuccessful SAFTs

A visual representation of a SAFT agreement document with highlighted areas indicating potential pitfalls and lessons learned from unsuccessful attempts.
A visual representation of a SAFT agreement document with highlighted areas indicating potential pitfalls and lessons learned from unsuccessful attempts.

There have been cases where SAFT agreements failed, leading to investors not receiving their tokens due to legal issues, scams, and delays. These pitfalls often stem from inadequate research, unclear agreement terms, or lack of awareness of local regulations. To avoid such setbacks, startups and investors should thoroughly prepare and familiarize themselves with relevant legislation. Studying past successes and failures can provide valuable insights for future involvement in blockchain technology.


SAFT agreements offer an attractive and revolutionary way to attract funding for blockchain startups while allowing investors to join the rapidly growing blockchain sector. Despite potential risks associated with it, safeguards that ensure investor protection, flexibility, and following regulatory compliance make them alluring options. To make wise choices when investing or establishing these arrangements, understanding its requirements and regulations is essential so both startup businesses and those who invest in them can capitalize on what this exciting world has going on.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a SAFT agreement?

A SAFT agreement, or Simple Agreement for Future Tokens, is a type of investment contract. It's offered by developers in the cryptocurrency space to accredited investors as a means of raising funds without breaching any local, national, or international regulations.

Essentially, it's a security that promises the delivery of digital tokens from the developers to the investors at a future date.

What is the difference between a SAFE and a SAFT agreement?

A SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) and a SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) are both investment contracts, but they differ in what they offer to the investor. A SAFE agreement is an arrangement between an investor and a startup where the investor provides a cash investment in exchange for a future equity stake in the company. The equity is not specified at the time of the investment, but rather, it is determined during a later investment round.

On the other hand, a SAFT agreement is an arrangement where an investor provides upfront capital to a blockchain startup, and in return, the investor is promised tokens at a future date once the company's blockchain project has been launched. These tokens can then be used within the specific blockchain ecosystem or sold on various platforms. Unlike SAFE, SAFT does not involve equity stakes in the company but focuses on future tokens.

Is SAFT legally binding?

A SAFT is an investment contract that, in theory, is bound by U.S. securities laws and requires compliance with its terms. However, it's important to note that the legal status of SAFTs has not been definitively established in court. Therefore, while it's intended to protect investments in securities for all parties involved, its enforceability in cases of bankruptcy or insolvency hasn't been conclusively determined.

What are the key components of a SAFT agreement?

Triggering events, valuation caps, discounts, and pro-rata rights are all essential components of a SAFT agreement. These factors determine the value at which tokens will be exchanged between investors and startups before their release on blockchain networks. Pro-rata rights in a SAFT agreement allow investors to maintain their token ownership percentage by purchasing an equivalent number of tokens in future issuances.

What are the requirements for becoming an accredited investor?

In order to qualify as an accredited investor, an individual needs to meet certain financial thresholds related to income and net worth. Additionally, possessing professional expertise in the sector or holding specific executive positions can also contribute to achieving this investor status.

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