"Experience marketplace" Pollen raises $60 million to transform how brands reach Gen Z

Pollen, an invite-only marketplace that enables people to bring their friends to the best experiences and share rewards, has raised $60 million. The round was led by Northzone, with support from other new investors such as Sienna Capital, as well as existing investors including Draper Esprit, Backed and Kindred.

Pollen offers insider access, giveaways, and rewards to various activities (or what it calls “experiences”) in music, sports, and travel — from beach holidays and festivals to a broad range of ski packages. Users, largely young consumers, can invite their friends, creating a distribution channel much like online word-of-mouth. The platform enables Pollen and associated brands to cash in on the $800 billion that 16–28-year-olds spend annually.

“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.” Says Callum, CEO and co-founder. “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.”

The platform has sold almost 800,000 experiences in total; it works with over 500 global brands including Live Nation, MGM Resorts, TAO, Hakkasan, AEG and C3; and has secured partnerships with Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Priceline, Stubhub, and SeeTickets. To continue expanding, the company has made some acquisitions across North America, such as Lifestylez, the largest college ski and snowboard “experience” provider.

“We want Pollen to be the best channel to buy products and experiences,” says Liam, CRO and co-founder, also Callum's brother. “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.”

Commenting on the opportunity ahead, Gareth Jefferies, investment manager at Northzone, said: “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.”

The latest funding will go toward global expansion into new markets and new verticals. The company has raised $100 million to date.

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