The Valuation Cap is the most important term of a convertible note or a SAFE. It entitles investors to equity priced at the lower of the valuation cap or the pre-money valuation in the subsequent financing. Typical Valuation Caps for early stage startups currently range from $2 million to $20 million.
The valuation cap is a way to reward seed stage investors for taking on additional risk. The valuation cap sets the maximum price that your convertible security will convert into equity. To translate that into a share price, you divide the valuation cap by the series A valuation.
Let's say you invest in a startup using a note with a $3 million cap. If the series A investors decide that the company is worth $6 million dollars and pay $1/share, your note will convert into equity AS IF the price had actually been $3 million. By dividing $3 million by $6 million we get an effective price $.50/share. That means that you will get twice as many shares as the series A investors for the same price.