In most of modern finance, things tend to matter only if they can be measured precisely and frequently. By contrast, in alternative investment, that which matters most – performance – is remarkably difficult to pin down. Knowing what the precise performance is, of any fund, region or market, at any moment in time, is a complicated process, layered with judgement and requiring context. Perhaps this is why so much attention is paid to activity, sentiment and anecdote. But it is possible to understand more, if you have access to the right data and the patience to interpret it. One intriguing headline from our data could be: ‘China overtakes the US as the top performing VC market.’ However, much of that value is unrealized.

The Chinese market’s immaturity means that much of this value is effectively unproven. Another soundbite might be: ‘Holding periods plummet in wake of global financial crisis’. A closer look reveals this faster time-to-liquidity is almost entirely driven by emerging markets and venture capital. And ‘Nordic private equity provides strongest returns’ is great news for the region, although investors will also want to know that its cash-on-cash performance is skewed by some very strong outliers. For this reason, the following analysis attempts to be as objective as possible, while pointing out, where possible, when the face-value of the data may not be the whole story.

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