It’s the kind of meteoric ascension you hear about in the movies: A pair of British brothers drop out of school and begin selling music festival tickets from the trunk of their car, before their business becomes a $800 million global events empire.
For a decade, it appeared that Callum and Liam Negus-Fancey, ages 32 and 29, had nowhere to go but up, as their’revolutionary’ peer-to-peer marketing firm StreetTeam grew, in part due to a funding injection from the UK government’s Future Fund, funded by British taxpayers.
By the year 2020, they were not only selling tickets to other festivals, but also hosting their own events at prestigious sites such as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort in Mexico.
The Negus-Fancey brothers had raised over $200,000,000 from venture capitalists by 2022.
But in August of this year, the company fell bankrupt practically overnight, owing millions of dollars in outstanding reimbursements to vendors and customers.
Callum (right) and Liam (left) Negus-Fancey (pictured together), ages 32 and 29, saw their’revolutionary’ peer-to-peer marketing firm StreetTeam go from strength to strength over the course of a decade, thanks in part to a cash injection from the UK government’s Future Fund, funded by British taxpayers.
Chief Revenue Officer Liam (shown) posted photographs of IV drips used to treat hangovers on social media.
In 2021, Justin Bieber plays at XS Nightclub as part of Pollen’s three-day event.
Callum was a 17-year-old A-level student of economics, philosophy, and politics when he decided to quit school to establish his own business.
Before forming a firm with his brother, he organized raves and parties for 16 to 18-year-olds at night, following in the footsteps of his father, who also worked in the events industry.
The organization, formerly called Physical Network, helps move event tickets by asking young ‘ambassadors’, typically between the ages of 16 and 25, to sell them to their friends in exchange for perks and experiences arranged with the event organizers.
The firm flourished, and the brothers rebranded as Verve in 2014, under the auspices of London-based StreetTeam Software Limited, which bundled music-festival tickets with stays in luxury hotels.
In 2018, the company changed its name from Verve to Pollen, expanded to Poland and the United States, and opened offices in Los Angeles.
They collaborated with music industry heavyweights such as Justin Bieber, 50 Cent, and Scooter Braun.
In 2019, Forbes included the brothers on its Europe 30 under 30 list.
Jaden Smith, the stage name of singer Jaden Smith, performs at XS Nightclub in October as part of a three-day event organized by Pollen.
Employees at Pollen described Callum (above) as a “hard worker” and a “hustler.” In an open letter to colleagues that he published on LinkedIn, he explained that he was expelled from six schools and labeled a “underachiever,” which caused him to “detest learning.” He stated that he desired to establish a workplace where “everyone feels like they belong”
The Negus-Fancey brothers had raised over $200 million from venture capitalists by 2022. (pictured The Vamps performing at a Pollen event)
Pollen staff referred to Callum as a “hustler” and a “workhorse.” In an open letter to colleagues that he published on LinkedIn, he explained that he was expelled from six schools and labeled a “underachiever,” which caused him to “detest learning.” He stated that he desired to establish a workplace where “everyone feels like they belong”
According to former employees, his brother Liam was the chief revenue officer and was rarely seen at the office. In a social media post, he was seen hooked up to a drip with the phrase, “What hangover?”
A former neighbor of Liam told MailOnline, “He was a decent enough guy in person, but he became a terrible neighbor by playing loud music around the clock and having little concern for people with jobs to get to.” I am pleased he has left.
Insider said that Pollen employees alleged a ‘frat party’ culture existed at the company. One employee told the publication that she was given mimosas on her first day, while another said that shots were administered around 10 a.m. on Tuesdays.
‘Lock-in’ parties were allegedly organized at ice rinks and karaoke bars, with workers claiming they were an opportunity to ‘become utterly wasted.’ A firm representative told Insider that alcohol was exclusively supplied to persons of legal drinking age.
Now, it appears that the brothers have fallen victim to yet another tech bubble, after a 300 percent increase in sales in 2021, driven by the removal of Covid limitations, gave investors maybe mistaken confidence.
According to a presentation obtained by Insider, in April investors invested $150 million in Pollen, valuing the company at $800 million, and the company is aiming for $1 billion in gross bookings by 2023.
Pollen filed into bankruptcy just four months later, despite generating $100 million in sales between September 2021 and March 2022, according to a Pollen spokesman.
Former employees allege that Liam Negus-Fancey (pictured) and his brother threw lavish parties while running their firm into the ground.
Callum Negus-Fancey launched Verve, a company that packaged music festival tickets and luxury resort stays.
In April, investors invested $150 million in Pollen, valuing the company at $800 million (Event posted on Pollen’s Instagram).
According to papers and staff and customer testimony, Pollen appears to have sustained long-term damage from a succession of cancelled events between 2020 and 2022, which caused its refunds and debts to venues to skyrocket. The company’s most recent public reports reveal a £30 million loss in 2020.
Two months before filing for bankruptcy, the company allegedly spent £52,776 on a villa in Ibiza for 20 employees for eight weeks in May of this year. Callum’s expenditure report lists the apartment as ‘accommodation and entertainment for key clients,’ which Pollen claims was used “exclusively for work purposes.”
A few days after the expense was incurred, his brother Liam wed his girlfriend on the Spanish party island.
However, perhaps investors could have sounded the alarm after Pollen’s Departure Festival debacle in January of this year, just three months before to handing out $150 million.
In images reminiscent of the now-infamous Fyre Festival, the seven-day festival on the shores of Playa del Carmen in Mexico promised performances by seventy musicians on four custom-built stages, each valued at $300,000.
In images reminiscent of the now-infamous Fyre Festival, the seven-day Departure Festival on the sands of Playa del Carmen in Mexico offered performances by seventy musicians on four custom-built stages, each valued at $300,000.
In the weeks preceding the cancellation of Departure Festival, the Omicron variety had been sweeping through the region.
However, attendees asserted that they were advised on opening day that the Departure Festival would begin a day later than scheduled, before it was canceled the following morning due to an increase of Covid-19 cases.
In the weeks preceding to the cancellation, the Omicron variety had swept through the region.
Cyrus Keefer, a TikTok user who had hoped to attend the festival, lamented, ‘It was as if it had never existed…
The box office where we obtained our wristbands has disappeared. The stages, the staff, and the crew have disappeared.
More than 4,000 individuals had purchased tickets for the event by early November, with some saying they had not received refunds.
A Pollen spokesman told Insider that all 4,028 ticket purchasers received refunds, and that those who did not must have had a ‘problem on the customer’s side. They stated that Pollen incurred all expenses.
Covid also cancelled Pollen’s Golden Sand festival in Mexico during the same month, which included 50 Cent, Fat Joe, and Lil’ Kim as headliners.
A concert featuring reggaeton superstar J Balvin was postponed until June but ultimately canceled, as were 39 of the 360 concerts produced by Pollen in the preceding year.
A Pollen official stated, “It is always a challenging choice to cancel one of our Experiences.” We never want to disappoint our consumers, the local community, or our business partners whose livelihoods would be affected by a cancellation.
Just weeks after obtaining $150 million in funding, Pollen eliminated over 200 positions (pictured: Pollen event)
Bloomberg stated that since the outbreak of the pandemic, the company’s refund requests had cost them more than $75 million. By July, it owed the Grand Oasis Cancun and Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World around $3.6 million and $1 million, respectively.
Just weeks after obtaining $150 million in funding, Pollen eliminated over 200 positions. Experts in the tech industry speculated that the mass layoffs may have been a cost-cutting strategy proposed by investors as part of their agreement. The company had hired around 400 employees in total.
In August, the company was served with a petition to dissolve.
The order was issued by 101 Ways Limited’s creditors, according to the website of HM Tribunals. Pollen informed the Telegraph that the debt had been settled, and a court official confirmed that the petition was subsequently withdrawn.
In the same month, an agency claimed on LinkedIn that Pollen owed it £24,000 after the company delayed its July payroll.
Callum Negus-Fancey is believed to have informed colleagues in August, ‘I’m afraid I don’t have any significant news to provide at this time. I understand the impact this has and I’m sorry I can’t provide additional information.
In a statement released in August, the company explained: ‘Despite strong growth since Streetteam Software Ltd.’s inception eight years ago, the knock-on effects of COVID-19 over the last two years, which decimated much of the travel sector, together with the tech stock crash and current consumer uncertainty as a result of global economic conditions, put too much pressure on the business at a critical stage of a scale-maturity.’ up’s
Pollen has been approached by MailOnline for comment.