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Tiger Global backs ‘Shopify for experiences’ as events and travel industries bounce back

After a torrid couple of years for the sector, the experience business is back in business.

By Kai Nicol-Schwarz

Easol Founders Lisa & Ben Simpson

Easol, an ecommerce platform for businesses selling experiences, has just raised $25m in a Series A round led by Tiger Global. 

It’s the 29th European startup the US VC giant has backed this year, following 12 months of aggressive investment in the region’s tech talent — but the first primarily focused on live, in-person events and travel.

The raise is further indication of VC’s increasing confidence in the events and travel industries, and Easol is the latest startup to join the well-funded party investors are throwing for the sectors. 

Just last month, hospitality data startup OTA Insights bagged $80m, Düsseldorf-based events ticketing company Vivenu raised $50m and events platform Feast It snapped up €5m. 

For Easol’s part, this round is its second of the year — following a $4.5m raise in March — and it wasn’t a difficult sell to VCs in the current climate, says founder and CEO Ben Simpson. “[Events and travel] are enormous markets and we’ve grown at an incredible rate, so there’s been a lot of investor interest,” he tells Sifted. 

Since its seed round in 2018 Easol says its customer base has increased by nearly 1000%

Easol is a one-stop-shop platform for experience businesses that allows them to build a website, sell events and travel packages and manage customers. The startup works with companies across the globe, from yoga retreats in Africa to festivals in the jungles of Costa Rica.

Since closing its seed round in 2018 the company says its customer base has increased by nearly 1000% and is forecast to treble this growth in 2022; the $25m raise will be used to invest heavily in developing its product and expanding its team.

Easol is playing the long game, and regardless of what happens in the near future Simpson believes the travel and events industries will go from strength to strength in the years to come. Consumer desire to spend money on experiences isn’t going anywhere, and will “exponentially increase as a result of what’s happened,” he says. “Our view has always been firmly on that and not on any short-term wins.”

But that doesn’t mean that scaling quickly isn’t on the agenda — and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the past year in European VC it’s that startups can raise megarounds and hit crazy valuations in no time at all.

Simpson is coy about future raises — as you have to be when running a business that revolves around in-person events during Covid times — but tells Sifted that lobbying for more funds for the warchest over the next 12 months is “definitely possible”.

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He covers healthtech and community journalism, and tweets from @NicolSchwarzK

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