Entrepreneurial Research Resources for Private Companies

When conducting entrepreneurial research, one of the most important components is finding information on competitors, or competitive intelligence, as well as financing/funding information, usually in the form of private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) financing. Many times during this process it is discovered that information is needed on private companies. This is especially the case when entrepreneurs are interested in new, emerging, or niche markets. Private company information can be very difficult to obtain. Unlike publicly-traded companies, private companies are not required to disclose financial information, executive information, or other valuable pieces of data that help in a competitive intelligence analysis. Fortunately, there are resources that CMU Libraries subscribe to that help with this information.

Two very powerful resources that can be used to find various pieces of private company information are PrivCo and CB Insights. Both of these resources contain private company profile reports that include information on:

  • Financials/revenues (if available)
  • Headquarter information
  • Senior executives
  • Industry classifications
  • Competitors
  • Funding activity (investors, funding rounds, investor types – angel, VC, PE, etc.)
  • Some mergers & acquisitions (M&A) information

Although this information is essential in the competitive intelligence process, both of these resources also allow for the creation of target company lists using specific criteria during the screening process. This capability allows entrepreneurs to find where the competition is, how many other companies operate within the same industry, and how they are performing financially - or how much funding they have raised to the current date.

It should be noted that both of these resources do require an initial account creation using one’s CMU email address. This is a fairly quick and simple process, and after completion, simply log in with your CMU email address and password that you have created for future access. Most of the library’s resources do not require this additional step, but some of the newer database vendors that operate within the academic marketplace are adding this additional step for security purposes.

The private company profile reports are fairly easy to access. Simply type in a company of interest to load their profile report. From this report, you can gather info on who the other competitors are as well as the unique industries that these companies operate within. A trick that I often utilize is gathering information from a company profile report to further my competitive intelligence research. Using PrivCo’s company report on Uber Technologies Inc. as an example, I can see other private companies that are competitors to Uber within the report, and oftentimes, I am one click away from getting additional information on those other competitors (see screenshot below): 

Additionally, I can take advantage of the unique industry classification system that PrivCo uses to classify each company in the hope of furthering my competitive analysis research. PrivCo’s system is called PrivCo Industry Codes (PICS). It was developed specifically by PrivCo to better represent new and emerging industries and sectors that are not captured by the more traditional North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and Standard Industry Classification (SIC) codes, which were developed by the US government. By clicking on these various PICS codes within the report, I can get a listing of all the other private companies that PrivCo has determined operate within this industry. This helps round out the competitive intelligence research. (see screenshot below):

Another great strength of these resources is the screening mechanism that allows for the creation of target company lists or funding (PE or VC) lists using select criteria. Both PrivCo and CB Insights have multiple “Advanced Searches” that allow for the creation of these lists. After selecting the appropriate advanced search of interest, simply apply the criteria that is important in generating the desired list. These screening criteria include entities such as: geographic location, industry, revenue data, and funding data. Included below are examples of advanced search screenings for both PrivCo and CB Insights:

CB Insights

After running a screen, one of the inevitable questions that arises is: can I download/export this information? The simple answer is yes, but there are caveats with both of these resources. PrivCo only allows for 50 rows of data to be exported per month. This is a rather low number, but they do reset the download limit each month. CB Insights, on the other hand, allows for 4,000 rows of data to be exported per year. The question of downloading is always a thorny subject with private company databases. On the one hand, the database vendors are trying to prevent their entire database from being downloaded. On the other hand, academic researchers and entrepreneurs often need large data sets in order to complete various research projects and competitive analyses. It should be noted that the downloading capabilities of these resources is often negotiated during the evaluation and potential licensing of a resource. For now, the vendors (especially newer ones) are a bit strict, but there is hope that these policies will change in the future.

As mentioned before, private company information is very difficult to attain, yet it is often vital in the entrepreneurial research process. CMU Libraries is pleased to help with this kind of information through the subscriptions of both PrivCo and CB Insights. You can also consult with me if you have any additional questions or would like to further explore these resources for your research purposes. Enjoy these valuable tools, and good luck with your entrepreneurial endeavors!

by Ryan Splenda, Business and Economics Librarian, rsplenda@andrew.cmu.edu

Tags: Business, See all tags

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