By Jim Dallke – Senior Editor, Chicago Inno
January 12, 2022, 09:11am CST Updated 01/12/2022 3:32 pm
Chicago VC firm Listen Ventures has reloaded with a new fund to back the next wave of breakout consumer startups.
Listen announced Wednesday that it has raised $92 million over two new funds: $62 million for Listen Ventures III, its core fund, and $30 million for a separate fund intended to make larger investments in later-stage rounds for its current portfolio.
Listen now manages $130 million across its four funds since it began investing in 2010.
Its recent wins include Factor, a ready-to-eat meal startup that was acquired by HelloFresh in late 2020 for $277 million. Listen was Factor’s first and largest investor, and the exit resulted in an “exceptional return” for the firm, managing partner Rick Desai said.
Listen, which is led by Desai and founding managing partner Jeff Cantalupo, has also invested in Calm, a popular meditation app that’s now valued at over $2 billion. Its other investments include fishing gear startup Catch Co., furniture startup Interior Define, and gift card marketplace Raise.
With its latest fund, Listen plans to back 10 to 12 startups, writing checks up to $5 million. So far from its third fund, Listen has invested in sexual wellness startup Dame, along with Chicago startups Rise Gardens and Cumin Club.
“Other investors invest in consumer. Consumer investing is all that we do,” Desai said.
Around half of Listen’s portfolio is made up of Chicago-based startups. Chicago, and the Midwest broadly, isn’t historically known for producing major consumer startups compared to markets on the coasts. But Cantalupo said the region is actually an advantage to startups that are creating products for mainstream America.
“If you’re trying to build a consumer brand for the masses, we have an incredible backdrop to have consumer insights at our fingertips,” Cantalupo said.
Having invested in Chicago startups for more than a decade, Cantalupo said he’s seen how the city’s tech scene has matured over the years, and how Chicago has made a name for itself as a nationally respected startup hub.
“A lot of seeds have been planted over the last 10-15 years in this innovation ecosystem, and we’re starting to see the fruits of that labor pay off,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”