12 Oct The 5 behind-the-scenes stars of the creator economy of 2022
When it comes to creators, the focus typically (and rightfully) stays on the inventive or artistic side. But many fans and viewers forget these people are, at their core, entrepreneurs—and many don’t have a business background to help guide them through the challenges of running an enterprise. Whether it’s maximizing their revenue streams, weeding out time-wasting troll attacks, or dealing with billing issues, many creators need a hand. There’s a growing ecosphere of businesses that are dedicated to helping these small businesses grow. Here’s a look at some of the most forward-thinking supporting players in the creator economy.
Will Baumann, cofounder and CEO, Fourthwall
Monetization is a hurdle that many content creators aren’t able to clear. While every streamer, technically, has access to sources like platform revenues, sponsorships, merchandise, and memberships, only the superstars have historically found ways to take advantage of them all. Will Baumann’s company Fourthwall, an all-in-one platform, is transforming that unequal dynamic.
Baumann, a former Audible engineer who also founded Smart Receipts (a personal expense reporting app), started Fourthwall with cofounders Eli Valentin and Walker Williams in 2022. Their service alleviates the hassle creators face having to set up and manage separate accounts with key aspects of many creators’ business—Shopify, Patreon, PayPal, and the like. By contrast, Fourthwall stitches those sorts of services together, putting them all on a site that’s owned and branded by the creators.
It’s an idea that’s quickly being embraced. Fourthwall’s closed alpha launch started with just 300 creators on board. Today, the startup has more than 10,000, with some users seeing monthly revenues increase anywhere from 25% to 200%, Baumann reports. Although Fourthwall is designed for creators who aren’t big stars, it has attracted the likes of Marques Brownlee, Simone Giertz, and Orly Shani. Baumann’s startup is helping them and other content creators boost memberships, encouraging them to offer certain exclusive products or discounts to members to drive people toward that revenue stream, something that has been particularly embraced by streamers.
For creators, says Baumann, “There’s just not enough hours in the day. It’s hard, and there’s a ton of work.” Fourthwall makes it easy to add a new e-commerce site or membership tier to their brands. “The most important thing for any type of direct-to-fan monetization is you have to be proud of it,” he adds. “Your community will see through it otherwise.”
Tracy Chou, founder and CEO, Block Party
The ugly truth of having a significant online presence is that the more popular your profile becomes, the more online abuse you’re likely to encounter. Tracy Chou, a software engineer, launched Block Party in 2019 after being the target of trolls for her activism advocating for more diversity in Silicon Valley, often via Twitter, where she now has more than 114,000 followers. The app is an anti-harassment tool that protects creators from trolls and instigators on Twitter. By preemptively muting people who are known to post unwanted or harassing content, it makes the social media site usable again for many creators, while giving them a mental health reprieve from the negative feedback.
Users set filters that suit their needs and then go about using Twitter as usual. Trolls can still post, but “they’re essentially shouting into the void,” says Chou.
How much garbage does Block Party actually block? The one-day record for the company is filtering 13,939 harmful replies—for a single person. In the entirety of 2021, one user had 196,197 unwanted mentions filtered, roughly one every six seconds.
Chou offers both a free and a premium Block Party membership (which costs $12 per month). The filters don’t delete the comments, but rather funnel them into a holding area, letting the creator both verify that no useful replies are being culled and that any especially venomous or threatening ones can be shared with law enforcement.
Sima Gandhi, cofounder and CEO, Creative Juice
Most financial institutions don’t understand the creator economy. That has created an opening for Creative Juice, which offers everything from business loans to FDIC-insured checking accounts, with no minimum balances and no fees. Cofounded in June 2021 by Plaid executive Sima Gandhi and Ezra Cooperstein, the former president of the digital media company Rooster Teeth, Creative Juice now has thousands of accounts, according to the company.
“One of the biggest things we’ve learned is creators don’t see themselves as a business,” says Gandhi. “We do a lot of educational work around creators to show them that they are—and help them grow.” Creative Juice (backed, in part, by Index Ventures’ Rex Woodbury and incubated in Night Labs, Reed Duchscher’s venture studio) offers an assortment of other financial tools—ranging from tax management to contractor payments—to help creators streamline their operations. Its lending operation in particular has been critical to some creators’ growth. YouTubers Maynards TV saw monthly views increase 36% and subscribers triple after using funds to buy production equipment and hire editors. Another YouTuber, GrowWithJo, has seen monthly revenues increase 55% and viewership jump 69% in the seven months since taking out the loan. Up next? Smaller, flexible short-term loans to help creators grow their business in smaller ways.
Lindsey Lee Lugrin, cofounder and CEO, FYPM
The power balance between brands and creators is an ongoing source of potential strife. Brands rely on influencers to promote their products, while the creators rely on that income to earn a living. But payouts can vary by gender (or other factors)—and historically there was no visibility into the variability of who was getting paid and who was getting f***ed. Thanks to Lindsey Lee Lugrin, there’s now a repository for creators to do their homework.
Her site, FYPM—short for F*** You, Pay Me—likens itself to a Glassdoor for creators, letting approved members give honest, anonymous insights into what it was like working with various businesses and what they earned. Lugrin, an equity analyst and model whose Instagram following (now approaching almost 17,000 followers) attracted the attention of fashion brands, created FYPM with cofounder Isha Mehra after getting frustrated that people and companies don’t seem to realize that content creation is actual work. Since FYPM launched in 2021, it has collected more than 7,000 reviews of brands, giving creators critical information—about their payments, and an unvarnished sense of the experience of collaborating with that brand—as they negotiate sponsorship deals.
Most of the reviewers come from Instagram, with TikTok being the next leading source. At present, the number of creators that have been accepted to post on the platform is roughly equal to the number that have been rejected. (Creators have to create a profile and submit a review, which is privately verified by the FYPM team, based on the profile information.) In other words, to get access to the company’s database, you have to contribute to it as well. Despite the head-turning name of the business, most of the reviews are positive. “We didn’t want to create a shit-talking site,” Lugrin says. When asked if a particular category earns poor marks, she adds, “Large brands that do not have good (organized, consistent, paid) influencer-marketing practices in place tend to get a bad rep real fast, and I’ve noticed many of these brands have the same parent company, especially in the consumer discretionary space. Oftentimes, influencers are asked to promote products that can be awkward or unnatural to share on social media: toothpaste and tampons, for example.”
Dmitry Shapiro, CEO, Koji
One of the keys to monetizing your brand in the creator economy is to make it as easy as possible for fans to find your products. Dmitry Shapiro’s company Koji, founded in 2016, offers link-in-bio apps that creators and influencers can use to easily create a slick, branded profile page to drive fans to the creator’s other social media channels, Cameo profile, tip jar, Shopify store, NFTs, and other services. “You have to have something in your bio that’s transactional,” says Shapiro, who says that more than 400,000 people use Koji’s supercharged link-in-bio tool. “For every click they have to make, the decay is over 90%. . . . You have to tell people to click on the link—anywhere you can get someone to pay attention to your offer, give them a way to tap on something.” A big part of Koji’s appeal for creators is the user dashboard, which shows which social media platforms are converting viewers to financial supporters. (Instagram tends to do well, while TikTok lags behind, says Shapiro, who was previously the CTO at MySpace and a group product manager at Google.) It also shows which Koji apps attract the most users. The key is directing users to a transactional opportunity right in the bio, says Shapiro, since the decay rate with each click to another screen is over 90%.
Source: Fast Company