In this article

Take your investments to the next level with OPUS. Our platform is designed to help users make smarter decisions and maximize their returns.

Introduction to Private Markets: A comprehensive overview

7-min read

Private markets have been around for many years but have gained significant attention in the past few decades as institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals look for new ways to invest capital.

In this article, we explore the history of private markets, their function, the estimated size and depth of the market, and the various asset classes available.

Introduction to Private Markets: A comprehensive overview

A short history

The private market, also known as the Private Equity market, is a sector of the financial industry that has been around for a very long time, although it has evolved considerably recently. Its history is complex and multifaceted, reflecting the economic, political, and cultural forces that have shaped modern finance.

The earliest forms of private investment can be traced back to the Middle Ages when wealthy individuals and institutions would invest in new businesses and ventures. These early investors would provide capital to entrepreneurs in exchange for a share of the profits. This practice, now known as venture capital, was risky but potentially lucrative, and became increasingly popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, private investment shifted towards the industrial sector, as wealthy investors began to see potential for profits in new methods of production and agriculture that were emerging at the time. This led to the formation of Private Equity firms, which would provide capital to new businesses and help them grow through strategic investments and management.

The modern Private Equity market really took off in the post-World War II Era, when a group of investors led by American financier Georges Doriot founded the first venture capital firm, American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC). This firm pioneered the use of venture capital to fund new technologies and start-ups, and it set the template for many of the private equity firms that followed.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, private equity firms continued to grow and evolve as increasing numbers of investors saw the potential for high returns in the private market. These firms expanded their focus beyond venture capital to include leveraged buyouts, in which they would acquire existing companies and restructure them to increase profitability. This practice became especially popular in the 1980s, when a wave of corporate takeovers and mergers swept through the business world.

The private equity market underwent a major transformation in the 1990s and 2000s, as financial innovation and changes in regulation made it easier for investors to participate in private investments. One of the most significant developments was the creation of private equity funds, which allowed individual investors to pool their resources and invest in a diversified portfolio of private companies. These funds also made it possible for private equity firms to raise much larger amounts of capital, which in turn led to a surge in leveraged buyouts and other forms of private investment.

Today, the Private Equity market is a major force in the global economy, with trillions of dollars of capital invested in private companies around the world. Private Equity firms continue to play a crucial role in the growth and development of new technologies and industries, and they are often credited with providing the capital and expertise that is necessary to bring innovative ideas to market.

However, the Private Equity market is not without controversy. Critics argue that the industry is opaque and unregulated, and that it has a tendency to prioritise short-term profits over long-term growth and sustainability. Additionally, some have accused Private Equity firms of engaging in unethical and exploitative practices, such as taking advantage of workers and loading companies with debt.

Despite these criticisms, the Private Equity market shows no signs of slowing down. As long as there are entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and investors willing to take risks, the private market will continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of business and finance.

Growth of the Private Equity Market chart

What their function is

Private markets serve as an alternative to public markets, which are accessible to anyone through stock exchanges. Private markets are only available to a select group of investors, typically those with significant capital to invest. Private market investments are typically illiquid, meaning they cannot be easily bought or sold, and are often held for a longer period of time than public market investments. Private markets can offer higher returns than public markets, but also carry higher risk.

Exploring the functions of Private Equity Firms, Venture Capital Funds, Family Offices, and more

In the private markets, there are a variety of entities that play different roles and functions in the financial ecosystem. These entities range from private equity firms to venture capital funds to family offices, and each one has its own unique characteristics and investment strategies.

Private Equity Firms:

Private Equity firms are companies that specialise in investing in private companies or acquiring public companies and taking them private. They typically raise capital from institutional investors, such as pension funds and endowments, and use this capital to make strategic investments in private companies. Private Equity firms often seek to maximize the value of their investments by improving the operational efficiency of the companies they invest in or by restructuring their finances. They may also seek to acquire companies and merge them with other companies in their portfolio, in order to create synergies and increase their scale.

Venture Capital Funds:

Venture capital funds are similar to private equity firms, but they focus specifically on investing in early-stage companies that are typically at a high risk of failure but have the potential for high returns. Venture capital funds typically invest in companies that are in the technology, healthcare, or biotech sectors, and they often provide the companies with not just capital, but also guidance and support in the form of mentorship and business expertise. Venture capital funds are often structured as limited partnerships, with institutional investors providing the bulk of the capital and the venture capital firm acting as the general partner.

Family Offices:

Family offices are private wealth management firms that manage the financial affairs of high-net-worth individuals and families. Family offices typically invest in a wide range of asset classes, including private equity, real estate, and hedge funds. In the private market, family offices often invest in private equity funds or make direct investments in private companies. Family offices can be structured in a variety of ways, ranging from single-family offices that manage the assets of a single family to multi-family offices that serve multiple families.

Hedge Funds:

Hedge Funds are investment funds that typically seek to generate high returns by taking on more risk than traditional investment vehicles, such as mutual funds. Hedge Funds often invest in a range of asset classes, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies, and they can also invest in private companies or private equity funds. Hedge funds are often structured as limited partnerships, with the hedge fund manager acting as the general partner and the investors providing the capital.

Angel Investors:

Angel Investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage companies in exchange for equity. Angel investors typically invest in companies that are too small or too risky for traditional venture capital firms, and they often provide the companies with guidance and support in addition to capital. Angel Investors can be individuals or groups of individuals who pool their resources together to invest in a company.

Crowdfunding Platforms:

Crowdfunding platforms allow individuals to invest small amounts of money in private companies or projects in exchange for equity or rewards. Crowdfunding has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it allows companies to raise capital from a large number of small investors without going through the traditional fundraising process. Crowdfunding platforms are typically online marketplaces that connect investors with companies seeking capital.

Types of Private Market Investors chart

Private Investment Banks:

Private investment banks are firms that provide investment banking services to private companies. These services can include mergers and acquisitions, capital raising, and strategic advisory services. Private investment banks often work with smaller companies that may not be able to access traditional investment banking services, and they can provide a range of financing options to these companies.

In conclusion, the private market is a complex ecosystem with a variety of entities and players that each play a unique role in the financial ecosystem. From private equity firms to venture capital funds to family offices and more, each entity has its own investment strategies and approaches, and together, they drive innovation and growth in the economy.

Estimated size and depth of market

The private market is a vast and complex ecosystem that has grown significantly in recent years. However, due to its opaque and unregulated nature, it can be difficult to accurately measure the size and depth of the private market.

Estimating the size of the private market is challenging, as private companies are not required to disclose financial information or undergo the same level of scrutiny as public companies. However, various research firms and industry organizations have attempted to estimate the size of the private market through surveys and data analysis.

According to a report by Bain & Company, the global private equity industry had assets under management (AUM) of approximately $3.9 trillion as of 2020, representing a significant increase from $1.4 trillion in 2006. The report also estimated that the global private equity industry had raised over $2 trillion in capital commitments since 2014. This highlights the significant growth in private equity investments in recent years.

In addition to Private Equity, other segments of the Private Market, such as venture capital, hedge funds, and family offices, have also experienced significant growth. According to a report by Preqin, the global hedge fund industry had AUM of approximately $3.6 trillion as of 2020, while the global venture capital industry had raised approximately $300 billion in capital commitments since 2015. Family offices, which manage the assets of high-net-worth individuals and families, have also seen significant growth in recent years, with a report by UBS and Campden Wealth estimating that there are over 7,300 family offices worldwide, managing a combined wealth of over $5.9 trillion.

However, the size of the global private market is not the only factor that determines its depth. The depth of the private market also depends on the availability of capital, the level of competition, and the quality of investments. While the private market has grown significantly in recent years, there are concerns that the market may be becoming overcrowded, leading to increased competition for investment opportunities and potentially lower returns for investors.

Size and Depth of the Private Market chart

Furthermore, the private market is not without its risks. Investments in private companies are generally considered to be riskier than investments in public companies, as private companies are not subject to the same level of regulatory oversight and are often less transparent. Additionally, private companies may have limited liquidity, meaning that it can be difficult to sell or exit investments.

In conclusion, while estimating the size and depth of the private market is challenging, it is clear that the private market has experienced significant growth in recent years. However, investors should be aware of the risks associated with investing in private companies and carefully evaluate the quality of potential investments.

Asset Classes in Private Markets

Private markets offer a wide range of asset classes for investors, including private equity, real estate, venture capital, hedge funds, private debt and infrastructure. Private equity investments typically involve buying a stake in a private company with the aim of improving its performance and then selling it at a profit. Real Estate investments can range from residential properties to commercial properties, and can offer both income and capital appreciation. Venture capital investments involve investing in early-stage companies with the potential for high growth, while hedge funds use a range of strategies to try to generate high returns. Private debt investments involve lending money to companies or individuals in exchange for a fixed rate of return.

Asset classes are the different categories of financial instruments that investors can choose to invest in. Each asset class has its own unique characteristics, risk and return profile, and correlation with other asset classes. Understanding the various asset classes is crucial for investors to effectively diversify their portfolios and achieve their investment goals.

Here, we will explore the main asset classes, their characteristics, and how they can fit into an investment portfolio.

Real Estate

Real estate refers to physical property, such as land, buildings, and houses. Investors can invest in real estate through direct ownership or through real estate investment trusts (REITs), which allow investors to own a portion of a portfolio of real estate assets.

Real estate is known for its potential for capital appreciation and rental income. It is often considered a long-term investment, and many investors choose to hold it as a part of a diversified portfolio.


Infrastructure investments concentrate on essential facilities and services crucial for societal and economic functionality. This encompasses transportation avenues like roads and bridges; utilities like water and electricity; and other core components integral to development and progress. These investments not only offer long-term returns but also contribute positively to community development and progress.


Alternatives refer to a broad category of investments that do not fit into traditional asset classes. These can include hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, and other investment strategies.

Alternatives are known for their potential for high returns, but also their high level of risk. They are often considered a way to diversify a portfolio beyond traditional asset classes, but are typically only available to accredited investors. Understanding the different asset classes and their characteristics is crucial for building a well-diversified investment portfolio. Each asset class offers a unique risk and return profile, and by combining them in a portfolio, investors can balance risk and return to achieve their investment goals. It is important for investors to carefully evaluate each asset class and its role in their overall investment strategy, and to consult with a financial advisor if needed.

Want to view our funds?

Take your investments to the next level with OPUS. Our platform is designed to help users make smarter decisions and maximise their returns.


Private markets have become a significant part of the investment landscape in recent years, with institutional investors seeking alternative sources of returns and diversification benefits. The growth of the private market has been fueled by the increasing number of companies that are choosing to remain private for longer periods of time, as well as the rise of alternative investment strategies.

As private markets continue to evolve, investors must stay informed about the unique opportunities and risks they present. Private market investments require significant capital commitments, and they are less liquid than traditional public market investments. However, they can offer higher returns and exposure to alternative asset classes that are not available on public markets.

Moreover, the private market has continued to expand with the introduction of new technologies and platforms that have made it more accessible to a wider range of investors. For instance, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending platforms have emerged as a way for individuals to invest in private markets with relatively small amounts of capital.

Private markets offer a unique investment opportunity for those with significant capital to invest. The market’s history, function, estimated size and depth, and the various asset classes available are all important considerations for investors looking to access this market. While private markets may not be suitable for every investor, they offer the potential for higher returns and diversification benefits, making them an increasingly important part of the investment landscape. As private markets continue to evolve and grow, it is important for investors to stay informed and work with experienced professionals to make informed investment decisions.

Share this article