Starting Line, Chicago’s Newest B2C VC Firm, Closes $17M For Its First Fund

Starting Line may technically be a little over a year old, but on Thursday the firm formally announced that it closed $17 million in capital commitments for its inaugural fund.

Founded and led by Ezra Galston—a former professional poker player and founder turned venture capitalist who previously rose up the ranks from intern to principal at Chicago Ventures—the firm aims to identify and invest in seed and early-stage B2C startups “building products and services for the 99% economy,” according to its announcement.

“We really want to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Starting Line principal Haley Kwait Zollo during a sit-down interview with Crunchbase News.

Zollo, a veteran of two Chicago consumer clothing services, TrunkClub and Mac & Mia, said that from her newfound perspective, from the other side of the venture negotiating table, raising money should not be as intimidating as it is.

However, Starting Line is positioning itself as a firm focused on transparency.

“The focus needs to be less on self-adulation and more on value creation,” said Galston, remarking on the city’s startup scene.

Galston cited GrubHub founder and advisor to the firm, Matt Maloney, as a practitioner of the disciplined entrepreneurship he’d like to see more of in the city’s startup scene.

Starting Line also provides its portfolio companies a rather unique perk: mental health benefits.

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