Cole Mason, the 24-year-old CEO and co-founder of PearPop, sold handcrafted crosses door-to-door in Arlington, Texas before moving to NYC to embark on a modeling career.
Earlier this year, 18-year-old Anna Shumate lived with her family in the 10,000-person town of Grosse Ile, Michigan. Her manager was ready to move on and paid $ 5,000 for the high school soccer star to partner with Snoop Dogg on PearPop, a platform that connects TikTok users with celebrity collaborations. She uploaded a video brushing and shaking her hair like in a Pantene commercial. Using TikTok’s Duet feature, which allows developers to create videos side-by-side, Snoop replied from a smoke-filled room, “Swing your hair! There you go girl “The video garnered a whopping 900,000 likes. Shumate’s TikTok follower number skyrocketed from 18,000 to 130,000 overnight – today it’s 10 million.
“Before PearPop, your social capital was locked up. You just posted, hoping the algorithm picked you up – there was no way to get on stage with other people and let them improve your content, ”said Cole Mason, 24-year-old co-founder and CEO of PearPop. “With PearPop, developers can make money with authentic content and help other talent get the spotlight.”
Along with Mason, the company was co-founded by entrepreneur-turned attorney Spencer Markel and top talent manager Guy Oseary, known for co-founding Sound Ventures with Ashton Kutcher and managing the careers of superstars like U2 and Madonna. PearPop announced today that it has raised $ 16 million in Series A, with $ 10 million from Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six. The remaining $ 6 million came from other traditional investors such as Bessemer Venture Partners, Sound Ventures, and Slow Ventures, as well as an impressive number of celebrities. The star-studded round of funding included the chain smokers, Amy Schumer, Gary Vaynerchuk, Diddy, Tyga, Kevin Hart, Kevin Durant, Mark Cuban, Marshmello, Snoop Dogg, and the Weeknd. TikTok stars Griffin Johnson, Josh Richards and MrBeast also took part in the round.
“There’s this huge ecosystem with so many creative, talented people looking for ways to help themselves and help each other,” said Ohanian, who led the PearPop fundraiser. “Right now there is a lot of inefficiency as the best way to create virality is before PearPop uses very outdated systems like email. I’ve been fortunate to see opportunities in my career as a founder and investor where you put people in control, give them a real platform – and great things usually happen. “
Although PearPop wasn’t launched until January, it has already attracted over 100,000 users curious to invest in influence. Developers who sell collaborations on PearPop include well-known names with millions of followers like Loren Gray, Snoop Dogg, and Shaq, as well as small developers like Keenya Kelly with a relatively small following of 451,000.
On the web platform, users buy collaboration with this talent by submitting either their original sound or video for the talent to use or comment on in their own content. Every PearPop creator has a minimum collaboration bid price (Snoop starts at $ 250 for a comment), but the buyer pays nothing until the bid and collaboration proposal is accepted. The talent can either accept or reject suggestions after viewing the suggested videos or listening to the original audio. However, if a talent declines an offer, the buyer can retake the offer for a larger check – a plus for buyers with cash and a deep desire for virality.
Mason’s deep desire has always been to become a self-made man. After growing up selling door-to-door homemade wooden crosses in his hometown of Arlington, Texas, Mason moved to New York City at 18 to pursue a modeling career. Despite being represented by Ford Models, Mason quickly realized that he could make more money as a club sponsor – he was paid to bring attractive people to nightclubs who were hungry to build their reputations. Mason learned that success as an all-day beautiful person can be traced back to one’s own network. Having more followers means more social impact and a higher payout from brands. So Mason moved to Los Angeles in 2019 to monetize other people’s networks for aspiring influencers – what would later become PearPop.
At a party in West Hollywood in 2019, he met Spencer Markel, the then co-founder and CEO of the children’s toy company Cubcoats. Despite being 13 years older than Mason, the two were linked through mutual connections and Mason’s idea of monetizing creator-to-creator credibility. Markel co-founded the company a few months later and began discussing the idea with his friend Guy Oseary, who had been looking for a platform like PearPop and quickly joined as the third co-founder.
“Pearpop is the first platform where talent can monetize their social capital by helping other talent,” says Oseary, 24 years older than its CEO. “Everyone wins, so I jumped in to get involved.”
Pearpop makes money by taking 20% of transactions on the platform. There have been thousands of suggestions on the platform to date – users bidding up to $ 10,000 for collaborations. The 20-strong company plans to spend the new funds on expanding the team and expanding its platform offerings to include Instagram, YouTube and Clubhouse.
“It levels the playing field by giving everyone access,” says investor Moe Shalizi, manager of Marshmello and alum of 30 Under 30 Music 2019, who is most excited about PearPop’s ability to broker relationships between brands and developers. “People can build budgets based on developer prices – it’s like an a la carte menu.”
PearPop intends to rewrite the way creators make money and build a captive following. “There’s this huge ecosystem of creators and talent out there trying to help each other, and there’s massive inefficiency,” says Ohanian. “We will see the fragmentation and democratization of fame.”