Running a festival or event? You'll need Easol

Founder Lisa Simpson explains her concept and how she raised $29.5m
BizAge Interview Team
Easol founders Lisa and her co-founder and husband Ben Simpson
Easol founders Lisa and her co-founder and husband Ben Simpson

Hi Lisa! What does Easol do?

Easol is the leading all-in-one technology platform built to power experience businesses globally. Easol is ‘Experience Commerce’, which is e-commerce specifically designed for selling experiences such as festivals, wellness retreats and sporting events. We are the all-in-one platform for experience creators, where they can manage everything they need for their business, from website building through to taking bookings and managing payments. 

What's your biggest strength?

We’ve redesigned e-commerce for experiences - Easol is an experience commerce platform built especially for experience creators, so that the technology, ownership, and possibilities are in their hands. We’re now powering experience creators globally from wellness retreats, festivals, sports, tour operators, conferences and more to launch and grow their business seamlessly and on their terms. 

What makes us unique is that creators have 360 ownership on Easol - from end-to-end control of their brand, customer journey, data and finances so that they can do everything they need to run their business on their terms. We power creators with complete ownership from the moment a consumer lands on their website, so any business-critical data from the customer goes straight to the creators. We give creators full ownership of their pricing, they can charge a booking fee of any amount, or no fee at all and they decide what their customers pay. Previous experience businesses would have had to pay commission to each solution they use which is costly and hard to forecast. With Easol creators save around 50% of the cost of access to the technology they need. We help creators to unlock the potential of their business and support them to grow by empowering them with the control and ownership of their business. 

What made you think there was money in this?

We set out to build Easol in 2017, previously we’d spent 10 years running a company called Rough Hill, which was the UK’s largest events business. We were selling over 2 million tickets a year - and we grew that across the UK and Europe. After that, we started a winter music and snow sports festival called Rise in 2014 which now has 10,000 attendees each year and is Europe’s largest snowsports and music festival. 

Ben and I experienced the challenges and frustrations for creators first hand when we built Rise. We had to stitch together so many technology and software solutions to be able to offer all the booking, payment and activity options we wanted, we realised there had to be a better way. One of our greatest strengths comes from our understanding of what creators really need to succeed. We deliver them the ability to fully control and own all aspects of their businesses. 

The way experience market operates is outdated for creators today. There hasn’t been a solution like ours in the market, so our competitors are really the incumbent and traditional e-commerce marketplaces and booking tools ticketing, who take large fees from the creators on their platform and take control over data that is vital for experience creators to understand and remarket to their customers. They were made for selling things, not experiences and we knew there was a market for an all-in-one platform which provides end-to-end control of the brand, customer journey, data and finances at a fraction of the cost.

The experience commerce industry has huge potential, as we have seen pent up demand post-pandemic for unique, bespoke, and authentic experiences. In Britain alone, pre-pandemic the leisure events sector was worth almost £40 billion with music events accounting for nearly half of that. As these industries start to rebuild and new creators want to build businesses based on their passions, they need the right tools to tap into this demand and that’s where we saw the opportunity for Easol to succeed. 

Where is the business today?

We’re really proud of the work and progress we’ve made so far. In 2021 we grew our customer base by 913%. We now work with independent creators and large multinationals in over 130 countries. From wellness retreats, adventure tours, sports, food and drive and more, including Wanderlust, Otherlands, Global Cycle Network, Unplugged, Resurface and Envision Festival.  

What is the secret to making the business work?

A challenge we could have never anticipated was of course the pandemic which presented a big hurdle for us and our creators to overcome. It was a learning curve and reinforced the importance of our Creator First approach, to both listen and understand what they need in the current environment. During 2021 we shifted our pricing to be subscription and transaction based as it was the right thing for creators. We focused on supporting our community of experience creators to retain their customers, launching new features to help manage postponements, providing flexible payment options, editing bookings seamlessly and communicating transparently and effectively with their customers.

What funding do you have? Is it enough?

We have now raised a total of $29,5 million from Tiger Global, Notion Capital, Y Combinator, Foundation Capital and FMZ Venture led by Michael Zeisser, the former Chairman of US investments at Alibaba. We are continuing to expand our team across our London HQ, Lisbon and US offices and invest heavily into building a world-class product that will enable creators to build businesses based on their passions. 

Tell us about the business model

Easol operates on a subscription model, to give creators full transparency and predictability on costs. We help creators get end to end control and visibility of their finances. We have a range of subscription models which vary in price, depending on the features that the creator needs and the level of support. We want to provide flexibility and options to creators based on their individual needs.

What is the future vision?

We’re seeing 1000’s of experience creators build amazing businesses that power memorable moments and we feel incredibly lucky to be part of the journey to help power these businesses. Our future vision is to continue to support this movement of inspiring entrepreneurs to build incredible businesses and power them to grow. 

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
May 18, 2022