Analytic tools have cropped up in many different fields, and while we normally focus on legal information resources, I’d like to highlight a business data platform recently licensed by NU: PitchBook*. PitchBook tracks startups, public and private equity markets, including venture capital, private equity and M&A. Data is systematically sourced by web-crawling and applied machine learning technologies, the results of which are reviewed by humans who verify accuracy and relevance. The content in PitchBook is extensive (see screenshot below) but easy to navigate, and thanks to robust filtering, you can efficiently narrow in on what matters to you. After logging in you’ll land on your dashboard, which contains news and industry data feeds based on what you’ve selected under the “Personalize” preferences: industries, verticals, deal types and locations.
You can search and browse in PitchBook. The quick search bar at the top is just that, quick access to what you know you’re looking for, while the advanced search initially acts like browsing and then helps you direct your search in more detail. Until you’re familiar with how information in Pitchbook is structured, I recommend using this feature so you learn how it’s organized and what the many categories contain.
As you’re clicking into different areas or trying to search the voluminous information in PitchBook, you’ll likely encounter unfamiliar terminology. Just like Westlaw, Lexis, and other academic databases, there’s an “i” icon next to certain fields (e.g. above the open text field on the industry page) that will provide you with more details pertinent to that specific field, such as the scope of what’s included, the functionality of that feature, or definitions. You’ll see this “i” icon when using advanced keyword searching. For example, see the screenshot below of “Ownership Status”. Clicking the “i” takes you to definitions of each type of status. This extra information will quickly guide you in more effective and accurate searching. Pro tip: check the “i” icons in any database when you see them; it usually takes less than a minute to review and has helpful information specific to what you’re doing.
PitchBook has two powerful industry exploration tools to note: Emerging Markets and Market Maps.The Emerging Markets section flags new investment industries that have shown, or are highly likely to show, recent or continued growth. It also lists specific companies in their respective spaces. Market Maps are visual renderings of the companies in a particular industry organized by primary value proposition and then sorted (by default) by total amount of raised capital. These maps can be modified to fit your needs: narrow in on specific industry subsections, change the way the companies are grouped or sorted, exclude or add certain companies, switch from graphical to column display, change what columns are included, amongst others. You can use these maps to discover industry leaders or constituents and jump directly into that company’s detailed profile. Pitchbook company profiles also include non-financial metrics like employee count, social followers and website traffic to provide a full-context view of a company’s viability, market position, and future prospects. Alternatively, you can access all of the available profiles and reports from PitchBook analysts through the “Research Center,” found on the left pane navigation bar.
There are a few limitations imposed under our subscription that may affect your research. First, we do not have access to live training support; this includes the one-on-one support offered to other subscribers and webinars. We do have access, however, to on-demand video tutorials both within the platform (see “Help Center”) and from their full video library. Live chat support is also available. Second, there is a download limit: 10 lines of data/day and 25 lines of data/month. If you find this limit to be cumbersome, you are able to save searches, make lists (e.g. business development and marketing lists), add notes, and upload files since you’ve created your own account. This means any firm information, data, profiles, reports, annotations, and even your own external pertinent files can be consolidated and are only a quick login away.
Finally, if you want even quicker access to your personalized “My PitchBook” content, you can leverage the mobile app, Chrome extension, Excel plugin, daily newsletters, and alerts, all of which are available through our academic subscription.
*When you’re off campus, be sure to activate Northwestern’s VPN before you pull up PitchBook. This is particularly important the first time when you create an account. Reference librarians are available to provide research support via chat and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.