At age 18, Cole Mason left Texas to pursue a modeling career in New York City. He had a hard time gaining traction in the fashion industry and was forced to come up with a Plan B. While working as a nightclub promoter, Mason met lots of online creators—many with millions of followers—but noticed that few were able to actually monetize their influence. “I realized creators didn’t have a sustainable way to make money, and I wanted to build a way for them to earn a living doing what they love,” he says.
Enter Pearpop, a creator-centered digital platform cofounded by Mason to facilitate collaborations between brands and influencers. It took three years for Mason to save enough money to build the app, create a pitch deck, and hone his fundraising skills. Those efforts paid off: Soon he was approached by Hollywood heavyweight Guy Oseary, talent manager to stars such as Madonna and U2. “Guy had been waiting for someone to disrupt the talent booking space and transform it for the digital era,” Mason says. “I brought him in as a cofounder, started building the team, and we were off to the races.”
Pearpop officially launched in 2021, and the new model it provides for helping online creators monetize their content landed it on Fast Company‘s list of the world’s Most Innovative Companies.
CHALLENGES THAT HELP INFLUENCERS
Shortly after its launch, Pearpop introduced a feature called Challenges. Any brand or person can issue a challenge and put it out to the company’s roster of more than 150,000 digital creators across social media platforms. A recent challenge from Netflix posed the question, “What’s the wildest thing you’ve done for love?”
The brand issuing the challenge can set parameters, such as how many followers a creator must have or what genre of content they produce. They can set the size of the payout and approve content before it goes live. Creators that choose to accept the challenge, tag the brand in their post, and are paid based on the number of views they get. Recently, musicians such as Maroon 5 and Tyga, and companies including Amazon, have posted Challenges on Pearpop.
“We’re democratizing access to monetization opportunities,” Mason says. “The overall goal for Challenges is to build a world where every business can turn on influence-on-demand and work with exactly the right creators to move the needle for their business.”
TAKING INFLUENCE LOCAL
The company plans to scale its influence-on-demand model to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes, including mom-and-pop shops. Imagine a restaurant in Mason’s hometown of Arlington, Texas. What if that restaurant could summon the most influential foodies in the area to check out the menu and, hopefully, generate positive buzz? “They don’t care about the Kardashians or other big-name celebrities,” Mason says. “What they care about is people in that area who have real influence.”
He sees a bottom-up, creator-centric model as key to scaling for global and local brands. “We fundamentally believe that the thing that all brands want is access to creators,” Mason says. “And the only way that you’re going to have access to the creators is if you build first for them.”