2016 Chicago Startup Report: $1.7B in funding and 55 exits

Written by Andreas Rekdal
Published on Jan. 24, 2017
2016 Chicago Startup Report: $1.7B in funding and 55 exits

Chicago startups and tech companies raised more than $1.7 billion in 2016, down slightly from 2015’s record-breaking $1.72 billion, following a nationwide cooldown in funding activity.

In 2016, funding was spread across a broader range of companies than it was in 2015. Built In Chicago tracked funding rounds from 179 companies in 2016, up from 143 companies in 2015. A whopping 36 companies raised $10 million or more, and 99 companies raised $1 million or more, up from 94 companies in the previous year.

There was also an uptick in the total number of exits in 2016. We saw 55 Chicago companies get acquired. That is up from 39 in the year prior, and the largest number in a single year since Built In started gathering funding and acquisition data in 2011. All 55 exit events were acquisitions, as 2016 passed without a single tech IPO — just like the year before it. Financial terms were disclosed for only five of those acquisitions, with amounts reaching a total of $1.73 billion.

The past year’s biggest recorded exit came from online broker OptionsHouse, which was acquired by E*TRADE for $725 million. Construction management SaaS provider Textura, which went public in 2013, came in a close second, getting bought by Oracle for an approximate $663 million.

B2B still comes out on top

Unsurprisingly, B2B companies led the way in tech funding in 2016. A total of 40 companies raised rounds to the tune of nearly $319 million. A hefty chunk of that funding, $150 million, went to SMS Assist in a round that brought the real estate management solutions provider into Chicago’s stable of tech unicorns. But the bottom line was also helped by companies like FourKites, SpringCM, Kenna Security and Geofeedia, all of which raised more than $15 million apiece.

Fintech also made a big splash, with 20 companies collectively raising over $450 million. Of that total, two-thirds came in the form of securitization deals landed by Avant and Enova International for $255 million and $107 million, respectively, to allow the companies to originate more loans.

Consumer tech on the rise?

Despite Chicago’s reputation as a stalwart hub of B2B innovation, the second hottest industry by number of companies funded was consumer tech. In that vertical, 32 companies raised a total just shy of $365 million. Interestingly, the biggest round of private funding in that industry went to Groupon — a publicly traded company.

Groupon’s $250 million funding came from Atairos, a private investment firm led by Comcast’s former CEO. When the deal was announced in April, the two companies said they were exploring opportunities for strategic partnerships around hyper-local commerce.

Other notable rounds in the consumer tech vertical include Home Chef’s $50 million in new funding, raised in two separate 2016 rounds, and ParkWhiz’s $24 million Series C in January, which helped the startup acquire New York-based BestParking.

Up-and-coming industries

With $178 million raised by 25 companies in 2016, Chicago’s healthtech scene is steadily ascending. Higi, whose cloud-connected wellness stations can be found in pharmacies and grocery stores all across the country, kicked the year off with a $40 million round in January. Endotronix and Maestro Health followed closely on higi’s heels, bringing in $32 million and $24 million, respectively. These rounds build on the impact of bootstrapped companies like Outcome Health (formerly ContextMedia), which has been driving healthtech innovation in Chicago for the past decade. 

In the year after Uptake reached its billion-dollar valuation, the city has also continued to cement its position as a leader in Big Data, with 15 companies raising a total of $95 million. 4C pulled in the vertical’s biggest round: a $26 million Series C that will help the company staff its salesforce and accelerate its pace of technological innovation. Civis Analytics came in a close second with a $22 million Series A closed at the end of November. Other big contributors to the Big Data category include FourKites, DRIVIN and project44, all of whom raised more than $10 million last year.


Built In Chicago’s Annual Report is a financial analysis of digital tech employers in the Chicagoland area for 2016. To be eligible for inclusion, a company’s primary business and industry must be digital technology/innovation, including web and mobile applications, software, IoT, e-commerce, VR/AR and digital agency work. Data is compiled from SEC filings, press releases, confirmed news reports and other public databases. Funding data includes venture capital, private equity, debt financing and securitizations. All year-over-year comparisons are based on Built In Chicago’s internal funding and acquisition data, collected since 2011.

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