When it comes to creators, the focus is usually (and rightly so) on the inventive or artistic side. But many fans and viewers forget that these people are essentially entrepreneurs – and many have no business background to help them with the challenges of running a business. Whether it’s maximizing their revenue streams, eliminating time-consuming troll attacks, or solving billing issues, many creators need a hand. There is a growing ecosphere of companies committed to helping these small businesses grow. Here’s a look at some of the most forward-thinking support players in the creative economy.
Will Baumann, Co-Founder and CEO, Fourthwall
Monetization is a hurdle that many content creators cannot overcome. While every streamer technically has access to resources such as platform revenue, sponsorship, merchandise, and memberships, only the superstars have historically found ways to capitalize on them. Will Baumann’s company fourth wallan all-in-one platform, transforms those uneven dynamics.
Baumann, a former Audible engineer who also founded Smart Receipts (a personal expense reporting app), started Fourthwall in 2019 with co-founders Eli Valentin and Walker Williams. Their service alleviates the hassle creators face to set up and manage separate accounts with key aspects of many creators’ businesses: Shopify, Patreon, PayPal, and the like. In contrast, Fourthwall aggregates those kinds of services and puts them all on a site owned and branded by the creators.
It is an idea that is quickly 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 revenue rise from 25% to 200%, Baumann reports. Although Fourthwall is designed for creators who aren’t big stars, it has people like Marquis Brownlee, Simone Giertzand Orly Shanic. Baumann’s startup helps them and other content creators increase memberships, encouraging them to offer certain exclusive products or discounts to members to direct people into that revenue stream, something that is especially embraced by streamers.
For creators, Baumann says, “There are just not enough hours in a day. It’s hard and there’s a lot of work.” Fourthwall makes it easy to add a new ecommerce site or level of membership to their brands.“The most important thing for any form of direct-to-fan revenue is that you should be proud of it,” he adds. “Your community will see through it differently.”
Tracy Chou, Founder and CEO, Block Party
The ugly truth of a significant online presence is that the more popular your profile becomes, the more online abuse you are likely to encounter. Tracy Chou, a software engineer, launched block party in 2019 after being targeted by trolls for her activism advocating for greater diversity in Silicon Valley, often via Twitter, where she now over 114,000 followers. The app is an anti-harassment tool that protects creators from trolls and instigators on Twitter. By preemptively silencing people who are known to post unwanted or intimidating content, the social media site becomes usable again for many creators, while liberating them mentally from the negative feedback.
Users set filters to suit their needs and then use Twitter as usual. Trolls can still post, but “they’re essentially screaming into the void,” Chou says.
How much waste is Block Party actually blocking? The company’s one-day record filters 13,939 harmful responses — for one person. In all of 2021, one user had filtered 196,197 unwanted entries, about one every six seconds.
Chou offers both a free and premium Block Party membership (which costs $12 per month). The filters don’t remove the comments, but direct them to a retention area, so the creator can verify both that helpful replies aren’t being deleted and that particularly toxic or threatening comments can be shared with law enforcement.
Sima Gandhi, Co-Founder and CEO, Creative Juice
Most financial institutions do not understand the creative economy. That has created an opening for Creative juice, which offers everything from financing to FDIC-insured checking accounts, with no minimum balances and no fees. Creative Juice was co-founded in June 2021 by Plaid executive Sima Gandhi and Ezra Cooperstein, the former president of digital media company Rooster Teeth, and now has thousands of accounts, according to the company.
“One of the most important things we learned is that creators don’t see themselves as a company,” Gandhi says. “We do a lot of educational work around creators to show them that they are — and help them grow.” Creative Juice (supported in part by Rex Woodbury of Index Ventures and incubated in Night Labs, Reed Duchscher .’s Entrepreneurial Studio) offers an assortment of other financial tools, ranging from tax management to payments to contractors, to help creators streamline their operations. The lending operation, in particular, has been critical to the growth of some creators. YouTubers Maynard’s TV saw monthly views increase 36% and subscriber numbers triple after using money to buy production equipment and hire editors. Another YouTuber, GrowthWithJohas seen monthly revenue increase by 55% and viewership by 69% in the seven months since its reception juice funds. Next one? Smaller, flexible short-term financing options to help creators grow their business in smaller ways.
Lindsey Lee Lugrin, Co-Founder and CEO, FYPM
The balance of power between brands and makers is a constant source of potential struggle. Brands rely on influencers to promote their products, while creators rely on that income to make a living. But payouts can vary by gender (or other factors) — and historically, there was no visibility into the variability of who got paid and who got fucked. Thanks to Lindsey Lee Lugrin, there’s now a repository for creators to do their homework.
her website, FYPM—short for F*** You, Pay Me—compares itself to a Creators Glassdoor, allowing approved members to provide honest, anonymous insights into what it was like working with different companies and what they earned. Lugrin, an equity analyst and model whose Instagram follows (now nearly 17,000 followers) caught the attention of fashion brands, created FYPM with co-founder Isha Mehra after get frustrated that people and businesses don’t seem to realize that creating content is real work. Since the launch of FYPM in 2021, it has collected more than 7,000 reviews from brands, giving creators critical information about their payments and an unvarnished sense of the experience of partnering with that brand as they negotiate sponsorship deals.
Most of the reviewers come from Instagram, with TikTok being the next leading source. At this point, the number of creators accepted to post to the platform is roughly equal to the number rejected. (Creators must create a profile and submit a review, which is privately verified by the FYPM team, based on the profile information.) In other words, to access the company’s database, you must also contribute to it. Despite the company’s distinctive name, most reviews are positive. “We didn’t want to make a shit-talking site,” Lugrin says. When asked whether a particular category deserves bad grades, she adds, “Big brands that don’t have good (organized, consistent, paid) influencer marketing practices tend to get a bad reputation quickly, and I’ve noticed that many of these brands share the same parent company, especially in the consumer discretionary space, and influencers are often asked to promote products that may be uncomfortable or unnatural to share on social media: toothpaste and tampons, for example.”
Dmitry Shapiro, CEO, Koji
One of the most important ways to monetize your brand in the creator economy is to make it as easy as possible for fans to find your products. The company of Dmitry Shapiro KojiFounded in 2016, it provides link-in-bio apps that creators and influencers can use to easily create a slick, brand profile page to direct fans to creator’s other social media channels, Cameo Profile, Tip Jar, Shopify Store, NFTs and other services. “You need to have something in your bio that is transactional,” says Shapiro, who says 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 – wherever you can get someone to look out for your offer, give them a way to tap on something. A big part of Koji’s appeal to creators is its user dashboard, which shows which social media platforms are converting viewers into financial supporters. (Instagram usually does well, while TikTok lags behind, says Shapiro, formerly CTO at MySpace and group product manager at Google.) It also shows which Koji apps are attracting the most users. The key is to direct users to a transaction opportunity in the bio, Shapiro says, as the expiration rate on each click to another screen is over 90%.
This article is part of our list of the top 25 creators of 2022.