Founders of Museum of Ice Cream, Manish Vora and Maryellis Bunn (image via prnewswire)
When Maryellis Bunn was growing up in Laguna Beach, she would stare out at the ocean and imagine swimming in a sea of candy sprinkles. These days she welcomes millions of visitors to do just that, in ice cream themed gallery playgrounds like no other. The young founder of Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) has now raised $40 million to spread her unique brand of colorful joy, announcing a large New York venue to open this fall alongside international expansion plans. Given Bunn was recently dubbed a ‘Millennial Walt Disney’ in making the Forbes 30 under 30, it seems this new MOIC flagship welcoming visitors of all ages is just the beginning.
Described as “a haunted house for digital natives”, MOIC began in 2016, when Bunn was just 25. Together with cofounder Manish Vora, the duo bootstrapped their first pop up venues using their own funds – iterating concept improvements across New York, Miami and Los Angeles before opening their first permanent venue in San Francisco. Over the past 3 years, their team of 35 hosted over 1.5 million visitors including the likes of Katty Perry, Kim Kardashian and Beyonce. Their new Soho flagship follows the signing of a 10 year lease of 25,000 square feet formerly occupied by H&M and will include 13 installations plus a 3 story indoor slide as a cherry on top.
The MOIC team are en pointe with target market appeal. A press magnet harnessing every shade of pink in fantasy immersive experiences Bunn designs herself, visitors blend real life with the digital world. MOIC disrupts the intersect of museums, retail and advertising with a special blend of sweet smells, pumping music and infamous sprinkles pools – interactive, sensory and fabulous. Crowds can’t get enough: the original New York pop up even had a 200,000 strong waitlist before opening. Elsewhere, $38 advance pass tickets sell out while private event managers hand over $180,000 for a full day booking and sponsors such as Tinder, Dove and American Express rush to get a scoop of the action.
Elizabeth Street Ventures, Maywic Select Investment and OCV Partners did too. Pouring in $40 million of funding, valuing the company at $200 million, the venture capitalists saw significant potential. Their move isn’t unprecedented in the visitor attractions space: fellow experience economy pioneers Meow Wolfe raised $158 million to fund their experiential art warrens. The investors of both will have their eyes on a future of exponential growth towards an exit such as Merlin Entertainment’s $7.5 billion recent sale to private equity firm Blackstone and Kirkbi, the family office behind Lego.
Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco (images via MOIC Facebook)
To attract this level of funding and live up to its growth expectations, MOIC’s team has a metrics oriented mindset with a focus on executing exponentially. “Over the past 3 years building Museum of Ice Cream, we have learned so much from our guests and gained endless insight” says Bunn. With an average dwell time of 45 minutes, visitors are encouraged to eat and drink onsite while branded merchandise offers a take home experience to boost upsell. Delicious offsite offerings leverage visitor loyalty, such as a new ice cream line sold at Target and a makeup collection with Sephora. After being approached from potential partners as far away as Japan and Abu Dhabi, the team at MOIC launched parent company Figure8 to bring more venues to market while looking beyond the sugary theme. “Figure8 will expand internationally, rolling out a new Museum of Ice Cream location each quarter while also launching new Figure8 brands and working on commissioned special projects.”
The particular flavor of data analytics behind venture backed companies such as MOIC is the world of unit economics – a series of numbers which act as growth levers and provide a framework from which to manage potential. Alongside visitation, the crème de la crème of these metrics include Visitor Acquisition Cost, Average Revenue Per Visit (including ticket yield), Gross Margin (including an understanding of Cost To Serve) and growth rates to watch month on month versus year on year performance. By breaking these numbers down to a per visit level, the team can easily gain insight to track commercial sustainability and know how hard to push – and where – to optimize marketing.
Read more: Big data and finance in cultural attractions
Additionally, most companies growing exponentially do so via a level of Annual Recurring Revenue – for the Museum, future data points may include membership conversion rates or subscription business lines. Given the incredible popularity of MOIC, additional analytics including Capacity Utilization, Queue Wait and Visitor Throughput help maximize the opportunity. But this approach to hypergrowth isn’t limited to startups like MOIC – these metrics are important to manage in any attraction, regardless of growth trajectory or financial backing.
Is MOIC a museum? Critics have questioned the cultural objectives of the unashamedly commercial attraction built by digital native founders. Despite the name, Bunn doesn’t claim to be a museum, in the traditional sense of the word. The founder describes her ‘experience first’ brand best using a term she whipped up herself: an ‘Experium’. And yes, she owns the trademark.