Cameo now valued at more than $1B after raising new funding
Chicago’s buzziest startup is officially a unicorn.
Celebrity shoutout app Cameo announced Tuesday that it has raised $100 million in new funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion.
The Series C round was led by e.ventures and included backing from several other well-known investors, such as GV (the VC firm formerly known as Google Ventures), Amazon’s Alexa Fund, UTA Ventures, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Valor Equity Partners, Lightspeed and Kleiner Perkins.
Some of Cameo’s talent also invested in the round, including Tony Hawk. Chicago’s Origin Ventures also participated.
Cameo has now raised more than $165 million to date.
The milestone fundraise and valuation comes on the heels of a breakout year for Cameo. The Chicago startup was already growing quickly before the coronavirus pandemic, but saw its growth skyrocket in 2020 as people had fewer entertainment options, and celebrities looked for new ways to connect with their fans.
“We want to build one of the most important, beloved consumer companies of the generation,” Cameo CEO and co-founder Steven Galanis told me. “We want to build something that can be as enduring as what Walt Disney did for the last century. We want to build that for this century.”
Cameo’s goal is to eventually go public, Galanis said.
The startup, which offers fans personalized video shoutouts from celebrities, sold $100 million worth of Cameos last year. The company keeps 25% of each Cameo sold, netting around $25 million in revenue. More than 10,000 new celebrities joined Cameo last year, and the startup said that by the end of 2020 more than 150 celebrities were earning at least $100,000 on the platform. The top-earning celebrity last year was Brian Baumgartner, the actor who played Kevin on The Office. Baumgartner did more than $1 million in bookings last year, Galanis said.
Founded in 2017, Cameo now has more than 200 employees, all of whom are distributed, Galanis said. The company decided last year it would abandon physical offices in favor of an entirely remote workforce. Galanis said Cameo now has employees in 28 different states, and an executive team that’s spread out across Chicago, Miami, New York, Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Cameo plans to hire an additional 100 employees by the end of 2021.
While Cameo’s employees are remote, and Galanis himself is currently residing in Miami, Cameo is and will always be a Chicago business, Galanis said.
“We didn’t move headquarters, we just don’t have a physical office,” he said. “We are a Chicago company. We’ll always be a Chicago company.”
Galanis said Chicago represents its largest concentration of workers, and it will be the location of the company’s all-hands meeting later this summer.
Cameo’s unicorn status gives Chicago a rare consumer-focused startup with a $1 billion valuation. It’s a milestone Galanis, who started Cameo out of Chicago tech hub 1871, said is validating for Chicago’s growing tech scene.
“I’m extremely proud of that,” he said. “I think Chicago deserved it. I think 1871 deserved this.”
Cameo will use the new funding to expand products beyond video calls and grow internationally, along with growing its business-to-business-product, which allows companies to book celebrities for ad campaigns.