A comparison of the best company databases for investment and innovation teams

Written by
Alice Rijken
Table of Contents

Company databases are essential resources that investment and innovation teams rely on to​​ research new markets, identify interesting companies or benchmark deals. 

At Venture IQ, we work with many different company databases and data providers for our market landscaping and deal sourcing projects. You can take it from us, that when choosing a tool to search for companies and company information, you should consider your unique strategy and needs. In this blog article, we will compare the best company databases available to help you choose the tool that best suits your needs.

Why do I need a company database software?

With rising interest in innovation and the world of startups, a significant gap in data availability on private companies grew increasingly apparent. Businesses need information to make sound decisions, and a wealth of resources are required to find, aggregate and structure private companies' data. Due to time and resource constraints, most firms have turned to company database providers to fill this information gap. Investment and innovation teams can use company databases to gain proprietary market insights and even generate proprietary deal flow.

Since the turn of the century, a plethora of company databases have emerged, differing 

in the type and quality of the data offered. Because each of them offers a unique angle, picking the one that best fits your needs can be challenging. (The truth is, you might need more than one to combine company data and get the best insights.)

Company database providers founded since 2000 (Venture IQ)

Commonly used databases for company information

At Venture IQ, we make daily use of company databases to build market landscapes and enrich the companies on our lists with reliable company information. Based on our experiences, we have selected our top 3 favourites and compared their key strengths and weaknesses. It’s for good reasons that two of these company databases also appeared on Andre Retterath’s extensive Venture Capital Database benchmarking report. We also give a sneak peek on how our own deal sourcing platform, Catalist, efficiently combines various databases and alternative data sources to help your team capture value beyond any single database. 

PitchBook: The best source for funding data

Founded in 2007, PitchBook is a popular financial data and software company offering data on both the private and public markets. 

PitchBook key strengths

  • Wide coverage of private companies’ data, ranging from financials (M&A activity, funding rounds, revenue estimates, and more) to non-financial information (employee count, number of founders and highest degree of founders). 
  • First-in-class quality and coverage on team information and founder-related categories (Retterath and Braun, 2020).

PitchBook key weaknesses:

  • The coverage is more limited when it comes to earlier stage opportunities, as the database reports less information at the fast-moving pre-seed stage.
  • Value for money: With a standard plan starting at more than $20k p.a., early-stage investors, accelerators and teams requiring smarter search functionalities might find PitchBook too expensive for the value that it provides. 

Best for: Later-stage VC investors looking for information on investment strategies of leading VC firms and as a source of leads when looking for Series A, B, C, or D companies. 

Not suited for: Early-stage VC investors or accelerators for whom PitchBook is likely incomplete and expensive; Innovation, M&A or Private Equity teams looking for private or more mature companies to partner with or invest in. 

Crunchbase: Competitive pricing for deal sourcing

Founded in 2007, Crunchbase provides a prospecting software powered by live company data for salespeople, CEOs, and VCs to find and close deals.

Crunchbase key strengths

  • Great value for money: Starting at just $29 per user per month, Crunchbase is the most affordable and complete company dataset available (with detailed information on companies, including funding history, executive leadership, and industry focus); the great value it can offer for that price explains why, despite the growing competition, the early market leader retains its dominant position. 
  • Crunchbase dominates the databases’ landscape for coverage in terms of rounds reported and total capital committed (Venture Capital Database benchmarking report). It does so by complementing the information gathered through web scraping social media and press releases with data from their investor network, contributor community, and submissions provided by startups themselves who keep their profile up-to-date.

Crunchbase key weaknesses:

  • Crunchbase’s key shortcoming stems from its automated data maintenance, which may generate inaccurate data.
  • The market intelligence and financial data scope and depth is more limited than with most competitors, making the database more appropriate for high-level company information and less trustworthy when looking at individual companies.

Best for: Sales professionals, executives, investors, startup founders, and researchers, especially within the startup ecosystem, looking to identify key contacts for outreach and deal sourcing. 

Not suited for: Investors and analysts looking for exact financial information and complete lists of companies.

Orbis (Bureau van Dijk): The most complete business directory for a generic company information check

Orbis, by market leader Bureau van Dijk, is a large business directory with information on close to 450 million private and listed companies worldwide (of which 45 million have detailed financial information). This makes it the most comprehensive worldwide company database out there.

Orbis key strengths:

  • Orbis is probably the most complete company database, combining national business registry data with web scraping, own sources and more than 170 different data providers; moreover, a team of analysts monitors and re-tags companies by hand.
  • Orbis takes pride in capturing a wide variety of data unavailable on most competing databases, including corporate ownership structures, comprehensive financial information and much more, and standardizing it to ease comparisons and analyses.

Orbis key weaknesses:

  • The quality and depth of the information available on the database comes at a considerable cost, making it one of the priciest alternatives on the market. This leads to great disappointments from users concerned with limited data availability for certain regions, as well as early stage companies.
  • Another common complaint regards the long processing times of the database, which can be slow and lagging, suggesting it might lack the appropriate infrastructure to manage such a large amount of data. 
  • Although Orbis is actively managed, basic data such as FTE data is often not available or inaccurate. Imagine having to keep 450 million company profiles updated.

Best for: If you are looking for a comprehensive business directory, with strong industry-level insights on larger and/or older companies and have the finances for a premium company database, Orbis might be just for you. With the backbone of one of the largest private business data providers and its substantial price-tag, Orbis has the resources available to deliver top of class data. 

Not suited for: Investors or accelerators looking for early stage opportunities and funding data. It is fair to say that while some years ago Orbis was neglecting the startup world, it is now starting to catch up, but better alternatives are available.

Alternative sources for company data

Apart from company database such as PitchBook, Crunchbase and Orbis, there are many alternative sources to find interesting companies. At Venture IQ, we use company databases as a starting point for our projects, but often we find the majority of companies by looking at other sources. For example, when you're looking for private or small-to-medium enterprises in a specific market, industry associations or attendee list for industry conferences could provide valuable information. Or if you are interested in early stage startup platforms such as G2, GitHub or even portfolios of accelerators and other investors might be a good place to have a look. When thinking of smart alternative ways to find exciting companies your creativity is the limit. 

If you are interested in how to use these sources for your deal sourcing in a smart way, you might find our blog on deal sourcing strategies or alternative company data sources interesting.

What company database is right for you?

What company database is right for you depends on the information you are searching for. If you are looking for funding data Pitchbook is an appealing option. Are you looking for private companies and are you willing to spend? Perhaps Orbis is the way to go.

Ultimately, while each database has it’s own valuable and unique features, they all lack in other essential dimensions. We find that especially if you want create comprehensive market landscapes or if you are looking at a highly specific segment, no traditional company database will satisfy all your needs. You would need multiple databases and spend a lot of time on additional research to find and process all the companies within your scope of interest.

In order to make this process of market landscaping more efficient, we have created Catalist, a dedicated deal sourcing platform. 

Catalist: A better alternative to traditional company databases?

Although Catalist has some similarities with a company database (it currently contains 10 million companies), it is much more than that:

  • By using Catalist, we can help you perform targeted market mapping or deal origination searches that are specific to your criteria, rather than use pre-set broader categorizations that result in noisy results, costing considerable time and effort to filter down and assess;
  • We can build a company database that is complete in all companies that are relevant to you, rather than only containing some companies and miss out on others that might better suit your needs;
  • And gather custom company information (e.g. core business, features offered, technology used) next to more generic information, to provide proprietary market insights and deal flow based on your specific criteria and requirements.

Whatever type of company, industry or geography you are interested in, Venture IQ can help your team get proprietary market landscapes and insights. We can deliver within weeks by automating part of our work with Catalist, allowing your team to  focus on the companies that matter.

If you are interested to learn more about the benefits of Catalist as a deal sourcing platform or working with Venture IQ, feel free to contact us. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also read our blog on deal sourcing software vs company database, where we make a side by side comparison.

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Article written by
Alice Rijken