Earlier this year, 18-year-old Anna Shumate was living with her family in the 10,000-person town of Grosse Ile, Michigan. Ready to move on, her manager paid $5,000 for the high school soccer star to collaborate with Snoop Dogg on PearPop, a platform that hooks up TikTok users with celebrity collaborations. She uploaded a video of herself brushing and shaking her hair as if in a Pantene commercial. Utilizing TikTok’s duet feature, which enables creators to make side-by-side videos, Snoop responded from a smoke-filled room: “Swing your hair! There you go girl!” The video garnered a whopping 900,000 likes. Shumate’s TikTok follower count exploded from 18,000 to 130,000 overnight—today she has 10 million.
“Prior to PearPop your social capital was locked up; you were just posting and hoping that the algorithm picked you up—there was no way to get onstage with other people and have them boost your content,” says Cole Mason, PearPop’s 24-year-old cofounder and CEO. “With PearPop, creators can monetize with authentic content and help other talent get some spotlight.”
Along with Mason, the company was cofounded by lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Spencer Markel and top talent manager Guy Oseary, known for cofounding Sound Ventures with Ashton Kutcher as well as managing the careers of superstars like U2 and Madonna. Today, PearPop announced it raised a $16 million series A, with $10 million coming from Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six. The remaining $6 million came from other traditional investors like Bessemer Venture Partners, Sound Ventures and Slow Ventures as well as an impressive slew of celebrities. The star-studded funding round included the Chainsmokers, 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 joined the round.
“There is this massive ecosystem with so many creative, talented people looking for ways to help themselves and help one another,” says Ohanian, who led PearPop’s fundraise. “Right now, there’s a lot of inefficiency because the best way to create virality before PearPop was using very antiquated systems like emails. I’ve been fortunate to see opportunities in my career as a founder and as an investor where you give people control, give them a real platform—and great stuff tends to happen.”
Though PearPop only launched in January, they’ve already attracted over 100,000 users curious about investing in influence. The creators selling collaborations on PearPop include household names with millions of followers like Loren Gray, Snoop Dogg and Shaq as well as small creators like Keenya Kelly with a relatively tiny following of 451,000.
On the web platform, users buy collaboration with this talent by either submitting their original sound or video for the talent to use in their own content or comment on. Each PearPop creator has a minimum bid price for a collaboration (Snoop starts at $250 for a comment), but the buyer doesn’t pay anything until the bid and collaboration proposal are accepted. The talent can either accept or reject proposals after watching the proposed videos or listening to the original sound. However, if a talent rejects an offer, the buyer can re-up the offer for a bigger check—a plus for buyers with cash and a deep desire for virality.
Mason’s deep desire was always to become be a self-made man. After spending his childhood going door-to-door hawking homemade wooden crosses in his Amarillo, Texas hometown, Mason moved to New York City at 18 to start a modeling career. Despite being represented by Ford Models, Mason quickly realized that he could make more money as a club promoter—getting paid to bring attractive people to nightclubs hungry to boost their reputations. Mason learned that success as a full-time beautiful human came down to one’s network; having more followers means greater social clout and bigger payout from brands. So Mason moved to Los Angeles to monetize other people’s networks for up-and-coming influencers—what would become PearPop—in 2019.
At a West Hollywood party in 2019, he bumped into Spencer Markel, then the cofounder and CEO of children’s toy company Cubcoats. Though 13 years Mason’s senior, the two bonded over mutual connections and Mason’s idea for monetizing creator-to-creator credibility. Markel joined the company as a cofounder a few months later and began talking the idea up to his friend Guy Oseary, who had been looking for a platform like PearPop and quickly joined as the third cofounder.
“Pearpop is the first platform to allow talent to monetize their social capital by helping other talent,” says Oseary, 24 years his CEO’s senior. “Everyone wins, which is why I jumped in to get involved.”
Pearpop makes money by taking 20% from transactions on the platform. So far, there have been thousands of proposals on the platform—with users bidding up to $10,000 for collaborations. The 20-person company plans to spend the new funding on expanding the team as well as adding Instagram, YouTube and Clubhouse to its platform offerings.
“It levels the playing field by giving everybody access,” says investor Moe Shalizi, Marshmello’s manager and 2019 30 Under 30 Music alum, who is most excited about PearPop’s ability to mediate relationships between brands and creators. “People can put budgets together based on creators’ pricing—it’s like an a la carte menu.”
With its roster of a-list investors across Silicon Valley, entertainment, sports and music, PearPop intends to rewrite the way in which creators make money and build a captive following. “There is this massive ecosystem of creators and talent looking to help one another and there’s massive inefficiency,” says Ohanian. “We’re going to see the fragmentation and democratization of fame.”