The gradual return of tourism and travel following the COVID-19 pandemic continues to see a wave of startups raising funding to respond to new market opportunities. In the latest development, Easel, who created events and experiences software that third-party companies can use to market and sell reservations – it includes a website builder, booking and reservation tools, and payment plugins – a raised $ 25 million, a Series A that he will use to continue to develop his software stack, with a view to being a one-stop-shop for experiment organizers.
“At the moment, we allow [organizers] to sell events, but we don’t distribute them, ”said CEO Ben Simpson, who co-founded the London-based startup with his wife Lisa. “We see this as a major opportunity, giving creators the ability to get inventory from elsewhere and push theirs to other places.”
The company has seen strong growth over the past year, after a period in which Simpson said she had no income due to travel and collection restrictions in 2020. Since closing a Round of $ 4.5 million that year, the number of organizers increased. (which Easol calls “creators”) tenfold, with a 913% increase in customer base, 50-fold transaction numbers and 30-fold spend on the platform. He has set himself ambitious goals for triple its growth in 2022.
Its software is used in some 130 countries, although the majority of consumers attending the events themselves are based in North America and Europe, Simpson said.
It’s scaling and pulling numbers that catch the eye of VCs, and this latest round has some of the bigger ones. Tiger Global leads Series A, also with the participation of previous funders Notion Capital, Foundation Capital, Y Combinator (Easol was in the Lot S18) and FMZ Ventures – which is headed by Michael Zeisser, the former chairman of US investments at Alibaba. (Zeisser is also joining the board.)
Travel and tourism startups have definitely turned into some of the biggest cases of pity during the pandemic: Without mismanagement on their part, some of the most promising founders and companies suddenly found themselves in free fall when their customers – and depending on the business model, their customers’ customers – have just stopped traveling and doing things. This vacuum, however, has also led to very interesting pivot points and efforts to find business in completely new places.
Peek, one of Easol’s competitors in the experience management space, has shifted from focusing primarily on its own experience market to providing more and better tools and guidance. broader to their event management clients. He also recently raised a significant $ 80 million last month.
While Easol may look a lot like Peek up front, however, the philosophy behind what he does is quite different. The Simpsons came to the founding of the startup after being on the event-organizing side of the equation, launching and hosting events like Rise – a huge ski / clubbing / music conference in the French Alps. . Ben said building and operating raises a ton of organizational issues, especially when it comes to IT.
The festival not only sells tickets for events, but it also operates lift passes and a range of different accommodation options, as well as a variety of ski and equipment rental experiences. “We had to run everything through five different platforms,” he recalls, “which also involved a number of separate transaction fees. They had all that power on their side. So they came up with a plan. “What if we build and run all of this, and don’t charge ridiculous fees, but build it around a subscription model with lower fees?” Then the creators could personalize the journey from start to finish, keep the experience in one place, and invest in their own growth. “(Currently, the Pricing model is based on three tiers depending on the level of service, at £ 5 / month, £ 54 / month or £ 207 / month, offering a variety of different features and a commission scale that changes based on how much you pay per month. )
It’s all specialized enough, Lisa added, that they don’t feel like it really exists in the complex way that experience makers needed it to be. She said that they refer to the category as well with a separate term: “experience commerce”. They left Rise, who became a client, along with other current users including Wanderlust, Ibiza Rocks, Global Cycle Network, Untravelled Paths and Envision Festival.
The feedback is what made the pitch compelling for these companies: Easol claims that for an event with a turnover of $ 2 million, using Easol’s software instead of a mix of third-party tools represents more than $ 80,000 in savings per year.
“Easol’s market-leading platform and industry expertise enables customers to imagine and market unique experiences for consumers,” Tiger Global’s Evan Feinberg said in a statement. “In the growing experiential commerce market, we believe Easol is poised for disproportionate growth, and we are delighted to partner with Ben, Lisa and the Easol team. “