With popular social media website Twitter announcing that it will go public via an IPO later this year, the market has been abuzz with private equity and start-up companies. And there’s good reason. For early investors, a successful start-up can be worth some big coin once it hits the big time. Meanwhile, an improving economy has created a surge in buy-out and M&A activity. All leading to massive profits for those institutional private equity players that dabble in these markets.

If you’re a pension fund or other huge accredited investor, getting into this world of private equity is actually pretty easy. But what about us retail investors? Is it possible to gain from all of this activity?  

The answer is a resounding yes. Luckily, for retail investors accessing this world of private equity and venture capital has never been easier for portfolios.

Big Gains For Investors

The pending Twitter IPO has renewed the general public’s obsession with start-up companies. That’s because these start-ups can turn early investors into millionaires overnight. According to investment consultant Cambridge Associates' two main indexes of PE returns, both private equity investors in the U.S. and those abroad have averaged nearly 13.6% in annual returns over the last 20 years. Venture capitalists- or those who just provide seed money to start-up companies- have done even better by realizing nearly 30% returns in that time. 

Straight stock investors haven’t been so luckily. During the same time period, the broad SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) only managed to produce 8.53% in annual returns. 

There’s plenty of reasons to think that the party will continue going for some time. Innovation in the technology and healthcare space continues to grow rapidly, while private equity buy-outs continue to reach a fervor pace. A prime example, has been computer maker Dell’s (NASDAQ:DELL) recent $24.4 billion buy-out. All in all, CEO of buyout firm Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO) Leon Black estimates that PE investors should see low- to mid-teen returns going forward. 

Given the potential for higher returns, regular retail investors do have some options for playing these markets.

Take A Look At Business Development Companies

The first place investors should look is towards business development companies (BDCs). These firms invest in or lend to small- to midsized companies and provide managerial assistance in hopes of profiting as these businesses grow. They are basically, the closest thing to a publicly traded private equity or venture capital as regular retail investors can get. Several BDCs- like Hercules Technology Growth Capital (NASDAQ:HTGC) and Ares Capital Corporation (NASDAQ:ARCC) –have been quite successful at spotting the “next big thing” in the tech world.

Secondly, due to their tax structure, BDCs are similar to real estate investment trusts (REITS) in that they are required to payout 90% of earnings as dividends back to shareholders. That results in some hefty yields- often in the 7 to 12% range.

The Market Vectors BDC Income ETF (NASDAQ:BIZD) could be one of the best ways to add the sector to a portfolio as it offers investors a broad play. The new ETF tracks 27 different BDCs and offers a hefty 7.72% dividend yield. Since inception back in February, BIZD has returned about 5%. Expenses are high at 8.33%. But much of that stems from acquired fund fees and expenses from the underlying BDCs themselves and not the fund. 

Public PE Firms

The other choice for investors could be betting on the firms that are doing the buy-outs and venture capital themselves. While it won’t provide the same level of direct participation, the fees and earnings from buy-out funds and PE deals do trickle back into these firm’s pockets. Several major players like Blackstone (NYSE:BX) and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (NYSE:KKR) are now publicly traded and offer juicy yields and capital appreciation for their shares. The PowerShares Global Listed Private Equity (NYSE:PSP) can be used as a broad global play on these firms as well as provide some exposure to BDCs. The ETF yields 10.46%. 

The Bottom Line

Recent hot IPOs like Potbelly (NASDAQ:PBPB) and Twitter has many regular investors salivating at the chance to participate in start-ups and private equity. With returns in the 13% to 30% range, who wouldn’t be? Luckily, the world of private equity can be achieved in a regular portfolio. For investors, funds like the ProShares Global Listed Private Equity ETF (NYSE: PEX) make it all too easy.

Disclosure - At the time of writing, the author did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article.

Related Articles
  1. Investing Basics

    What Is Private Equity?

    This investment vehicle attracts wealthy investors to increase the value of portfolio companies.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Learn The Lingo Of Private Equity Investing

    Because of the non-public nature of private equity, it can be difficult to the learn the lingo. We break it down here.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Private Equity A Trendsetter For Stocks

    In this article, we'll show you how private equity sets the trend for stocks everywhere.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The Top 5 Large Cap Core ETFs for 2016 (VUG, SPLV)

    Look out for these five ETFs in 2016, and learn why investors should closely watch how the Federal Reserve moves heading into the new year.
  5. Economics

    India: Why it Might Pay to Be Bullish Right Now

    Many investors are bullish on India for all the right reasons. Does it present an investing opportunity?
  6. Fundamental Analysis

    The 3 Best Investments When Bull Markets Slow Down

    Find out why no bull market lasts forever, and why investors should shift their assets away from growth and toward dividends when stocks slow down.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Altria's Return on Equity (ROE) (MO)

    Learn about Altria Group's return on equity (ROE) and analyze net profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage to determine what is causing its high ROE.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Moderna Therapeutics: An IPO Candidate in 2016?

    Find out the reasons why 2016 may be the year when highly valued biotech company Moderna Therapeutic files for an initial public offering (IPO).
  9. Investing Basics

    Building My Portfolio with BlackRock ETFs and Mutual Funds (ITOT, IXUS)

    Find out how to construct the ideal investment portfolio utilizing BlackRock's tools, resources and its popular low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
  10. Stock Analysis

    Domo Inc: An IPO Candidate in 2016?

    Learn about key information on Utah-based technology startup Domo Inc. and how the Domo dashboard differentiates itself in the world of business intelligence.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Should mutual funds be subject to more regulation?

    Mutual funds, when compared to other types of pooled investments such as hedge funds, have very strict regulations. In fact, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. When did Facebook go public? (FB)

    Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) went public with its initial public offering (IPO) on May 18, 2012. With a peak market capitalization ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do hedge funds invest in private companies?

    Hedge funds normally do not invest in private companies because of liquidity concerns. Capital funding for private companies ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Do ETFs pay capital gains?

    Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can generate capital gains that are transferred to shareholders, typically once a year, triggering ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do real estate hedge funds work?

    A hedge fund is a type of investment vehicle and business structure that aggregates capital from multiple investors and invests ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Are Vanguard ETFs commission-free?

    While some Vanguard exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are available commission-free from third-party brokers, a large portion ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center