Chicago’s Origin Ventures just raised $80 million for its fourth fund

Origin Ventures, an early-stage, 18-year-old venture firm based in Chicago, has closed its fourth fund with $80 million in commitments.

The fund is twice as big as the firm’s third fund, which closed in 2013. The sum is even more meaningful when compared to the outfit’s first two funds. One of those was a $1.5 million fund that cofounder Steve Miller pooled together with a cofounder in 1999 to try his hand at venture. (He was previously involved with his family’s office products business, Quill Corp., which sold to Staples in 1998.)  A second fund, with outside funding, closed in 2005 with $15.5 million.

Investors’ interest in Origin is understandable. It led the first two rounds of the online food ordering service GrubHub, most notably. GrubHub went public in 2014 at $26 per share; its shares trade today at $35, giving the company a market cap of $3 billion. The bet returned Origin’s 2005 fund many times over. (One detail that suddenly seems quaint by today’s funding standards:  GrubHub’s Series A round totaled just $1.1 million.)

An earlier bet on iNest Realty, a broker of newly built homes that was acquired in 2004 by the online lending exchange Lending Tree, is another standout exit, says Miller. Terms of that deal were never disclosed. but iNest is one of three companies that Origin funded with that original $1.5 million, he says.

Even when Origin had little money to play with, it considered itself a Series A investor, and that remains the case.

According to general partner Jason Heltzer — who joined Origin in 2014, after nearly 14 years with OCA Ventures, another Chicago firm — the firm will write checks as small as $500,000. More typically, however, its initial check sizes range from $1 million to $3 million these days.

So how to get a check from Origin? It’s worth noting that the firm invests across the country, with startups in Raleigh, N.C., Seattle, and Austin, Tex., that are focused primarily on marketing automation software, marketplaces, and content businesses.

Still, Origin appears to have a penchant for companies in Midwest and those in Chicago in particular.

Some of the firm’s newest bets, for example, include Tock, a Chicago-based reservation platform that has OpenTable in its sights.

The firm also led an early round for Tovala (formerly Maestro), a smart oven maker that won the University of Chicago’s business plan competition in 2015. (GrubHub is also a previous winner of the competition, as is the payments company Braintree, which was acquired by eBay in 2013 for $800 million.)

Heltzer also talks excitedly about Avant, the 4.5-year-old online lending marketplace. The Chicago-based company has already raised more than $650 million from investors; with a multibillion dollar valuation, it is widely expected to attempt an IPO in the not-too-distant future.

Pictured above, Origin’s investors. From left to right: Brent Hill, Bruce Barron, Steve Miller and Jason Heltzer.