London-based Pollen, formerly known as Verve, an invite-only marketplace that lets people bring their friends to exclusive events and share rewards, has raised €69.5 million in financing, bringing the startup’s total capital raised to date to €90 million.
The raise was led by Northzone and included participation from Sienna Capital, among others, and existing investors including Draper Esprit, Backed and Kindred.
The financing will allow Pollen to scale its influential membership base and expand more deeply into music, sports and travel, with plans to move into other experiences and products in the future. The startup plans to tap into an increasingly larger share of the €720 billion that 16–28-year-olds spend annually.
Pollen has a growing portfolio of travel and music experiences, which ranges from beach holidays and festivals to city weekends and ski packages. Pollen recently acquired Lifestylez, a college ski and snowboard experience company in North America, to deepen its reach within the travel industry.
The founders, brothers Callum and Liam Negus-Fancey, left school at 17 to set up their first business, which sold events and products for young people exclusively through word-of-mouth. That experience made them realise they could create a whole new distribution channel for brands, enabling them to harness the power of word-of-mouth at scale for the first time and access an audience that is notoriously difficult to reach. At the same time it allows young people to discover and enjoy experiences and share rewards such as free tickets, backstage passes, meet & greets and queue jumps with their friends. The marketplace has 35k active members globally, who have sold 330k experiences since the beginning of the year. Pollen has sold almost one million experiences in total across travel, live events and festivals; it works with 500+ world class brands including Live Nation, MGM Resorts, TAO, Hakkasan, AEG & C3; and secured partnerships with Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Priceline, Stubhub, and SeeTickets.
”We’ve known Callum and the team since early 2016 and the company has delivered on every milestone since then,” said Gareth Jefferies, investment manager at Northzone, an early investor in Spotify. “The most exciting prospect for me is the potential the company has to play a pivotal role in how brands engage with an entire demographic. In a few years’ time, if the company continues to execute, Pollen can become one of the most culturally significant companies for Gen Z, and be the best way of buying not just festival tickets and holidays, but to access all sorts of products and services.”
“Gen Z are looking for fundamentally different ways to engage with brands: community, authenticity & relevance are now top of their list – and the challenge for brands is how they achieve this, at scale,” said Nicola McClafferty, Investment Director at Draper Esprit. “With the Ambassador marketplace, the team at Pollen have built a stellar product to digitise word of mouth selling and enable young people to connect further with the experiences they love. We have been working alongside the team since 2017 and are delighted to continue to support their ambition and welcome Northzone and Sienna Capital onboard as the company continues to grow.”
“We want Pollen to be the best channel to buy products and experiences,” said Liam, co-founder & Chief Revenue Officer. “That’s why we’ve always given rewards that are tied to the experience rather than cash, to ensure it’s an authentic recommendation. We’re focused on what would the world feel like if millions of people used Pollen – it has to be driven by passion.”
“In today’s world, young people want to maximise what they want to do with their life because they’re more aware of the opportunities out there and their own potential,” said Callum, co-founder & CEO. “Our model will allow members and their friends to discover and access experiences that are usually out of reach and at the same time create an incredibly powerful distribution channel for brands. This funding will allow us to move into more verticals and continue our global expansion.”