Omaze, the charity platform that democratizes traditionally pricey prizes so that everyone can participate, has today announced the close of a $9 million Series A led by FirstMark Capital. A number of Omaze’s early seed and angel investors also participated in the round, including Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company, Vayner/RSE, Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa, Boulevard Capital’s Dave Leyrer, CrossCut Ventures, FFVC, and Adam Press.
Omaze was founded by Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins, entertainment industry professionals, who were disheartened after attending a charity auction looking to sell off a special experience with Magic Johnson.
“We’re both lifelong Magic fans, and the idea of shooting hoops with him and going to a Lakers game with him was something we were both so excited about,” said Cummins. “But when the bidding started, the price rapidly fell far out of our reach and eventually sold for $15,000.”
On the ride home that night, they decided they could probably create more impact if the idea of a charity auction was moved to the online space, and democratized so that everyone had an equal shot at winning.
Omaze was born.
Non-profit fundraising is a $240 billion market, according to the Omaze founders, and yet only 6 percent of funds are raised online. Charities simply don’t have the resources to operate an online platform for fundraising, opting for the traditional route of expensive dinners and even more expensive auctions, where only a few hundred people can attend.
Omaze changes that by offering all of the resources necessary for both a celebrity, athlete, or otherwise famous person to partner up with a non-profit to deliver an online fundraising experience. And it benefits the end-user as well, since the process forgoes bidding altogether and instead opts for a raffle structure.
Users can buy one entry for $10, and buy as many as they’d like, with tiered perks for folks who want to give more, similar to Kickstarter.
Omaze handles the production of all of the videos announcing the campaigns, as well as the back-end details around analytics, social distribution, and of course, transactions.
Last year, Omaze created an experience to benefit After-School All-Stars, by offering the chance to blow shit up with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two weeks ago the Terminator returned with a new experience — join him for the premier of Terminator Genisys — and the way he did it was awesome.
And yesterday, Omaze launched its biggest campaign to date, getting all eight stars of the upcoming Star Trek movie to unite behind eight different causes by offering a walk-on roll in the next Star Trek movie. The campaign was announced yesterday and has already generated more than 300 million total media impressions and received donations from more than 68 countries.
Since launch, Omaze has offered more than 150 different experiences that have impacted over 100 charities, with donations received from 160+ countries around the world.
But this latest round of funding will help the company expand beyond blow-out campaigns to offer a self-serve model, allowing any charity, school, or individual to raise funds on the platform.
If you want to learn more about Omaze, hit up the website here.