SAFE Agreements: A Closer Look at an Alternative to Convertible Notes

Published on
Jan 5, 2024
Written by
jameel qeblawi
Read time
20 min

jameel qeblawi

founder and chief architect myqubator™

The Pros and Cons of SAFE: Is It Right For Your Startup?

In the world of startups, funding is a crucial component for success. To attract investors, entrepreneurs often turn to various financing options, one of which is the Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE). Introduced by Y Combinator as an alternative to convertible notes, SAFE agreements have gained popularity in the West. However, their prevalence in the Middle East remains a subject of exploration. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of SAFE agreements, assess their current adoption in the Middle East, and examine the implications they hold for encouraging investment in the region.

Understanding SAFE: An Alternative to Convertible Notes

Historically, convertible notes have been the go-to instrument for early-stage startups to secure funding. However, SAFE agreements have emerged as a simpler and more flexible alternative. Unlike convertible notes, SAFE agreements do not accrue interest or have maturity dates, making them easier to understand and manage for both startups and investors. By granting investors the right to future equity, SAFE agreements provide a straightforward and efficient mechanism for startups to raise capital without being burdened by debt.

SAFE in the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities for Startups and Investors

While SAFE agreements have gained traction in the West, their adoption in the Middle East presents a unique landscape, influenced by cultural, regulatory, and economic factors. The Middle East boasts a vibrant startup ecosystem, with countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia fostering entrepreneurship. However, the region's conservative approach to investment and legal frameworks may pose challenges for the widespread acceptance of SAFE agreements.

One of the significant opportunities offered by SAFE agreements in the Middle East lies in their potential to attract foreign investment. By providing a simplified funding mechanism, startups in the region can tap into the global investment community, enticing international investors who are familiar with SAFE agreements. Moreover, SAFE agreements enable startups to preserve their valuations and maintain confidentiality, which can be advantageous in a competitive market.

However, challenges persist. The conservative investment culture prevalent in some Middle Eastern countries often favors traditional financing methods, such as venture capital or angel investing. Furthermore, legal frameworks in the region may not explicitly recognize SAFE agreements, which can deter potential investors. Regulatory advancements and industry education are necessary to foster an environment conducive to the adoption of SAFE agreements.

The Pros and Cons of SAFE: Is it Right for Your Startup?

As with any financing option, SAFE agreements come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these can help startups make informed decisions when considering SAFE agreements as a funding mechanism.

Pros of SAFE agreements:

  1. Simplicity and flexibility: SAFE agreements offer a straightforward and easy-to-understand structure that can be tailored to fit a startup's specific needs.
  2. Valuation protection: By delaying the determination of a startup's valuation until a future equity round, founders can avoid potential pitfalls associated with over or undervaluation.
  3. Confidentiality: SAFE agreements do not require disclosure of funding amounts or valuation to the public, preserving a startup's strategic advantage.

Cons of SAFE agreements:

  1. Increased investor risk: Unlike convertible notes, SAFE agreements do not have a maturity date or interest accrual, which can lead to greater uncertainty and risk for investors.
  2. Potential lack of milestone pressure: With SAFE agreements, startups may not face the same urgency to achieve critical milestones, potentially impacting their focus and progress.
  3. Legal and regulatory considerations: The legal recognition and enforceability of SAFE agreements in certain regions, including the Middle East, can pose challenges for startups and investors alike.


SAFE agreements have introduced a simpler and more flexible approach to startup funding, departing from the traditional convertible notes. While widely adopted in the West, their prevalence in the Middle East is still developing, influenced by unique challenges and opportunities. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of SAFE agreements and addressing regulatory and cultural barriers, the Middle East can potentially leverage this funding mechanism to encourage investment and foster the growth of its startup ecosystem.

By embracing SAFE agreements, startups in the Middle East can tap into a global network of investors while preserving their valuations and confidentiality. Policymakers and industry stakeholders must collaborate to establish a supportive environment that recognizes and accommodates SAFE agreements, paving the way for increased startup funding and economic growth in the region.

Remember, no financing instrument is universally suitable for every startup, and carefully assessing the advantages and disadvantages will empower entrepreneurs to make informed decisions.

Note: This article is intended to provide a factual overview of SAFE agreements, their relevance in the Middle East, and their potential impact on the region's startup ecosystem. It is important for startups and investors to consult legal and financial professionals for personalized advice regarding SAFE agreements and their implications in specific jurisdictions.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Thanks for joining our newsletter
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.