A private company is a company held under private ownership with shares that are not traded publicly on exchanges.
Locating information about private companies can be difficult because, unlike public companies, they are not required to file documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is where a lot of information about public companies comes from.
How do I research a private company?
You may need to look in some less obvious places for information on private companies. We recommend starting at the top of the list and working your way down, as we've ordered this list to reflect the places you're most likely to find information. But the type of information you need may be in any of the options listed, so don't give up if you don't find it right away.
Before you start your research, here are some things to think about regarding your company.
Company size matters. Very large private companies, like Mars, Inc (3 Musketeers chocolate bar, Twix) will leave a "footprint" in the news, across regulatory bodies, or even in some of our company report databases. Conversely, small, regional, or local businesses are almost impossible to research.
Subsidiaries. If the parent company of a private subsidiary is public, the parent company generally files the financials and incorporates financial information from the subsidiary within its own results. You may be to extrapolate financial information from their filings, or even obtain information specific to that subsidiary through annual reports and/or 10-K filings with the SEC.
What do you need? The type of information you need about your company will dictate where you start digging for information. Information about private companies can be found in some less obvious places, like job opening notices or competitor reports.
Start with the company
Look for links called About, Our Company, Press Releases, Annual Reports, or Financial Reports. Many times, these links can be found at the bottom of the homepage.
Company social media
Review the company's social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram. Who is their audience? What kind of products or services are they marketing? This can give you insight into the company's target demographics and industry competitors. LinkedIn can give you information on private company size, key company employees, and new hires.
Online job sites
Job postings, such as those listed on LinkedIn, will provide details on the skills gaps that the private company is trying to fill and may reveal product development and trends, expansion plans, and company growth.
Search the library
Some of the library's databases contain private company information. If you can't find your company in the databases, try looking at publicly held competitors. They may mention your company by name or provide information on trends, threats, or opportunities that all players in the industry are facing.
Also called Business Market Research Collection. Company profiles are usually brief reports that serve as a good overview of the company. Enter your company's name in the search field and select Company/organization – ORG in the drop-down next to the search field.
Select Research a Company and search for your company.
Search the news
You can often find the most current information on your company in local news, business journals, and trade publications. You'll want to check for press releases, blogs, and news items. Keep in mind anything found in a press release or company blog will most likely feature the company or organization in a positive light.
Search for your business to review global news and trends in journals, trade magazines, working papers, etc. Use the Publications link on the homepage to find PR Newswire, a collection of press releases.
Search for your company to review news stories on your business. Content is updated daily, if not more frequently, for many of the major news publications featured in this database.
Research SEC filings
Search the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) when looking for financial information. While private companies are not required to file information with the SEC, there are cases where you may be able to gather pieces of information.
If the company has merged with a public company, they are required to disclose that information. You can also search for information about the public company prior to the merger to get an idea of the company’s financials.
Privately held companies that raise capital are required to file a Form D with the SEC as a notice of an exempt offering of securities. Form D filings may show investments by venture capital, angel investors, or pooled investment funds.
Use industry benchmarks as a proxy
If you're still not able to find financial information on your company, use industry data to give you insight into your specific company. Review our Find Industry Profiles guide for help with finding this information.
Search public records and government sites
Private companies operate within most of the same rules, regulations, and laws that public companies do and are required to file accurate information with government agencies. You may need to check federal, state, and local records. Consider requirements such as those covering company registration, environment laws, legal filings, and more.
All states require companies to file business incorporation information, usually through the secretary of state's office. Information may be limited to the company's name, but it could offer more details in some cases. Depending on the amount of information you find, you may be able to use the information as a jumping-off point for your research.
Ranks the top franchises based on costs, fees, size, growth, brand strength, and financial stability. Please note that not all franchises listed are part of private companies.
Last resort! Contact the company
As a last resort, contact the company using the company's website contact links. Ask to speak with someone in the company's communications or public relations department. You may need to explain the purpose of your research (e.g. academic paper, educational purposes). Keep in mind that the company is not obligated to provide any additional information than what is required by law and may deny your request.
Having trouble finding information on your private company? Ask Us! Our team is here to help you if you’re stuck or need help getting started.