IVCA Profile: Venture Capital Portfolio Company of the Year at the upcoming 2021 IVCA Awards Dinner is Factor

IVCA Profile: Venture Capital Portfolio Company of the Year at the upcoming  2021 IVCA Awards Dinner is Factor

November 24, 2021

It’s that time of year, to reflect back upon the many successes and honor those who have worked toward that success. Kirkland & Ellis LLP will present the annual IVCA Awards Dinner, taking place on Monday, December 6th, 2021, starting at 5:30pm at the Four Seasons in Chicago. The honors conferred will include, the Fellows Award, the Richard J. Daley Award, the Private Equity Portfolio Company of the Year and the Venture Capital Portfolio Company of the Year.
 
The Venture Portfolio Company of the Year is Factor, and the honor will be presented to the company’s President and CEO, Mike Apostal, by Jeff Cantalupo, the Founder and Managing Partner of the company’s Venture Capital investor Listen Ventures, who began their relationship with Factor in 2013.
 
Factor is a ready-to-eat meal delivery service, characterized by their emphasis on healthy/dietitian-optimized food, and chef quality entrees. In 2020, the company was acquired by Hello Fresh, the leading provider of meal kits in the world.
 
The IVCA recently interviewed both Jeff Cantalupo and Mike Apostal on the particulars of the investment and the success of Factor.
 
IVCA: What is the origin of the concept for FACTOR? Was it convenience oriented at first or food oriented, in the context of the idea?
Mike Apostal: The origin behind the concept of Factor stems from the fact that healthy eating today is hard. Consumers today are strapped for time, fast food tends to be unhealthy, and nutrition is complex …that’s where Factor comes in. We make quick meal solutions as healthy as it is tasty, as well as convenient by delivering fresh, fully prepared, restaurant quality meals directly to our consumers doorsteps. Every Factor meal is cooked from scratch by real chefs using fresh ingredients, which can then be heated in the microwave and enjoyed in minutes.
 
As you can tell, our service is centered around our belief that we can deliver on the holy trinity of food: taste, convenience and nutrition. We never compromise one over the other, food oriented or convenience, but instead focus on providing both benefits while also delivering on high quality nutrition.
 
IVCA: What made FACTOR the perfect fit for the the investment philosophy of Listen Ventures?
 
Jeff Cantalupo: We invest in entrepreneurs that listen to consumers – it was clear that people were demanding more from our food system, it is difficult to eat healthy and the vision for Factor was to create a service that makes eating right easy and delicious. That allows a unique opportunity to build a brand narrative against this shift in behavior, exactly what we look for at Listen. 
 
IVCA: Mike, when looking for funding, what did Listen Ventures provide for you that was beyond just monetary support?
 
Apostal: It’s critical to find capital partners that can provide more value than just capital. That is what I was looking for during the funding process and it's exactly what I've found with Listen.
 
Listen is just different from the rest of the VCs. They're built in a way that allows them to play numerous roles as an investor, whether it was branding/design/marketing-related support, strategic guidance, navigating the marketplace, introductions to vendors/investors, or just ‘listening’ when it was needed most. Listen is exactly what you hope for in an investor/capital partner and I'm grateful and thankful for everything they've done to help our team take Factor to where it is today.
 
IVCA: Jeff, when Listen is strategizing after making a decision to invest, what metrics do you use as far as how deep your influence will go, beyond signing the check?
 
Cantalupo: Our model at Listen is to invest both capital and capability in all of our deals. We have a team of investors, brand experts and creatives that are available to help our portfolio companies create value. In consumer and subscription specifically, the most important metrics are retention and payback period. Mike and the team were amazing at developing a delicious product and scalable operations, Listen was excited to help elevate that consumer experience across all touch-points and build a meaningful brand.
 
IVCA: Mike, once such a food delivery is established, it naturally will evolve. What do you see for the future of FACTOR in its evolution?
 
Apostal: Our goal and focus at Factor has always been to surround our valued customers with best-in-class products and meal options that support their dietary lifestyles, fit various meal occasions, and exceed customer expectations. In the future, we will continue to do this by always listening to our customers to improve the product and experience while expanding meal choice and variety.
 
IVCA: Jeff, as the founder of Listen Ventures, what were your motivating elements in creating the firm’s specific philosophy, and how did it determine the formulation of your team?
 
Cantalupo: I am an advertising man turned VC, so I’ve always approached investing from a consumer insights perspective. At Listen we believe to be good at consumer, you need equal parts quantitative, qualitative and creative expertise, and that’s how we've built our team. This allows us a unique lens when evaluating investments and the appropriate expertise to add value after the investment. Building Factor was a great example of our model, we helped with naming, brand design, digital marketing and more. Our philosophy, is when you take Listen dollars you get all of Listen.
 
IVCA: As the 2021 recipient of the Venture Capital Portfolio Company of the Year, what does it mean to you personally to be recognized by the IVCA and your peers in the Venture Capital industry?
 
Apostal: It's really a great honor with so many extraordinary companies receiving this award in past years. Personally, I'm thrilled to receive this award as it is a great way to recognize our amazing Factor team for all of their hard work and efforts.
 
Cantalupo: We are incredibly humbled and thankful for the hard work and dedication of the entire Factor team. It is really exciting to see Factor get recognized because they ignored the typical startup hype, didn't raise a lot of capital and kept their heads down to build an incredible business.  Listen was along for the ride from the beginning, but we are just a small part of their incredible story. 
 
Kirkand & Ellis LLP presents The 2021 IVCA Awards Dinner on Monday, December 6th, 2021, beginning at 5:30pm, at The Four Seasons, 120 East Delaware, Chicago. For more information, including tickets, click here.