Tech bros who ran $800M events startup to bankruptcy spent lavishly on drug-fueled parties


Two British tech entrepreneurs who led an events and travel startup that was worth as much as $800 million spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on drug- and alcohol-fueled parties and ran a “frat boy” culture rife with sexual harassment before the company imploded, according to a report.

Callum Negus-Fancey, 32, and his brother, Liam, 29, founded Verve, a company that bundled music festival tickets with stays at luxury resorts that included concerts by headliners such as Justin Bieber, 50 Cent and Scooter Bran. The company’s name was later changed to Pollen.

Pollen, which was based in the United Kingdom but had an extensive presence in the United States and Poland, raised more than $200 million from venture capital firms. It filed for bankruptcy in August.

Former employees of the firm told the news site Insider that the brothers spent extravagantly on massive parties that included widespread alcohol use as well as consumption of drugs such as Ecstasy, acid, cocaine, ketamine and mushrooms.

“It was harder to not find drugs than to find them,” one former Pollen employee told Insider.

In May 2019, the two brothers staged a five-day glamping festival replete with acrobatic dancers, DJs, and contortionists at a camp-out site in Mendocino County, Calif.

The event, which was to celebrate a $30 million infusion of venture capital funding, cost the company $500,000, according to Insider.

Pollen executives inculcated a party culture within the company, where it was routine for staffers to take shots of hard liquor during working hours, former employees told Insider.

“I just remember getting to the office at like 10 a.m. and taking shots, and it’s like a Tuesday,” a former employee told Insider. The employee said that during his second week at the company, he was told to embark on a daylong scavenger hunt.

Liam Negus-Fancey (pictured) and his brother spent heavily on parties while running their company into the ground, according to a report.
Twitter / Liam Negus

Another woman who was hired by Pollen when she was 20 years old said that on her first day at work in the company’s Los Angeles office, she was served mimosas.

“I would describe it as a frat, but a job,” she said.

“And at 20 that was great because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, first job out of college, it’s just a party.’”

The Post has sought comment from Pollen. A company rep told Insider that only those who were of legal drinking age were served alcohol.

Former employees also alleged that during retreats they took part in “speed dating” games in which staffers asked each other sexually explicit questions, including: “Of the people in this room, who do you think is most likely to sleep with three other people in this room at some point in their career?”

Another flash card that was used during the game included the question: “Would you rather be a virgin forever or have sex with your sibling one time to break the curse?”

Ex-employees told Insider that while participation in these “games” was optional, they felt as if they were required to take part in them.

“If you didn’t engage with it or laugh about it, then you were seen as not fun and not getting involved,” one former employee said.

Liam Negus-Fancey was photographed by a former employee receiving an IV drip after a night of heavy partying, according to a report.
Liam Negus-Fancey was photographed by a former employee receiving an IV drip after a night of heavy partying, according to a report.
Instagram / Liam Negus-Fancey

Ex-staffers also told Insider that Pollen would rent out karaoke bars and roller skating rinks for so-called “lock-in” parties.

The “lock-ins,” which were ostensibly team-bonding experiences, were viewed by employees as a pretext to “get completely obliterated.”

At after-parties in LA-area residences, cocaine was freely passed around — an allegation the company denied.

At one lock-in party in September 2018, Callum allegedly poured whiskey into employees’ drinks without asking them. One of those employees was a 20-year-old woman.

The 20-year-old was so intoxicated that she nearly passed out and was unable to keep her head up or her eyes open, according to Insider, which cited witnesses.

A company spokesperson denied to Insider that Callum gave alcohol to unsuspecting employees and that the company always made sure to serve liquor to those of legal drinking age.

Another ex-employee told Insider that she was afraid to look away from her drink for fear that Callum would spike it with more alcohol.

Pollen would sell packages that included stays at luxury hotels and concerts by top stars including Justin Bieber.
Pollen would sell packages that included stays at luxury hotels and concerts by top stars including Justin Bieber.
Getty Images for Wynn Las Vegas

In April 2018, a former employee alleged that Liam slid his hand down her lower back and over her buttocks at a Las Vegas venue which was rented out to celebrate the company’s $25 million acquisition of JusCollege, a company that sold travel packages to college students.

A company rep told Insider that the allegation was “completely untrue.”

Earlier this year, Pollen’s parent company, Streetteam Software Limited, announced that the company was insolvent.

“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 in light of global economic conditions, put too much pressure on the business whilst at a critical stage of a scale-up’s maturity,” the company said.

Just months earlier, Pollen announced a $150 million fundraising round from venture capital firms such as Northzone and Lansdowne Partners.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome operating losses last year.



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