The world of startups is fascinating, fraught with risks, brimming with potential, and profoundly influential in shaping the global economic landscape. Central to this world is a financial instrument that underpins the very essence of startups: Equity shares. Let’s delve into the intriguing domain of equity shares and how they fuel the growth of startups, particularly in the dynamic Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

What are equity shares?

Equity shares, also known as common shares or ordinary shares, represent ownership in a company. They confer an entitlement to a proportion of the company’s profits, often in the form of dividends, and the right to vote on key company decisions. Essentially, equity shareholders are part-owners of the company and have a stake in its fortunes.

The benefits of investing in equity shares

For startups, equity shares are a crucial tool to raise capital. Traditional forms of financing, such as loans, often do not suit startups due to their unpredictable cash flows and lack of collateral. Instead, startups turn to equity financing: they sell equity shares to investors who provide capital in return. These investors could be venture capitalists, angel investors, or even employees through stock options.

Additionally, equity shares can align the interests of the company’s stakeholders. Since equity shareholders partake in the company’s success (and its risks), they are incentivized to contribute to the company’s growth, whether through strategic decision-making (if they’re an investor with voting rights) or commitment and productivity (if they’re an employee with stock options).

Investing in equity shares of privately held tech companies offers unique benefits:

  • Capital appreciation: As a company grows and succeeds, the value of its equity shares may increase, providing the potential for capital appreciation for investors.
  • Dividend income: Some equity shares may entitle investors to receive dividends, which are periodic payments made to shareholders from the company’s profits.
  • Voting rights: Common equity shares typically carry voting rights, enabling shareholders to have a say in important company decisions.
  • Diversification: Investing in equity shares of different companies at various stages of growth can help diversify your investment portfolio and mitigate risk.

Investing in equity shares, particularly in privately held tech companies, comes with inherent risks. To manage these risks, investors should:

Navigating the risks of equity shares

  • Conduct thorough due diligence: Research the company, its management, financials, and market prospects before investing.
  • Diversify your portfolio: Spread investments across different sectors, stages of growth, and types of shares to mitigate risk and enhance potential returns.
  • Understand the liquidity constraints: Private equity shares are often less liquid than publicly traded shares, which means that investors should be prepared for a longer investment horizon.

The Role of Equity Shares in Startup Growth

The capital raised from equity shares fuels various facets of a startup’s growth journey. It can fund product development, market expansion, talent acquisition, and much more. Moreover, the involvement of equity shareholders can bring valuable strategic inputs, industry connections, and credibility to the startup.

But equity shares are a double-edged sword. While they bring capital and resources, they also dilute the founders’ ownership. Therefore, successful startups must balance their growth needs with careful equity management, ensuring they don’t relinquish too much control prematurely.

Case Studies from MENA Region Companies

The MENA region presents compelling examples of how equity shares have propelled startup growth. For instance, Careem, a ride-hailing startup, leveraged equity financing across multiple rounds, culminating in its acquisition by Uber for $3.1 billion. Notably, Careem’s success also attracted more investors to the MENA region, igniting a startup boom.

Similarly,, an e-commerce platform, utilized equity shares to raise capital and strategic support. later acquired it for $580 million and rebranded it as in 2019. However, this was not the first time a global tech giant purchased a MENA region startup, as Yahoo acquired Maktoob, an Arabic web portal, in 2013.

Empowering investors

Platforms like Zest are democratizing access to the equity shares of privately held tech companies across different stages of growth. By leveraging digital platforms and adhering to best practices in legal and compliance governance, investors can access previously inaccessible opportunities and feel empowered to choose the investments that resonate with their interests and risk tolerance.

Conclusion: The Future of Equity Shares

Looking ahead, equity shares will continue to be an essential engine for startup growth. As the startup ecosystem in the MENA region matures, the dynamics of equity shares will evolve too, with emerging trends such as equity crowdfunding and secondary markets for equity shares.

In essence, the power of equity shares extends beyond capital—it encompasses strategic growth partnerships, risk-sharing, and the democratization of entrepreneurial success. Understanding and harnessing equity shares is critical for any startup embarking on its growth journey.