In 1551, the British government set up an entity called the Company of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands and Places Unknown (in 1555, this entity was renamed the Muscovy Trading Company). One of the goals of this entity was to raise private capital for funding Britain’s efforts to found colonies in Asia and the Americas.
A number of companies, with focus on different parts of the world, mushroomed around this entity: The Spanish Company, the Eastland Company, the Levant Company, the Russia Company, the Turkey Company, the Venice Company, the Barbary Company, the East India Company, the Virginia Company, the Plymouth Company, the French Company, and a few others. Since these companies were founded with private capital, their management was to a large extent answerable to the investors.
Britain’s approach to founding colonies through the involvement of the private sector was unique and innovative. By the eighteenth century, Britain was generating more wealth from her colonies than Spain, Portugal, and the Dutch Republic. In the nineteenth century Britain became "the empire on which the sun never sets.”