William Huston, AIF®, AIFA®

How to Invest in Private Equity

In today's ever-evolving financial landscape, private equity investments have garnered significant attention as a lucrative option for investors seeking substantial returns and enhanced diversification in their portfolios. These investments, often associated with institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals, offer a unique opportunity to participate in companies with promising growth potential and strategic value.

William Huston, AIF®, AIFA®

William Huston, AIF®, AIFA®

This blog aims to provide you with useful insights into the world of private equity, showing you a clear pathway on how to invest in private equity firms. Whether you are an experienced investor looking to expand your investment horizons or a newcomer intrigued by the potential rewards, this guide will equip you with the essential knowledge and tools to make informed decisions in the realm of private equity.

Key Takeaways
  • Private equity funds involve three key parties: individual investors, private equity firms, and the target companies receiving the investment.; and they utilize long-term strategies, targeting emerging businesses, buyouts, or growth capital opportunities.
  • Private equity funds are accessible to a wide range of investors, including those who may not meet the traditional SEC thresholds. And private equity returns have a higher risk profile but offer potential for significantly higher returns compared to other asset classes.
  • Private equity funds provide opportunities for better deals, more control, and diversification benefits, but they also come with company-specific risks and limited liquidity options.
  • Alternative investments, like hedge funds, private debt, commodities, collectibles, and real estate, provide additional diversification options for investors.
  • Engaging a trusted financial advisor can offer personalized guidance on entering the private equity space and navigating investment opportunities.

Before delving into the world of private equity investing, it is essential to emphasize that the contents of this article serve solely for educational purposes. They are not intended to replace professional financial advice. For personalized guidance on financial planning and management, consult trusted financial experts. Reach out to in-house experts here. More information on disclaimers can be found here.

Why invest in private equity?

equity funds

A private equity fund commonly refers to a professionally managed pool of funds that are raised or borrowed. These firms entice investment from affluent sources by promising higher returns on investment (ROI) compared to other alternative asset classes or conventional investment options.

Private equity serves as a means to reduce volatility and potentially enhance risk-adjusted returns in an investment portfolio since it is shielded from the daily price fluctuations of public markets. Although used to be highly regulated and restricted to certain types of investors, the private equity realm is now opening up to more individual investors.

You too can cash in on the windfall that private equity has always represented. A trusted financial advisor can guide you into the private equity world. They can also be of help in filtering your options if you are concerned about what your particular choice of a private equity firm invests in.

What is the minimum investment in private equity?

Private equity managers generally work with substantial minimum investment requirements, particularly for institutional investors. Most private equity firms seek investors willing to commit a considerable sum, often around $25 million. While a few firms have reduced their minimum requirements to $250,000, this amount remains unattainable for the majority of individuals.

Is it good to invest in private equity firms?

Regarding return on investments, investing in private equity can indeed be advantageous. One significant advantage compared to direct investments in unlisted companies is that private equity funds take on the responsibility of creating value. This role serves as a pivotal catalyst for economic development, fostering corporate growth, generating job opportunities, and nurturing the emergence of new business leaders.

Moreover, private equity funds' heightened control over the invested companies enables them to make active and strategic decisions in response to market cycles, be it a period of economic expansion or a downturn. As a result, private equity funds are better positioned to navigate and thrive during challenging economic downturns.

Private equity returns

person calculating their private equity returns

According to the U.S. Private Equity Index provided by Cambridge Associates, private equity showcased an impressive average annual return of 10.48% over the 20-year period ending on June 30, 2020. In comparison, the U.S. Venture Capital Index posted a more modest average annual return of just 5.06% between 2000 and 2020. Additionally, other reports revealed that small companies, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, achieved an average annual return of 6.69%, while the S&P 500 returned 5.91% during the same period.

Although the landscape shifts over a 10-year period, these figures demonstrate that investors who embraced the risk with private equity reaped significantly higher returns compared to those who followed a conventional approach, investing in an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracked a popular index.

How does private equity work?

Private equity firms adopt a long-term strategy, targeting emerging businesses, fostering innovative models, and revitalizing distressed companies. This approach results in minimal correlations with public equity funds and publicly traded stocks, making a private equity portfolio an appealing choice for diversifying investments. The process involves raising dedicated funds to acquire substantial ownership stakes in promising smaller companies.

Private equity firms deploy the collected funds to acquire controlling interests in targeted private companies and publicly traded companies. Collaborating closely with company executives, they enhance the value of these businesses, known as portfolio companies, with the ultimate objective of achieving profitable sales in the future.

Profitability for private equity owners stems from acquiring undervalued companies and driving their performance to boost profitability and generate monetary gains. Furthermore, they realize profits by selling the improved companies at higher values than the initial purchase price. This comprehensive approach offers unique opportunities for substantial returns and successful portfolio management.

Key parties in private equity investment

In a private equity firm, three key parties play distinct roles: individual investors, private equity firms, and the companies receiving the investment.

Individual Investors

Individual investors are the primary providers of capital in private equity investments. These investors can be high-net-worth individuals, institutional investors, pension funds, endowments, or other entities seeking investment opportunities. They contribute funds to private equity firms, entrusting them with the task of generating attractive returns on their investments.

Private Equity Firms

Private equity firms play a crucial role in the investment process. They evaluate potential target companies, negotiate investment terms, and structure deals. Once an investment is made, they actively work with the management teams of portfolio companies to enhance their value. This involvement can include strategic guidance, operational improvements, financial restructuring, and access to the firm's network and resources.

Companies Receiving the Investment

For the portfolio companies, private equity investment provides a valuable source of funding and expertise. Private equity firms aim to add value to these companies by implementing strategic initiatives, operational improvements, and growth strategies.

They work closely with the management teams of portfolio companies to unlock their growth potential and maximize their value. Ultimately, the goal is to position the portfolio companies for a successful exit, such as through an initial public offering (IPO) or a sale to another company.

Types of private equity investments

various elements in a private equity investment

When it comes to investments, there are three primary types known as traditional investments: stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents. However, private equity investments, which involve investing in and through private equity firms, fall under the category of alternative investments. Private equity funds typically employ three distinct strategies: venture capital funds, buyout funds, and growth capital funds.

Venture Capital Funds

Venture capital funds focus on investing in early-stage or startup companies with high growth potential. These funds provide capital to entrepreneurs and innovative ventures in exchange for an ownership stake. Venture capital investments are often made in sectors such as technology, biotechnology, and other emerging industries.

The goal of venture capital is to support and nurture these companies during their early stages, helping them grow and become successful. Venture capitalists may also provide strategic guidance and mentorship to the company's management team.

Buyout Funds

Buyout funds, as the name suggests, specialize in acquiring controlling ownership stakes in established companies. The target companies may range from small to large enterprises across various industries. Buyout funds typically acquire companies that are undervalued, underperforming, or in need of restructuring.

Once acquired, the buyout fund works closely with the company's management to implement changes, improve operational efficiency, and enhance profitability. The objective of buyout funds is to generate significant returns by selling the improved company at a higher valuation.

Growth Capital Funds

Growth capital funds primarily focus on providing capital to companies that are in a phase of expansion or seeking to accelerate their growth. These companies are typically beyond the early-stage startup phase but still require additional capital to scale their operations, enter new markets, invest in research and development, or pursue acquisitions.

Growth capital investments often target companies with proven business models and a track record of generating revenue. The aim of growth capital funds is to support these companies in achieving their growth objectives and capturing market opportunities.

How private equity affects portfolio returns and portfolio risk

private equity investment returns

Risk and return share a positive correlation, meaning that higher risk is typically associated with the potential for higher profits or losses. This risk-reward tradeoff principle dictates that investments with low levels of uncertainty (risk) tend to yield lower returns, while those with high levels of uncertainty offer the potential for higher returns.

Private equity investments carry a higher liquidity risk compared to public equities. However, this higher risk is expected to result in higher anticipated returns. The premium associated with private equity returns is likely to fluctuate over time and may be particularly elevated during economic downturns when liquidity becomes scarce.

Investments in a private equity firm generally have a higher risk profile compared to other asset classes. Nevertheless, they also possess the potential for notably higher returns. For investors who have the available funds and the risk tolerance to handle the associated uncertainties, private equity can be a lucrative addition to their investment portfolio.

Pros and cons of investing in private equity firms

When going into any investment, it is important to acquaint oneself with both the risks and benefits of the investment. The benefits of private equity investing includes:


  • Better deals: Private equity firms have access to unique investment opportunities and can secure deals that may not be available to individual investors.

  • Flexible terms: Private equity investments often involve negotiating terms that can be more favorable compared to traditional investments, allowing for customized arrangements and potential value creation.

  • Higher returns: Private equity investments have the potential to deliver higher returns compared to other investment options, given the focus on strategic value creation and active management.

  • More control and managerial role: Investors in private equity can have a more active role in decision-making and management of the portfolio companies, allowing them to influence strategic initiatives and potentially enhance the value of their investments.

  • Well-diversified portfolio: Including private equity investments in a portfolio can provide diversification benefits, as private equity returns tend to have low correlations with public equity markets, contributing to a more balanced and diversified investment approach.


  • Company Risk: Private equity investments are exposed to company-specific risks, such as financial health, competition, management quality, and industry dynamics, which can impact the investment's performance.

  • Volatility and Market Risk: Private equity investments are susceptible to market fluctuations and changes in industry conditions, which can affect the valuation and performance of portfolio companies.

  • Opportunity Cost: Investing in private equity ties up capital for an extended period, limiting the availability of funds for other investment opportunities or alternative uses.

  • Liquidity Risk: Private equity investments are characterized by limited liquidity options, with investors often facing restrictions on redeeming their investments for a specified period. This lack of immediate liquidity can pose challenges during times of financial need or if capital reallocation is required.

Other risks include illiquidity, higher investment minimums, and the potential for loss of capital. It's crucial for investors to assess and understand these risks before committing to private equity investments, considering the potential rewards while managing expectations in the context of these risks.

Can anyone invest in PE?

Absolutely! Private equity firms are open to a wide range of investors, including both passive investors and accredited investors. Additionally, investors have the option to indirectly invest in private equity through various products such as publicly-traded PE stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and fund of funds. These investment options allow individuals to participate in private equity without needing to meet specific SEC thresholds, making them accessible to investors regardless of their income or net worth.

Alternatives to investing in private equity

Private equity represents only a fraction of the vast landscape of alternative investments. Private equity investors can look to additional types of alternatives including hedge funds, mutual funds, debt to private companies, commodities, collectibles, and real estate. Each of these alternative investment categories offers unique value propositions along with distinct challenges and considerations.

Begin your private equity investment journey today

To invest in private equity, individuals can qualify as accredited investors based on their net worth or income. However, for those who may not meet the minimum investment requirements, alternative options exist, such as investing through mentioned investment vehicles.

One approach is to explore private equity exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or conduct research on top private equity firms. By doing so, individuals can gain insights into investment strategies and available investment vehicles. For more specialized and tailored guidance on entering private equity investments, it is advisable to engage a trusted financial advisor who can provide expert advice and assistance.

Bay Street Capital Holdings

Bay Street Capital Holdings

Bay Street Capital Holdings, headquartered in Palo Alto, is a renowned wealth management firm specializing in financial planning, investment advisory, and risk management. What distinguishes them is their emphasis on effectively managing overall risk and volatility, rather than solely focusing on maximizing returns.

Led by esteemed founder William Huston, acknowledged as one of Investopedia's Top 100 Financial Advisors for 2021, Bay Street stands out as one of the two Black-owned firms among the nineteen recognized in California. Their partnership with Resthaven Properties in real estate has secured them a finalist position in the Asset Managers: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion category at the 2023 WealthManagement.com Industry Awards.

Bay Street's dedication to diversity and support for emerging fund managers and entrepreneurs is evident through their selection as a finalist in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) category for the Asset Manager in 2021. This recognition followed a rigorous process involving over 900 firms nationwide, showcasing their commitment to creating a positive social impact.








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