The experience economy has boomed in the last few years, as bragging rights have shifted from carrying the latest handbag to doing the latest cool experience (and sharing it on Instagram or Snapchat). As Money Magazine’s Dan Kadlec put it recently: “memories are the new Mercedes Benz.”
A few years ago, IfOnly launched as an experiences marketplace founded by San Francisco entrepreneur and philanthropist Trevor Traina originated as a place for the well-heeled to purchase celebrity encounters, backstage passes, and once-in-lifetime adventures that benefited charitable causes (Hamilton VIP packages and a styling session with Lauren Santo Domingo are currently popular on the site).
Now IfOnly has expanded with a new more inclusive model that offers unique experiences with a better price point without losing the philanthropic angle. These “everyday experiences” can be had for far less money but still deliver a “wow” factor beyond the usual.
The company has plans to expand into 20 new local markets over the next year and is using its local luminaries platform to empower entrepreneurs to share their specialized skills and local expertise by selling curated experiences.
The company is backed by more than $27 million in venture funding through investors such as Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, Sotheby’s and American Express, IfOnly launched three new “Local Marketplaces” in Boston, New York and Los Angeles this fall, along with plans for Washington, DC, Chicago and San Diego and at least 15 other new cities by 2017. The company also recently, through their relationship with American Express, started allowing card members the opportunity to purchase experiences using accumulated points.
IfOnly’s self-serve platform is now more aligned with the sharing economy, letting everyone market niche talents or experiences on IfOnly. Some of the experiences in the Boston marketplace include Claire Simmons, who leads culinary tours of Boston’s Chinatown, and Ezra Star, a popular local bartender who offers private, in-home mixology parties ($250 per person).
Are we seeing a new version of the shared experience model originally pioneered by Groupon and Living Social (two companies that had huge valuations five years ago and recently combined)? The new version of the experience model allows more direct control by the vendor as well as incorporating social consciousness which research shows is essential to capturing the millennial consumer.