While we are often focused on leveraging paid solutions, we all know that in reality many paid solutions can be narrow, oversubscribed by competitors, or not useful for discovery or testing an investment thesis.
Broadly speaking, there are two buckets of utilities available, process focused applications and tactic focused tools. On the process-focused side, there are a variety of options out there that specialize in creating the efficiency, interoperability across the firm, and scalability that New School Deal Sourcing demands. We've compiled a comprehensive list of the best free deal origination resources out there. Utilizing this list should help you get started with finding great quality information you can leverage when kickstarting your work.
Oh how times have changed since deal sourcing was constrained to personal networks, D&B info, or even the yellow pages. You're likely familiar with many of these lists, but they're often an excellent starting point for research.
The various lists created by Forbes are a useful mainstay of research, especially if you're looking for a general trend in any given year.
Wikipedia also offers a variety of free lists, as well as more in depth information on individual companies and their history. Some great resources include:
Don't go to conferences unprepared, or ignore easy market research through industry specific conferences. While you can manually go through exhibitor lists on conference websites there are a few elegant solutions out there.
If we don't have the list you're looking for or you want to go the manual route there are a variety of tools like Instant Data Scraper that allow you to easily compile, organize, and export contacts without much HTML or programming knowledge.
Even for private companies there are a variety of publicly available resources which can be useful for sourcing potential deals.
Often finding relevant contact info is the first major hurdle while deal sourcing. The tools below can make the process of investigating a company smoother.
Nearly all contact and lead lists require payment, and you can find lead information easily once you know what companies you're looking for. If you're looking to search on a budget, contact lists probably won't work. If you're looking for executive contact info strategies #1, #3, & #4 above can often be powerful for unearthing the names and contact info of potential prospects.
News aggregators are an easy way to monitor the latest news in any industry you're examining, allowing you to spot emergent brands and products.
Often, specific job titles can tip you off to potential internal investments that may not be on your radar. (For example an agriculture equipment company hiring heavily for robotics and machine learning might warrant a closer look.) If a company is hiring rapidly, that can also be a useful signal, and indeed is something we specifically facilitate for customers. Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Monster are great resources for analyzing who is hiring for what. Sourcescrub's native tech, as far as a few other companies, also curate information on growth through hiring, which can be useful for filtering targets.
Sometimes technological capability can be utilized to find good acquisition target matches. Here are some tools for browsing tools and tech stacks:
Want to know more about how a potential investment is perceived by both its employees and the broader public? Facebook, Instagram, and Glassdoor are great places to do your research, especially if you check out the comments. While anecdotal data may not help you spot new deals per se, it could help you avoid lemons.
While they sometimes can be a longshot, alumni groups can be a good place to expand your network, lean into new specialties, and procure introductions.
PR Newswire and other press release aggregators can give you insight into what companies are publicizing. While press releases are often overly optimistic they can often provide a decent snapshot into information rarely available for private companies.
Getting accurate financial information for private companies can be nearly impossible. If a company was previously public but went private, you can mitigate that blackbox by utilizing SEC filings from when these companies were still public. The new EDGAR tool from the SEC makes this easier than ever before, and it tracks filings since 2001.
Brute force research on search engines is usually where most people start with a broad search, but if you've exhausted all the other resources in our list this may be your best option for finding quality investment targets or data.
You can often find useful niche info if you're willing to connect the dots between news stories, analyst reports, suppliers, Quora, forums, and/or company websites. Furthermore tools like Google Trends can be extremely useful for spotting emerging trends within industries.
Search engines can occasionally reveal information that may not be widely distributed. For example on Google if you use the "site:" and "filetype:" modifiers, searching for example 'site:example.com filetype:pdf' or 'site:example.com filetype:docx' you can occasionally find informative company documents or presentations.
In the context of a pandemic and its aftermath, networking still matters. Direct calls and casual zoom conversations can keep personal networks primed even when there's no in person meetings or events.
This year might be an excellent opportunity to evaluate your current deal origination workflow and utilize some of these free resources to augment the tools already in your arsenal or broaden your research. Reach out for a demo if you're interested in sourcing much of the information included in this list in one easily searchable contact database and M&A platform.