Private Equity vs Venture Capital

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Private equity firms make investments in mature companies that are not publicly listed. Strategies for investments include leveraged buyouts, venture capital, growth capital, distressed investments and mezzanine capital.

A list of private equity firms

list of private equity firms

Venture capital firms make investments in early stage and young companies. Venture capital is financing and venture capitalists are the investors.

Major venture capital firms are Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, First Round Capital, Sequoia Capital, Oak Investment Partners and Highland Capital Partners.


Similarities between Private equity and Venture capital firms


Both private equity and venture capital firms raise funds from wealthy individuals, pension funds, banks, insurance companies and foundations.

Private equity and venture capital firms structure is very similar, so let us understand the structure in detail

Private Equity vs Venture Capital

  • Private equity fund is a stand-alone investment vehicle managed by private equity firm on behalf of a group of investors. They are set up as a limited partnership.
  • General Partner (GP) are the partners of private equity fund and are responsible for managing the investments within the fund. GP’s have unlimited liability towards the fund.
  • Limited Partners (LP) provide capital and consist of pension funds, endowments, foundations, funds of funds, sovereign wealth funds, wealthy individuals and banks. LP’s liability extends only to the capital they contribute. They are not involved in the management of investments.
  • Distribution waterfall specifies the method in which a private equity fundmakes distributions to GP and LP.
  • Carried interest is the share of a fund’s net profits allocated to GP and is usually 20%.


  • Management Fees is calculated as a percentage of committed capital paid annually to GP and is commonly 2%.
  • Ratchet specifies the allocation of equity between stockholders and management.

Evaluating financial performance of private equity and venture capital firms


1. Internal rate of return (IRR)

Internal rate of return (IRR) is most commonly used to measure private equity performance. It is time weighted return express as a percentage.

A). Net IRR is net of management fees, carried interest and other compensation to GP. It is relevant for LP.

B). Gross IRR is calculated net of fees not taking into account management fees or carried interest.

2. Multiples

A). DPI (distributed to paid in capital) multiple measures the LP’s realized return and is the cumulative distribution paid to the LP’s divided by the paid in capital.

B). RVPI (residual value to paid in capital) multiple measures the LP’s unrealized return and is the NAV after distributions divided by the paid in capital.

C). TVPI (total value to paid in capital) multiple measures the LP’s realized and unrealized return and is the sum of DPI and RVPI.


Difference between Private Equity and Venture Capital


Beyond these similarities there are large number of differences also, so let us see the main differences in a simpler form


Parameter Private equity Venture capital
Stage of Investment Mature companies Early stage companies
Type of companies Invest in companies across all industries High growth  companies in technology sector
Investment structure Equity and debt Equity
Ownership Majority stake Minority stake
Focus Value driven corporate governance Capabilities of the management team
Value creation Financial engineering, operational improvement and EBITDA growth Growth in company
Risk Low risk High risk
Management Team


Experienced Investment bankers New team of diverse mix including investment bankers, consultants and entrepreneurs
Investment Size From $100 million up to tens of billions $50,000 to $5 million
Investment Period 10 years 10 years
Cash Flows Stable and predictable cash flows Low predictability
Product Market Strong market position New product market with uncertain future
Products Established products Product is based on new technology with uncertain prospects
Working Capital Requirements Low requirements Increasing requirements
Liquidity Lack of liquidity Lack of liquidity
Exit strategy


Moving to other hedge funds or venture capital, switching back to advisory roles, launching their own fund or entering into entrepreneurship Initial Public Offering, sale, buyback of shares, recapitalization and merger & acquisition


Strategies of Private equity and Venture capital firms

Strategies of Private equity and Venture capital firms

  • Growth capital makes investments in mature companies looking for expansion. The investment may serve restructuring, financing acquisition or entering new markets.
  • Leveraged buyouts (or LBO) is when a company uses a large amount of debt to make an acquisition. LBO transactions are of mature companies having stable and predictable cash flows.
  • Distressed strategy is investing in equity or debt securities of companies experiencing financial or operational distress.
  • Mezzanine capital is structured as a hybrid of debt and equity. Mostly small companies use mezzanine financing for leveraged buyout or major expansion.
  • Venture Capital makes investments in less mature companies, start-up companies, or companies in early-stage development.

Major deals of Private equity

  • Dell has acquired EMC Corporation for $60 billion, it is the largest technology acquisition. The acquisition brings various EMC subsidiaries, including SecureWorks and VMware, under Dell.
  • Symantec has announced the acquisition of Blue Coat Systems, a Bain Capital-backed company for $4.7 billion.
  • Advent International has announced the close of its eighth flagship fund, Advent Global Private Equity VIII by raising $13 billion. The fund is among the largest in history.

Major deals of Venture capital

  • Acerta Pharma, a portfolio company of BioGeneration Ventures, Frazier Healthcareand OrbiMed has been acquired by AstraZeneca for $2.5 billion. AstraZeneca has the option to purchase remaining shares.
  • Cisco, a networking company, has agreed to acquire Jasper Technologies, an Internet of Things company, backed by Sequoia, Wing Venture Capital and Benchmark Capital, for $1.4 billion.
  • Ride-hailing service Uber has closed $5.6 billion in Series G funding. Uber is valued at $61 billion.
  • Snapchat, a messaging app startup, has raised $1.8 billion in Series F funding from investors including General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, Fidelity and IVP. Snapchat is valued at $17.8 billion.

Recent funding

  • Globally private equity firms have raised $345 billion by closing 807 funds in 2016. Investors plan to invest more capital in private equity firms in coming years.
  • Venture capital firms have raised $55 billion by closing 382 funds in 2016. Information Technology was the main sector of investment. Venture capital firms have invested in 7,751 US companies a total of $69.1 billion in 2016. Venture capital will be an essential component of private equity fundraising over 2017, with 940 funds currently seeking capital and $16 billion already committed to funds that have held an interim close.


If you are interested in adding value to existing companies, reorganizing and restructuring them then private equity is more suitable. You can make a lot of money in short period by support from private equity firms. The returns are high and provide diversification benefits.

If you are innovative, want to bring a revolution or to start your own business then venture capital will be desirable. However, they are more risky.

Author: Rabia J. –  Sr. Analyst


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