Cameo, an app that lets you buy video shout-out messages from celebrities, has become one of Chicago’s buzziest consumer startups in years, getting press everywhere from the New York Times to Time Magazine. And now, investors are taking notice, too.
Cameo has closed a $12.5 million Series A round led by Silicon Valley firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. Other backers include Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Bedrock, along with existing investors Chicago Ventures, Starting Line, Origin Ventures and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, according to CEO and founder Steven Galanis, who declined to comment further on the raise. Cameo previously raised a $3.2 million round in February, according to an SEC filing.
Consumer apps like Cameo are a rarity in Chicago, a city that has defined itself primarily as a hub for B2B technology. And even less common are consumer apps that have raised more than $10 million.
But this latest round is an indication that investors believe Cameo is more than a flash in the pan.
“It’d be a huge thing for Chicago to have this type of success in our city,” Rob Chesney, a venture partner at Chicago Ventures, told Chicago Inno back in May. “There aren’t as many of these types of consumer businesses being built here.”
Here’s how it works: Users browse a list of celebrities—ranging from Brett Favre to Lance Bass—and request personalized video messages for themselves or loved ones. Fees for the celebrities range, with some as little as $5 and others costing more than $1,000.
Not every celebrity on Cameo is famous in the traditional sense of the word. Vine stars, YouTube celebrities, Instagram influencers, gamers and other internet celebrities make up a large portion of Cameo’s talent and are among some of the startup’s top earners. While they might not be starring in movies or headlining worldwide concert tours, they’re developing large fanbases who are just as eager to connect with them.
Cameo’s profile has risen considerably since launching in 2017. It was named one of Time’s 50 Genius Companies of 2018, along with being nominated for a host of local tech awards like 1871’s Momentum Awards and Chicago Inno’s 50 on Fire.