See E. M. Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers (2d ed. 1967).
The first expedition of the Company was led by Willoughby seeking the Northeast Passage to China. It failed to find the supposed Northeast Passage, but did find a trade route to Russia. This led to it becoming the Muscovy Company in 1555, also called the Russia Company. The Company's privileges were confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1566 as the Fellowship of English Merchants for the discovery of New Trades.
Further English ventures of exploration led to the creation of the Levant Company in 1581, the Venice Company in 1583, East India Company in 1600, Virginia Company in 1609, and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670.