Private equity's online courtship

Many startups are setting up websites to match investors directly with funds

FOR decades, private equity firms relied on highly paid middlemen to raise money. But soon, the process may be as simple as logging on to a website. In an effort to change the way the notoriously secretive industry finds investors, several startups are pitching online matchmaking services to the world's biggest private equity players. The task is daunting. Ever since the industry found its footing in the 1980s, private equity firms have relied on placement agents - essentially, middlemen - to find investors and raise billions of dollars for buyout funds, collecting large fees. The placement agents have become a powerful force, controlling access to the top funds.

Startup companies are eager to...

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