In praise of big bangs, leapfrogs and adult entertainment

1. Hawkeye Partners
This Austin, Texas-based private equity real estate firm wins our award for best story behind a name. Hawkeye is the hero of James Fenimore Cooper's classic novel Last of the Mohicans, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the Oscar-winning film adaptation. The firm goes as far as titling its funds the Scout Program.

2. Steamboat Ventures
As an affiliate of The Walt Disney Company, it's no surprise that this US venture firm takes its name from children's cartoon icon Mickey Mouse. The movie Steamboat Willie was released in 1928 and featured the screen debut of Mickey Mouse and MinnieMouse.

3. Cerberus Capital Management
Notoriously secretive US buyout giant Cerberus takes the award of private equity's most frightening name. In Greek mythology, Cerberus is the guardian of hell. The beast is a massive three-headed dog with a serpent for a tail. Perhaps a not-so-subtle message to competitors?

4. Topspin Partners LBO
Inspired by the game of tennis, this Long Island, New York-focussed private equity firm has chosen to name itself after what many consider a safe, consistent and controlled shot. The website is flush with tennis imagery just to drive the point home.

5. Big Bang Ventures
Named for the theoretical explosion that created the universe as we know it, this Belgium-based venture firm promises big things for early-stage companies. Quite a label to live up to.

6. LeapFrog Investments
Leap Frog is a children's game in which the players vault over each other's backs. With a focus on achieving both returns and social impact in Africa and Asia, LeapFrog's mission should not be taken as lightly as its name might suggest (see also p 43).

7. Magnetar Capital
For those who haven't studied astronomy, a magnetar is a type of neutron star that may result from a supernova explosion. Magnetars have extremely powerful magnetic fields and release massive amounts of radiation. The US alternative investment firm's moniker is only slightly less ominous than “black hole”.

8. Earlybird
Does the Earlybird really get the worm? This German venture firm hopes so. The firm's portfolio companies, largely in early stage technology, hope to capitalise on “major new markets” before the masses.

9. Adult Entertainment Capital
Publicly-listed US private equity firm Adult Entertainment puts in its masthead what is usually kept in the shadows. Just like the name implies, the firm invests in adult businesses, from gentleman's clubs to lifestyle resorts.

10. Inspired Evolution Investment Management
South Africa's Inspired Evolution leaves no question that it aspires to goals beyond mere profit. Debut fund Evolution One aspires to “shape patterns of capital deployment”in private equity and venture capital towards the cleantech space.