Finding information on small start-up companies can be even more elusive than for private companies. Databases covering private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) or mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can be useful resources. Essentially, PE and VC both involve investors buying or funding private companies; while PE firms generally focus on more established companies and often buy 100 percent ownership, VC firms look for newer companies with a lot of room for growth and invest a smaller stake. M&A involves companies consolidating and can often involve a mix of public and private companies. Some of the investor education sites noted above explain more about these areas, as does the UK-published third edition (2014) of Private Equity Demystified by John Gilligan and Mike Wright, issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and freely accessible online.
The Capital IQ database from S&P Global Market Intelligence is considered a premier database for VC and PE research. Users can screen and chart all types of companies, PE firms, and deals. Capital IQ is used in many professional settings to identify potential acquisitions, investments, buyers, and partners. Other big database names for this kind of research include Thomson’s Eikon database (mentioned previously), Preqin, and PitchBook. Eikon offers access to private equity and other investments as well as league tables that rank deals by size and other metrics. Preqin offers various modules including fund manager profiles and performance analysis. PitchBook includes data on thousands of PE and VC deals as well as investors, advisers, and other partners.
The PrivCo database focuses on private companies as well as PE-owned and VC-backed companies and public companies involved in PE activity (such as acquiring a private company). Users can look up private companies to see which firms have invested in them, and vice versa. Some company profiles include financial data as well as a list of competitors, a company history, and news related to the company and industry. A Knowledge Bank section provides a useful glossary and introductory guides dealing with valuation, restructuring, and other research areas.
Bureau van Dijk offers a database called Zephyr that functions like their aforementioned Orbis database except that it screens M&A data instead of company directory information. Coverage of international deals goes back to 1997 for European and US companies and about five years for other countries. The German Deal Pipeline covers transactions back to 1989 and also includes news of recent deals. In each of these databases, deals can be screened by type, date, industry, and size as well as geographic region. Finally, CrunchBase is a free resource for finding out who is investing in what, with a focus on VC activity in the technology industry.