Ereviews: PrivCo | March 1, 2012

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CONTENT Although information on publicly traded companies is available in multiple locations because of federal requirements, that on privately held firms is more elusive. PrivCo hopes to fill this gap by providing reports on more than 31,000 private companies and 8500 private investors (including venture capitalists). The database is aimed at multiple audiences, from large corporations hoping to keep an eye on their competitors to start-ups seeking to find investors and the business students studying these firms.

Company reports include a varying amount of material, although more background is typically available on larger companies. The best profiles offer a summary and history of the company; owner name(s) and percentage stakes if known; company type (individual, family, corporate); financial information, including revenue, number of employees, mergers, acquisitions, and funding activity; details on organizational structure; and basic contact information. Finances are presented in tables and in graphs for easy browsing. In addition to the narrative history of the company‚ the entry covering grocery chain Wegmans, for example, discusses the founding brothers and the chain’s expansion‚ the list of mergers and acquisitions activity and the list of venture funding investments provide a straightforward look at the growth (or decline) of the companies in question. For each merger, acquisition, or funding round, a link is provided for additional details. Information includes the parties and the amount of money involved and other common transaction details such as the percentage stake of the company acquired and the number of board seats demanded. Users can research Twitter’s acquisition of Tweetdeck, for example, and closely follow news of Facebook’s IPO.

PrivCo assigns corporations proprietary private ticker symbols and their own PrivCo Industry Classification System (PICS) codes. Other industry classifications (SIC and NAICS) are included where relevant, but PrivCo advertises the existence of PICS codes for emerging industries, such as Social Media, not covered by the traditional coding system. Investor reports include similar information about the nature of the investor (individual, company, etc.), basic organizational and contact listings, and a history of private company deals.

PrivCo also offers a Knowledge Bank‚ a free, online encyclopedia of private firms where patrons can discover the stages of the private-company life cycle (from seed capital to late stage investment and beyond) or learn about the history of venture capital.

USABILITY From the homepage, it is easy to search for companies or investors via the primary search box, with suggestions appearing as a search is entered. Advanced search options are also available on secondary pages for five major areas: companies, investors, venture capital rounds, mergers and acquisitions, and private-equity deals. The advanced search forms have much in common. Each allows filtering by location and (except the investor search) by industry.

The advanced search for companies offers the ability to search for entities with certain growth rates or by number of employees or revenue range. Investor search has options to look within a certain distance of a zip code and to filter by investment stage (seed, early stage, late stage, etc.). Venture capital funding search and the private equity search can both pinpoint the timing and amount of investment. The mergers and acquisitions function can locate specific M&A deals within a named industry, near a specific location, or at a certain dollar amount, all without needing to know the name of the firms involved.

Those browsing industries may select individual (or multiple) states, activities, and company sizes from the select boxes on the homepage. The homepage also provides lists of popular company reports and recent news related to private companies (e.g., initial public stock offerings, anticipated deals, mistakes made).

The PrivCo interface is well designed and fairly intuitive to navigate. Results include many internal links to reports on associated companies, competitors, investors, and industries and to company webpages and social media accounts, making it easy to collect information on all related firms in one transaction.

The database includes some useful export features. Multiple reports from results lists can easily be downloaded as Excel files, allowing analysis and comparisons of up to 100 companies at a time. There are monthly limits on the number of reports that can be downloaded in Excel form. Individual reports can be downloaded in their entirety as nicely formatted PDFs, and financial statistics are exported to Excel files with just one click. Users can easily bookmark or share reports with other registered users via the built-in buttons on each page for Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and other services.

PRICING Annual prices for academic institutions are based on FTE as follows: 0‚ 3000: $3600; 3000‚ 12,000: $4800; 2000‚ 20,00: $6200; 20,000 and up: $7500. Public library pricing is based on the number of card holders or population served as follows: small, $3200; medium, $4400; medium‚ large, $5600; large, $7800.

VERDICT Although PrivCo advertises its inclusion of private information from industry tipsters, it unavoidably suffers from some of the same limitations on all private business data: many of the standard financial statistics are simply not publicly available. Some of the company information can be found on public websites and in other databases. Because of its high cost, therefore, this resource is recommended only for universities with business schools and for large corporate libraries.

Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at


  1. Michelle C. says:

    Excellent resource, thanks LJ for helping us discover PrivCo! We’re currently working on a subscription for our business library. Very useful for private company business research.

  2. Sara Brien says:

    Agree that PrivCo is the best database so far for researching private companies. We just acquired it and love it.

  3. Don Parker says:

    We used PrivCo briefly for valuation research and found the data severely lacking in specificity, particularly their M&A data. FWIW: they also have a cut-throat refund policy. We cancelled our sub on the renewal date, but were charged for an additional month anyway. PrivCo has not even so much as responded to our repeated requests for a refund. Too bad, because we did find their service somewhat helpful even with the shallow level of detail provided on the M&A side.