What is equity in a business?

Here is everything you need to know about equity in a business and what equity financing for startups is.

In the world of finance, equity is one of the most important things that define a company. Equity in business means the value of ownership. Basically, equity can be utilized to measure the company’s overall value, the inventory owned, a single stock, or any other thing that has value in the company. It is vital for every founder and company owner to know all about the shareholder equity in a business.

Key Points about Equity in Business

  • Equity represents the net worth or value of a business that would be returned to the owners/shareholders if all assets were liquidated and liabilities paid off.
  • For a sole proprietorship, it is referred to as owner’s equity. For corporations, it is called shareholders’ equity.
  • Equity is an important indicator of a company’s financial health and stability. Positive and increasing equity signifies the company is prospering.
  • Companies can raise equity financing by selling ownership stakes to investors in exchange for capital, rather than taking on debt.
  • Equity is calculated on the balance sheet using the formula: Equity = Total Assets – Total Liabilities
Here is everything you need to know about equity in a business and what equity financing for startups is.

What is Equity in Business? 

Business equity is the value of the assets less liabilities in your business. Being a business owner, you have the rights to all the things in the company that have value. And along with this, you take the responsibilities of your liabilities too. In short, you can easily measure the equity in the business by looking at the relationship between the liabilities and assets in the business.

To elaborate more, your assets are the items that have value in the business, including the patents, trademarks, inventory, or property. The assets can be both tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are the physical things that you can touch, such as a building, while intangible assets are the ones you cannot touch, like copyrights and other intellectual property.

Liabilities are the debt in your business. It is the debt your company owes to any agency, vendor, employee, organization, or any other business. It is normal to incur debt through regular business operations. As the equity in a business is the relationship between the assets and liabilities, the more liabilities in the business, the lesser the equity.




Features of Equity

Equity financing provides companies with an alternative to debt financing in order to raise capital. Positive and increasing equity is a sign of financial health and growth for a business.

Here is a table summarizing the key features of equity in a business:

Permanent CapitalEquity represents permanent capital that does not have to be repaid
Voting RightsEquity shareholders have voting rights in major company decisions
Residual ClaimsShareholders have residual claims on profits and assets after other obligations
Capital AppreciationShare value can appreciate if the company performs well
High RiskHigh Returns Equity investments are high-risk but offer potential for higher returns
Limited LiabilityShareholder liability is limited to their investment in shares
LiquidityShares of public companies are traded on stock exchanges for liquidity
No Fixed ReturnsEquity does not guarantee fixed returns; dividends depend on profitability

Types of Equity

The main types of stock include common stock, preferred stock, treasury stock, additional paid-in capital, and retained earnings. Each type has unique characteristics regarding ownership rights, dividends, voting power, and claims on assets.

Common Stock
  • Represents ownership in the company and a claim on its assets and profits

  • Holders have voting rights to elect the board of directors

  • No guaranteed dividends, payments depend on company's performance

  • Considered higher risk but with potential for greater returns
  • Preferred Stock
  • Has preference over common stock in receiving dividends and assets in case of liquidation

  • Usually has no voting rights

  • Pays a fixed dividend rate

  • Combines features of debt (fixed payments) and equity (no obligation to repay)
  • Treasury Stock
  • Company's own stock that it has repurchased from shareholders

  • Not considered outstanding stock for calculating dividends or voting rights

  • Reduces the total number of shares owned by investors
  • Additional Paid-In Capital
  • The amount investors pay above the par value when purchasing shares

  • Represents the premium over par/stated value of the stock

  • Helps companies raise more capital than just the par value
  • Retained Earnings
  • The cumulative profits retained and reinvested by the company

  • Not paid out as dividends to shareholders

  • Provides a source of equity funding for growth and expansion
  • How do you calculate business equity?

    For calculating small business equity, use the simple accounting equation:

    Equity = Assets - Liabilities

    Once you calculate your equity, you will have to report this amount on your balance sheet. This formula can also be used to identify the amount you need to have in liabilities or assets to reach an equity goal. Additionally, this accounting equation can help you determine the total assets or liabilities by rearranging the formula as:

    Liabilities = Assets – Equity

    Assets = Liabilities + Equity

    Shareholder Equity

    For corporations, the shareholder equity (SE), which is also called stockholders’ equity, is the corporation’s owners’ residual claim on the assets after the debt has been paid. As mentioned above, the equity in a business is the total assets minus the total liabilities in the company. But the shareholder equity is part of the equity that the shareholder owns in the company.

    Retained earnings are a part of shareholder equity, and is the percentage of the total earnings that were not paid to the shareholders as dividends. And the retained earnings are not cash or other liquid assets. This is because years of retained earnings are then used for other things that can help grow the business and increase its value. Shareholder equity for a company that is a going concern isn’t the same as the liquidation value. In liquidation, physical asset values have been reduced and other extraordinary conditions exist.

    Shareholder Equity Formula

    The shareholder equity formula is:

    SE = total assets - total liabilities

    This formula is also known as the balance sheet equation or the accounting equation. The balance sheet holds the basis of the accounting equation.

    Here are the steps to calculate the SE:

    • Locate the company’s total assets on the balance sheet for the period.
    • Add all the liabilities in the company, which can be found on a separate listing on the balance sheet.
    • Locate the total shareholder’s equity and add the number to the total liabilities.
    • Total assets will be equal to the sum of the liabilities and the total equity.

    steps to calculate shareholder equity

    For a few things, such as the earnings per share and dividends, a more relevant measure is used, as shares “issued and outstanding”. This measure excludes Treasury Shares, which are the shares owned by the company.

    By comparing the number of everything that the company owns and owes, the shareholder equity formula paints a clear picture of the finances of the company. This can then be easily interpreted by different investors and analysts. The equity of the business is used as capital raised by the company, which is then used to fund operations, invest in projects, and purchase assets. A company can easily raise capital by issuing debt with bonds or through equity, which is done by selling stock. It is common for investors to invest in equity investments, as it offers them more opportunities to get a share of the profits in the company as it grows.

    Equity is crucial as it represents the value of the stake of the investor in the company, which is represented by their proportion of the company’s shares. The company offers shareholders the right to own equity through stocks, which gives them the potential for dividends and capital gains. Owning equity would also offer the shareholders the right to vote in any important corporate decisions and for the election of the board members in the corporation. All these benefits that come with shareholder equity ownership keep the ongoing interest of the shareholder in the company.

    Shareholder equity can either be positive or negative. If it is positive, the company has a lot of assets to cover its liabilities. And if the equity is negative, the liabilities of the company would exceed the assets. If prolonged, it would be considered as a balance sheet insolvency. Normally, investors consider the companies that have negative shareholder equity as an unsafe investment or too risky.

    But it should be kept in mind that shareholder equity isn’t the only factor that defines the financial health of the company. So investors would also look into other things and use tools to determine if they should invest in the business or not.

    Example of using the Shareholder Equity Formula

    Here is how to calculate shareholder equity. Just note that we will be taking both the positive and negative examples to explain it further.

    Positive equity example

    Let’s assume that you have a clothing company, and your cash, inventory, and all other assets have a total value of $15,000. On the other hand, your debt and liabilities of your company total $6,000.

    Equity = $15,000 – 6,000 = $9,000

    This means that you have a $9,000 worth of equity in your business.

    Negative equity example

    Now let us assume that your company’s liabilities increase to $20,000, and the assets remain at $15,000. In this case:

    Equity = $15,000 – 20,000 = $-5,000

    In short, your equity will reduce to a negative amount of $5,000.

    Example of setting an Equity goal

    Following the last situation where the liabilities are $15,000 and you want to reach an equity goal of $35,000 for your business. To find the number of assets you need for you to meet your goal, you will need to reverse engineer the formula and use:

    Assets = Liabilities + Equity = $15,000 + 35,000 = $50,000

    This means that for you to reach the goal of $35,000 of equity in your business, you will need to have about $50,000 in assets and $15,000 in liabilities.

    Equity Financing

    It is normal for people to confuse debt funding and equity funding as equity funding also involves funds. Nevertheless, equity funding is when money is obtained from investors in a company in exchange for company shares. These investors are not ones like your friends, family, or other small investors. They are usually from big investors like venture capitalists and angel investors.

    The best thing about equity financing for startups is that it is the investors who are taking the risk. And with them giving you funding, you will have enough to grow your business without worrying about interest payments that come with bank loans (debt financing). This also means that if your company ends up failing, you do not have to pay anything back to the investor. Although everything is great for the founders when getting equity financing for their startups, there are downsides to it too. To get funding, a part of the company has to be given to the investor.

    With this, you will have to consider them as partners, where they have a say in all the major decisions in the company. So, if you were wondering why an investor would invest in the company and take up so much risk, this is the reason why. The investors would have a share of the profits earned by the company as well. And if the company fails, all the assets are sold and the amount obtained is given to the investors (after all the creditors are paid off, if any).

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of equity financing?

    With the above information covered, let’s now talk about the various advantages and disadvantages of equity financing in detail:

    Advantages of Equity Financing in Startups

    • If the company fails, you would not have to pay any money to the investors for what they invested in the business.
    • Getting in contact with the right investors, you would be able to connect with various other professionals in the industry through them. This would allow you to gain more wisdom, great experience, and many other things. These relationships would help you a lot in growing your business and expanding it.
    • Unlike debt funding, you would not have to pay any interest for the equity funding that you get. This would mean that you will be spending all the profits you get for growing your company and not for loan repayments. It offers the chance to focus on developing your business.

    Disadvantages of Equity Financing in Startups

    • As compared to the time period of getting debt funding, getting equity financing for startups takes longer.
    • For obtaining equity funding, you will be giving out ownership of the businesses. This also would mean that you are giving the decision-making power to them. And for this, you will again spend money to get a lawyer involved and make the right decision for company funding.

    advantages and disadvantages of equity financing


    Here are some frequently asked questions about equity in business:

    Why is Equity Important?

    Equity indicates the true value and financial health of a company. Positive and increasing equity signifies the company is prospering. Equity also provides a financial cushion to absorb losses.

    How can a Company Raise Equity?

    Companies can raise equity financing by selling ownership stakes (issuing new shares) to investors in exchange for capital. This avoids taking on debt.

    What are the Benefits of Equity For Investors?

    Equity investors become part-owners with voting rights and can benefit from capital appreciation if the company’s value increases, as well as dividends from profits.

    What are the Risks of Equity Investing?

    Equity investments are considered higher risk compared to debt. Returns are not guaranteed – investors can lose their entire investment if the company fails. However, equity also offers higher potential returns.

    What is the Difference Between Debt Financing and Equity?

    Equity represents ownership while debt is borrowed capital that must be repaid with interest. Equity investors take on more risk but can benefit from the company’s success.

    Manage Your Company Equity using Eqvista

    With all this, you now know what equity in a business is. But when you are giving out equity to investors and growing the company, you will need to keep a track of all of your company shares. The only way you can do it is by using a cap table. Eqvista is a FREE and advanced cap table software that allows you to keep track and manage all the shareholder equity in your company.

    Not only this; you can also issue all the shares online, add shareholders, use tools like the round modeling and waterfall analysis to see how company ownership is being diluted with every funding round.

    Interested in issuing & managing shares?

    If you want to start issuing and managing shares, Try out our Eqvista App, it is free and all online!