Reference Question of the Week: How do I find information on private companies?

It’s often a challenge to find information on private companies. Sometimes it is virtually impossible. Sometimes you can nearly as much information as if they were a publicly traded company. When I’m looking for information on a private company, here are the resources I use.

1. Their website. I look for whatever I can on their website. Especially the names of executives or founders. I also look to see if I can discern the legal name of the corporation. Sometimes the commonly known name is the DBA (Doing Business As) name, and the name you really want is the name under which the company is incorporated. (For example, the nonprofit Glazer Children’s Museum is easier to research once you learn that the official name of the nonprofit is the Glazer Family Foundation.)

2. News. I search through Google News, and through sources like Access World News, Lexis Nexis, and American City Business Journals. The last three sources are available through the list of UT databases (be sure to log in to Esearch first).

3. Department of State websites. Just as the United States has a Department of State, so do most states. Typically the Department of State within the state oversees the incorporation of businesses within the state.

4. Privco. This is a new database we added that collects information about private businesses. It’s strongest when it comes to businesses considering an IPO. However, I always search this database for every private business I research. (Currently Privco is only in our list of Databases. It has not been added to the Esearch yet, and so is only accessible within the library.)

5. ReferenceUSA. This is another database available through the library.

It helps if you spend a little time before your research thinking about the information you’re looking for. Jot down the key information you’re hoping to find. This will help guide you through your search. (Examples of information you might be looking for: CEO, Address, state of incorporation (i.e. Florida? Delaware? California?), DBA names, subsidiary names, names of executives, earnings, expenses, number of employees, etc.)


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