Growth Equity vs Private Equity

Growth Equity vs Private Equity: Key Differences and Investment Strategies

Private equity encompasses many types of assets and strategies, including growth equity. Understanding the key differences is important when comparing traditional private equity vs growth equity.

Although a broad asset class, the term “private equity” often refers to “buyout” strategies which involve acquiring controlling stakes in more mature companies, with an emphasis on restructuring and improving operations.

Growth equity typically refers to minority investment stages in younger companies to support expansion initiatives. Like buyout, growth equity investing involves investing in privately-held businesses with established business models and proven revenues.

The level of risk, the industries they target, and their investment approaches vary between growth equity and private equity. By taking a closer look at these key distinctions, investors can make more informed decisions about which strategy suits their goals and risk tolerance.

Growth Equity is a type of Private Equity

Growth equity is sometimes referred to as “growth capital” or “expansion capital” and is an investment strategy typically focused on acquiring minority stakes in late-stage companies that exhibit high growth potential. This infusion of capital aims to fund the companies’ continued expansion plans. Growth equity investors typically include private equity firms, late-stage venture capitalists, and investment funds (such as mutual or hedge funds)1.

While growth equity is a type of private equity, it is distinct from the more common buyout strategy that many people associate with private equity. Buyout strategies typically involve acquiring controlling stakes in mature companies, whereas growth equity investments are targeted at established, growing companies. To further clarify the differences between growth equity and other private equity strategies, consider the following comparison:

Key Differences: Growth Equity vs. Buyout

Growth EquityBuyout
Minority ownershipMajority or full ownership
Faster growth rateSlower, more stable growth rates
Less mature companiesMore mature companies
Higher risk and returnLower risk and return
Less focus on leverageEmphasis on using leverage to enhance returns

Growth equity investments are made in return for equity stakes in the companies and are typically expected to generate significant returns through exponential growth2. Growth equity investments carry a higher degree of risk compared to more traditional private equity buyouts, but they also offer the potential for higher returns as the underlying companies grow and succeed3.

In short, growth equity is a type of private equity that targets established, high-growth companies in need of additional funding to fuel their expansion plans. While it shares some similarities with other private equity strategies, growth equity notably differs from buyouts in terms of ownership, growth rate, company maturity, risk and return, and the focus on leverage. By understanding these key distinctions, one can better appreciate the unique characteristics and potential benefits of growth equity as an investment strategy.


  1. Growth Equity – Overview, Uses, and Characteristics: https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/finance/growth-equity/
  2. 3 Key Types of Private Equity | HBS Online: https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/types-of-private-equity
  3. Growth Equity vs. Private Equity: Understanding Key Differences: https://www.pehub.com/growth-equity-vs-private-equity-understanding-the-key-differences/

Private Equity vs Growth Equity: Key Differences

Investment Focus

Buyout: In a buyout strategy, investors acquire a controlling stake in an existing company, typically with the goal of improving operational efficiency and financial performance. This can involve restructuring the company, divesting non-core business units, or implementing new management practices.

Growth Equity: Growth equity, which is a type of private equity, focuses on providing capital to fairly established companies with potential for high growth. These investments often take the form of a minority stake, aiming to accelerate the growth of the company by funding expansion initiatives such as entering new markets or making strategic acquisitions.

Risk Profiles

Buyout: Buyout strategies are generally considered to be lower risk due to the fact that buyout has performed well historically, despite notoriously high debt loads. Generally, buyout investors due okay even if the companies do not.

Growth Equity: Growth equity investments are generally considered more risky than buyouts, due to the fact that the companies are less mature. This is despite the fact that growth equity targets companies that are already producing revenues and experiencing growth, even if not yet profitable.

Investment Horizons

Buyout: Investment horizons for buyout strategies are typically longer. This allows for the necessary time to execute operational improvements and exit strategies.

Growth Equity: Growth equity investments, on the other hand, have shorter investment horizons. As their investments aim at accelerating growth, the investors expect to exit when IPO window is receptive and rewarding.


Buyout: Leverage is a common component in buyout transactions, with debt often used to finance a significant portion of the acquisition. The use of leverage can amplify returns if the company’s performance improves, but also increases the risk of bankruptcy if the company struggles to service its debt.

Growth Equity: Leverage is less common and less significant in growth equity investments. While debt may still be utilized, the focus remains on equity financing to fuel the company’s growth.

Company Maturity

Buyout: Buyout strategies target more mature companies that often have established revenue streams, a solid market position, and a well-defined business model. The focus is on unlocking value through operational improvements and financial restructuring.

Growth Equity: Growth equity investments are directed towards younger, high-growth companies. These companies may not yet be profitable but are achieving significant revenue growth and demonstrating a scalable business model. The focus is on supporting and accelerating the company’s growth trajectory.

Pros and Cons of Growth Equity


Growth equity investments have several advantages for both investors and companies:

  1. Higher Growth Potential: Since growth equity targets late-stage, high-growth companies, there is significant potential for rapid revenue and valuation increases.
  2. Risk and Reward Balance: Compared to venture capital, growth equity investments are less risky due to the proven business models and market positions of the target companies. However, they still offer attractive upside potential compared to traditional private equity buyouts.
  3. Exit Flexibility: Investments in growth-stage companies can lead to various exit options like acquisitions, public offerings, or secondary sales.


Despite the benefits, there are challenges and potential downsides associated with growth equity investments:

  1. Higher Valuations: High-growth companies can command premium valuations relative to buyouts, which can lead to more expensive investments and lower returns for investors, especially during market downturns.
  2. Competitive Deal Sourcing: Since growth equity investments are targeted by many types of investors, there can be increased competition which drives up prices and risk.
  3. Unpredictable Market Forces: The success of growth equity investments can be influenced by external market factors, such as economic cycles and changes in industry regulations. Such factors can introduce risk and affect a company’s growth trajectory. A volatile stock market may also close the IPO market.
  4. Execution Risk: High-growth companies may face challenges related to scaling their operations, managing working capital, and adapting to new market conditions. Growth equity investors need to be prepared to address these challenges and support their portfolio companies through potential complexities.

Pros and Cons of Buyout


Buyout investments, a type of private equity investment, offer several benefits for companies and investors.

  • Increased efficiency: A buyout can eliminate overlapping services or product offerings, reducing operational expenses and potentially increasing profits. Companies can compare processes and select the most efficient ones.
  • Access to capital: Buyouts often provide companies with access to substantial capital, allowing them to finance growth initiatives, develop new products, and make strategic acquisitions.
  • Management expertise: Private equity firms typically have experienced management teams that can help improve the operational performance of a company. This expertise can lead to better decision-making and business strategy execution.
  • Alignment of interests: Private equity firms usually have a significant ownership stake in their portfolio companies, fostering a close alignment of interests with management. This can lead to better long-term planning and more effective implementation of improvement initiatives.


Despite the benefits, buyout investments also have some drawbacks that should be considered.

  • High leverage: Buyouts often involve substantial amounts of debt, which can increase the financial risk for companies. High leverage can lead to higher interest expenses, making it more challenging for a company to achieve its financial objectives.
  • Control & influence: Following a buyout, the private equity firm may exert significant control over the company’s operations and decision-making. This influence can lead to disagreements between the private equity firm and the current management team.
  • Short-term focus: Some buyout investments may have a relatively short time horizon. A short-term focus can sometimes result in decisions being made with an eye towards exiting the investment quickly, rather than long-term value creation.
  • Fees: Private equity firms charge management fees and carry interest, which can reduce the overall return for investors. These fees can be substantial, and it is essential to weigh them against the potential returns when considering buyout investments.

Private Equity vs Growth Equity: What To Invest In?

To choose the right investment strategy, investors should also examine how each type of investment aligns with their objectives. Growth equity and private equity investments each present unique opportunities and risks. For example:

  • Growth equity investments can offer higher potential returns due to the faster growth rate of the target companies. However, they also come with a higher level of risk, as these companies may not yet be profitable and may require additional capital to continue their growth trajectory.
  • Private equity investments often target companies with a proven track record of profitability, which can provide more stable returns. However, the potential for significant capital appreciation may be limited as these companies are typically more mature and have slower growth rates.

In summary, the right investment strategy will depend on an investor’s risk tolerance, return expectations, and overall investment objectives. By carefully evaluating the differences between growth equity and private equity, and considering the factors mentioned above, investors can make informed decisions that align with their goals.

Gross IRR vs Net IRR

Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is the default performance reporting metric for many private market assets, from real estate to private equity and venture capital. Unfortunately, IRR is complex to calculate and not an intuitive metric for most investors, so calculators/spreadsheets are a must to determine and compare both gross IRR and net IRR.

Nearly all investments incur expenses and so there is a difference between gross and net performance. Gross IRR does not include expenses and represents performance before expenses, while net IRR includes expenses and thus represents performance after expenses. Investors evaluating any type of performance should compare gross vs net performance, including gross IRR vs net IRR.

Gross IRR

Technically, IRR is the discount rate one would need to use so that the net present value (NPV) of all future cash flows is zero. Gross IRR considers the cash flows before the deduction of expenses, so the cash flow inputs and resulting IRR are higher than with net IRR.

Gross IRR Calculation & Example

The IRR calculation is complex, but a calculator can do it relatively quickly. If I’m in rush or want to get a ballpark estimate, I’ll simply google “IRR calculator.” Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets also have IRR (if periodic cashflows) and XIRR (if non-periodic cashflows) functions.

Using an online calculator, Excel, or Sheets, we can input the below cash flows and determine that the IRR is 17.5%.

Initial Investment$100,000
Year 1 Cash Flow$10,000
Year 2 Cash Flow$20,000
Year 3 Cash Flow (final distribution)$125,000
Source: ThoughtfulFinance.com


As stated above, IRR is the discount rate one would need to use so that the net present value (NPV) of all future cash flows is zero. Net IRR considers the cash flows after the deduction of expenses, so the cash flow inputs and resulting IRR are lower than with gross IRR.

Net IRR Calculation & Example

As mentioned above, the IRR calculation is complex, but a calculator can do it relatively quickly. If I’m in rush or want to get a ballpark estimate, I’ll simply google “IRR calculator.” Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets also have IRR (if periodic cashflows) and XIRR (if non-periodic cashflows) functions.

The main difference when calculating net IRR vs gross IRR is that we’ll have to adjust the amounts of the cashflows. In the below example, we will add a 10% performance fee (carry/promote/incentive) to the cash flows of the above example. Therefore, the cash flows will only be 90% of the cash flows in the gross IRR example above.

Using an online calculator, Excel, or Sheets, we can input the below cash flows and determine that the IRR is 13%.

Initial Investment$100,000
Year 1 Cash Flow$9,000
Year 2 Cash Flow$18,000
Year 3 Cash Flow (final distribution)$112,500
Source: ThoughtfulFinance.com

Gross vs Net IRR: Calculation Differences

As the above examples show, the main difference between gross IRR vs net IRR calculations is the impact of expenses on the cash flow inputs used in the calculation. The calculation remains the same, but the inputs need to be adjusted beforehand. Common adjustments include:

  • Upfront or one-time fees at the fund level
  • Upfront or one-time fees at the asset level
  • Expenses (such as legal, accounting, audit, etc.)
  • Management fees
  • Performance fees (carry, promote, incentive, etc.)
  • Exit/disposition fees

There may be others, but these are the ones that I observe most frequently.

Gross vs Net IRR in Private Equity

Although IRR is a common reporting metric, there is variation in how it’s reported. Some default to reporting gross IRR, while others default to net IRR.

The most common practice seems to be reporting net IRR at the fund level. All fund expenses and investor-level fees are deducted, with the caveat that the performance of any single investor will vary.

There are a few reasons that investor-level returns deviate from fund -level returns. Different investors often pay different fees (and reporting a multitude of individualized net IRRs is not feasible). Early investors often receive discounts and larger investors qualify for fee breakpoints.

Reporting an investor -level IRR is further complicated by the fact that investors may have invested at different points in time. Even if there are equalization terms and catch-up interest is paid, there are timing differences that could impact an investors IRR. Additionally, it is not uncommon for equalization to adjust the equity or NAV for investors, but allow early investors to keep the income distributions that they already received.

Some sponsors report gross IRR and some may report IRR that is net of non-fee expenses and gross of fees. Still others might report non-IRR performance metrics like MOIC or TVPI or not report anything at all! Even if IRR is reported though, it is important that investors understand if it is gross IRR, net IRR, or some hybrid IRR, as well as how it is derived.

Roth IRA vs Mutual Funds

An interesting question that I’ve heard in the past is “Should I invest in a Roth IRA or mutual funds?”

It’s an interesting question because Roth IRAs and mutual funds are two completely different types of things and not comparable at all. Read on to learn about the differences of Roth IRA vs Mutual Funds.

The short answer is that a Roth IRA is a type of account and a mutual fund is a type of investment (which can be held inside a Roth IRA).

To use the above image as an analogy, one could think of the ship as a Roth IRA and the containers as mutual funds. One can put anything on a ship, including containers full of things. Or they can fill the ship up with items not in containers. But nobody would use ships and containers interchangeably. A longer answer is below.

Roth IRA

Roth IRA is a type of retirement account (we’ll technically, it’s an Individual Retirement Arrangement according to the IRS). Investors can own just about anything within an IRA. For example, many investors own mutual funds inside an Roth IRA.

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds are a type of investment product/vehicle. Mutual funds are essentially a portfolio of assets (such as stocks or bonds or other assets) that issue shares to investors. So a mutual fund may own billions of dollars of stocks and I can purchase a fractional share of that portfolio and participate in the investment performance of the mutual fund.

Roth IRA vs Mutual Funds

The question of Roth IRA vs mutual funds may be the result of confusion or misunderstanding.

One reason for confusion is that some salespeople who pitch a certain product may imply that a Roth IRA is the product. For instance, banks may pitch a CD as a Roth IRA CD. The truth is that it would be a CD registered/titled as a Roth IRA. In other words, Roth IRA would be the account type rather than the investment vehicle. In my experience, sometimes the people selling various financial products do not even understand the basics unfortunately.

Another cause for confusion is simply that people are new to investing and confused about the words and terminology. That’s why this blog exists, to help people even when questions are very simple.

Assets Under Management vs Private Equity

A question that sometimes comes up is: Assets Under Management vs Private Equity. Its not a straightforward question or comparison because its like comparing apples to… boats. My suspicion is that those asking about private equity vs assets under management are either new to the space or perhaps confusing terms. Below are brief definitions of assets under management and private equity, as well as some alternative (and likelier) questions.

What is Assets Under Management?

Assets under management is usually abbreviated as AUM and refers to the value of assets that an “asset manager” manages. For instance, I can google “Vanguard AUM” and see that Vanguard manages roughly $7T of assets. This includes the total value of their mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), separately managed accounts (SMAs), and so on, all of which are owned by “asset owners” such as individuals, pensions, and so on.

What is Private Equity?

Private equity is a type of asset management. Private equity refers to investing in assets that are not publicly traded. If a business has stock listed and traded on an exchange then it is public equity; if the business’ shares are not traded publicly then it is private equity. Private equity can include anything from a small mom-and-pop business to a large international corporation.

Assets Under Management vs Private Equity

Based on the above definitions, it is apparent that assets under management and private equity are not really comparable terms. Below are some ideas about what some might mean when they ask about assets under management vs private equity:

Asset Management vs Private Equity

Asset management is an expansive term that refers to managing investments on behalf of asset owners. Private equity is a type of asset management and so it is a subset of asset management. Perhaps questioners are confused between asset management and assets under management.

Assets Under Management of Private Equity

Another possibility is that questioners are wondering about the AUM of private equity. The answer depends on whether the question refers to all private equity, private equity funds, a certain sponsor’s private equity funds, etc.

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