A new crop of specialized private equity firms led by younger investors is likely to play a significant role in the year ahead.

"Sector-focused funds will have a chance to differentiate themselves, not only by moving quickly and being decisive, but also by avoiding valuation traps in what will continue to be a frothy market in 2015," predicts Devin Mathews, 43, a co-founder of ParkerGale Capital, a nascent Chicago firm backing tech-enabled service providers.

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